My 2014 State of Social Media

Social media is always changing and you have to be able to adapt to the changes. What worked last year might not work this year and something new is always on the horizon.

When I began my blog in 2006, Facebook and Twitter existed, but they weren’t that big of a deal. I actually put quite a bit of effort into my MySpace page when I began traveling in 2007, which seems silly now, but at the time it made perfect sense.

Here is what I’m currently finding with the various social media channels I use, how effective they are and where I plan to put my efforts in 2014.

Twitter
I put a lot of effort into Twitter several years ago. I haven’t really cared about it in a long time. I think too many bloggers, PR firms and companies put way too much emphasis on Twitter. It is the least effective platform for me now in terms of engagement (retweets and favorites).

Twitter’s problem is that it is so ephemeral, that if you don’t happen to be looking at the screen when someone tweets something, you’ll miss it. It is almost the opposite of the problem which Facebook has (see below).

It is very effective as a chat room and if I want to talk to other bloggers, Twitter is the best way to do it. If I have an off hand comment, I’ll put it on twitter, because I really don’t worry about timing or the number of posts I make.

I’m still amazed at how much stock people put into things like Twitter hashtags, when the action is all happening on other platforms. Many sites like Klout use Twitter as the default platform for determining someone’s social media ‘status’, and it really shouldn’t be that way.

One thing I have been doing lately is embedding more images into my tweets. This has improved engagement levels, but it is still well below other platforms.

One side note, there was a change during 2013. Now most of my engagement on Twitter is in the form of people favoriting my tweets, not in the form of retweets. Unfortunately, this doesn’t show up on most counter stats, so it tends to be hidden from most people. Nonetheless, favoriting is becoming more and more popular on Twitter.

One of my biggest uses of Twitter today is as a recruiting tool for Instagram.

Facebook
I get far, FAR more engagement on Facebook than on any other platform. It isn’t even close really. Recent changes to the algorithm Facebook uses to show user content sucks, but you pretty much have to suck it up and deal with it because everyone is on Facebook.

The last 2 years I’ve invested in some ads for my Facebook page. I’m not going to do that in 2014. At least not like I have in the past. A side effect of Facebook limiting what people see is that there is very little incentive to grow a Facebook audience anymore, because you’ll never be able to reach most of the people in your audience.

That being said, I do occasionally boost a post on Facebook. I’ll do it anywhere from 1 to 4 times a month with a budget of $5 to $25 per post. It can make an enormous difference, especially if people start sharing the content. It can often set a spark to turn something quasi-viral.

I’ll only do it for links to my site, and only for content I think is especially good. There is a hard limit to what I’m willing to spend, but small boosts, used strategically, can be well worth it.

Google+
Goole+ is now my biggest audience in terms of raw numbers, but it doesn’t have the engagement that Facebook has. This may slowly change over time as Google is clearly not giving up on this. The key to posting anything on Google+ is images. Photos are the key to success on Google+. If you just post a URL, it will perform worse than Facebook. If I post a URL, I always post an image with it. I don’t expect a ton of discussion or debate on this platform.

Pinterest
I paid almost no attention to Pinterest until last year. With the launch of their new mapping feature, which really works well for travel, I’ve seen over a 10x increase in my following on Pinterest in the last 3 months. I’ve gone from 2,500 to 25,000 followers in that time. Things have slowed down since the launch of the mapping feature, but I am still seeing growth. How things perform on Pinterest is still hit and miss and I am still figuring it out. Some images will get over 100 pins and some get almost none.

Intsagram
On a per follower basis, Instagram beats Facebook for engagement. While this is my smallest platform in terms of followers, it has been growing rapidly and steadily the last few months. Moreover, engagement has been going up as well. Here is a graph I got from Statigr.am:

The red bars reflect total engagement, which is often just a reflection of how much you post. The brown line shows engagement per post, which just keeps going up. It is almost at 200, which is on a par with images I post on Facebook.

It seems that ever week or two I’m placed on a new list of Instagram people to follow and I’m seeing constant spikes in followers.

LinkedIn

Because I run a consumer focused site, I don’t really bother too much with LinkedIn. I use it as a business tool and a glorified rolodex. I don’t even think of it as a marketing platform.


If each social platform were a stock, here is how I’d rate them:

BUY Instagram and Pinterest
HOLD Facebook and Google+
SELL Twitter

The biggest single social media takeaway from 2013 was that photography really works well across the board. Even on Twitter, photos perform better than non-photo tweets. If you are a travel blogger, put some time into improving your photography. Even if you aren’t a travel blogger, find ways to integrate images into what you do. Original, non-stock images.

8 Comments

  1. radhical

    Great Analysis!
    Was Tumblr left out intentionally b’cos it doesn’t matter?

  2. Great article Gary
    I find twitter to be one of my highest performing SM.
    I have given up on FB – might stil down and schedule some posts sometime but i consider it useless!
    Google+ is a bit of a hit and miss for me, any suggestions on how i could increase my following/followers on here?
    Like instragram but hardly see any follow over to the website – good to interact with others though.
    Have enjoyed Pinterest – good to have a ibt of a play on there each night and i get a few people bleed through now and then.
    Seems infographs seem to be the way to do it on Pinterest though!

  3. I like Instagram because it’s mostly visual (I don’t read long descriptions), and I can update to FB and Twitter at the same time. This had driven higher engagement for me on both of the other platforms. I would like to see Google+ added as an option too.

  4. Great Article, Gary. It’s awesome to learn secrets from one of the best. I’m curious how the engagement on Pinterest and Instagram translates into traffic for you, or do you see high value in the pure engagement through developing your brand or influence or other things.

  5. Brad,

    I treat every platform as an end in itself, not just a tool to drive traffic.

    If it does bring traffic to my site, all the better, but if someone looks at a photo on Pinterest or Google+ vs my site, they are still enjoying the same image.

  6. I consider Twitter a news broadcast medium that benefits large media companies or brands. If I see something newsworthy that I want to share than I’d retweet something but the rest goes onto Facebook if I want people’s opinions even though less than 16% of fans would see it. I agree with you on Google+ as well as photos. It’s definitely more community based which I enjoy. You don’t get the bitchiness that you do from Face/Bragbook

  7. Great article! I have definitely found that Pinterest and Instagram are the engagement tools of the year. Although I still get most of my referral links to my blog via twitter, but I participate in a lot of chats which is what twitter is great for… but in terms of social engagement on the platform itself Pinterest is reigning supreme for me.

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