Social Media Marketing: Some Motivating Evidence

Since its advent in the early part of this century, social media has changed the game in more ways than this post can do justice. As it relates to marketing though, there is one inescapable truth: your brand needs to have a presence on social media. Take a look at the below chart from eMarkerter that details how many adults (18 or over) in the United States use different social platforms:

*Note: this data was compiled in February 2020 and is not mutually exclusive (i.e. someone could use multiple of the above platforms and be counted in each).

With almost half the population users of YouTube and Facebook, and the other platforms having a healthy amount of users, it is clear that social media has a significant presence among prospective customers and leads (for those wondering, LinkedIn, according to eMarketer, has 62.1 million users in the United States as of 2020). But what about conversions? Does being on social media actually drive revenue growth? Turns out it does. Consider the following, according to Invesp:

*71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals

*4 in 10 social media users, after sharing or listing an item as a favorite across either Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, purchased an item online or in store

*78% of consumers who purchased said they were influenced by social media posts the brand made

*After listing an item as a favorite on social media, 50% of people bought the item within a week (80% bought within 3 weeks)

Clearly, having a social media presence not only supports top of funnel metrics (awareness and familiarity), but also plays a significant role in conversion. Based on the evidence, it is essential in today’s market that brands have some kind of a social media presence if they want to drive growth. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic as user bases have grown (eMarketer reports that in Q1 2020 Facebook’s MAP (monthly active people) grew by 11.2% year-over-year, largely due to shelter in place orders enacted as a result of the pandemic) and business has shifted towards e and mCommerce.

But what platforms should your business be on? Which ones make sense and which do not? Ultimately, the answer is it depends - on your product, on your audience, on how you want to promote, on what your budget is, etc. There are however some facts about the different channels that can help guide where your brand should focus its efforts. This blog will lay those out to arm you with the data you will need to properly select your social channels. As far as best practices and optimal campaigns, that topic is robust enough to need its own separate blog - stay tuned in the coming weeks.

Before we dive in, a quick word about different types of advertising you will see:

Paid vs. Owned vs. Earned

Ever been scrolling through Facebook only to come across something like this?

That is an example of paid social advertising. It literally means what it sounds like - a company paid Facebook to have their ad appear in the scroll of users. These ads can be served to different demographics, as well as geo-targeted depending on the location of users. They are a great way to work into the consideration set of multiple people. The downside? They can be pretty pricey (more on that below).

In contrast, owned social is what your brand owns, and thus does not pay for, on social media. This can be Facebook pages, Twitter or Instagram accounts or YouTube channels to name a few. It is also the comments you make as a brand, or on behalf of a brand. Even if you send out something from your own personal account, you could be speaking on behalf of the brand for which you own or work. For instance, I frequently use my personal LinkedIn account to announce new blogs, even though Oak Moon has its own LinkedIn page.That is me using my own channel to amplify the voice of Oak Moon’s brand.

The downside to owned social media is that you are limited, in most cases, to people who already follow you or your brand, as well as to the people who share your messaging with their audiences (think sharing a LinkedIn post you find interesting). That can limit the reach of the messaging in comparison to paid social. On the other hand, advertising via owned social costs much less than using paid social. Free is free.

Finally, earned social comes from working with others in some capacity. For example, you do a podcast with a company that then publicizes and shares out the podcast across their social channels. Or you give an interview to a newspaper who then uses Facebook and Twitter to push the article out to their followers. In essence, you earn the advertising here. This can be a challenge to attain, but offers two very important pieces: First, it expands your reach to people who may not follow your brand, but do follow the people from whom you earn the media. Second, this can provide powerful proof to prospective customers or consumers that your brand or products are worthy of consideration and purchase (because well known publication would not have give your brand attention if they were not!).

Which of the above is the best one? Depends on what your goals and budget look like. In reality, dabbling in all three is important in marketing your product or service.

Now that we have an idea as to the different types of social, let’s dive into some information about the platforms themselves. To start, let’s look at the demographics of who uses these platforms. From eMarketer, the below chart lays out, by age, users of some of the top platforms used in the United States in 2020 (figures in millions):

As you can see, social media is still dominated by young and middle aged adults, and Facebook still leads in total users. It is worth noting though that Instagram is projected to grow at a faster pace over the next few years than is Facebook, and already is pretty close to them in the key 25-34 user demographic. This group is important - building loyalty with them could yield high customer lifetime value given their young age (depending on the product or service of course).

Next, let’s take a look at the gender breakdown across platforms (again in millions and courtesy of eMarketer):

Interestingly, more women than men use each social platform listed here. Pinterest in particular shows a very large gap - something to consider if using this platform to market.

To get an idea of financial metrics, let’s take a look at the ad revenues these platforms generate, per user:

An important caveat here: the above is NOT an estimate of what it may cost for your campaign to launch on any of these channels. That is something that cannot be easily individualized, as it depends on the type of campaign, the desired reach, and other factors. Instead, I highlight the above to give you an idea of how much these platforms make off of ad revenue. Given their high user base, one could assume advertising on Facebook is more expensive than other platforms, but again, it would depend on a few factors for each individual brand. Using this, in conjunction with the demographic information provided, can help you start to determine what platforms make sense to use if you decide to pursue paid social.

In closing, having a presence on social media is a must for brands today. Although different brands may want to target different channels (and in different ways, as strategy will vary by channel), they do need some kind of presence on social media to tap into a large base of potential customers. There are many different ways to do this, but I felt like I could not do it justice as part of this blog. It really needs its own blog to go through, so stay tuned for that next week when I go through some great campaigns and advertisements, and some not so great ones.

Oak Moon is a consulting agency based out of Columbus, OH that helps companies market their brands, define value propositions and uncover customer insights, among other services. If you are interested in hearing more or have questions or comments about this blog, feel free to reach out at

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