14 February 2017,

The 2016-17 State of Social Media report

ROI and small budgets are big concerns for social media marketers headed into 2017. And, what the heck is ‘Dark Social’ and why is it ruining your budget decisions?

By Curtis Kitchen, NAA Director of Publications

Considering how much social media marketing (SMM) now influences many auction companies, “The State of Social Marketing”, an annual report released earlier this year from social analytics firm Simply Measured, has grown in relevance for NAA members.

The data it provides allows members to compare their own strategies and execution to the report’s findings, which were the result of more than 350 social marketing professionals from all levels, including some of the world’s top brands.

For instance, NAA members (and NAA Staff) regularly find it challenging to fully measure ROI when it comes to SMM. You aren’t alone. “Measuring ROI is a massive problem: 61.1% of marketers identified ‘Measuring ROI’ as their top challenge, and only 9.4 percent said that they’re able to quantify revenue driven by social,” a key finding in the report said.

If ROI isn’t your top concern, this is the time of year when most annual budgets are decided, including marketing. You may have felt the pinch in 2016 when you decided to make the social media jump but quickly realized 1) it now costs to gain any steady, legitimate traction, barring a viral miracle; and 2) you didn’t plan or budget for such a move back at the end of 2015. Again, you aren’t alone.

Budget shortage is an issue for many marketers, according to the report, which said 76.5 percent of social media marketers say they aren’t getting the budget they need to do their best work. The takeaway here is: “Just post free stuff every day” isn’t enough anymore. It’s not a free game if you want it to be sustainably effective.

In apparent response, U.S. marketers plan to increase their budget in 12 different social media areas in the next 12 months, according to an Oct. 13 article from eMarketer.com. The top five areas expected to see budget growth: AdWords, Mobile, Facebook, Bing, and Instagram. (Hanapin Marketing provided the article’s data, which appears in the image.)

Still, aside from the needs for better analytics and enhanced budgets, it isn’t all a bleak picture. In fact, those needs are increasing because of the social media successes brands and companies have felt over the past 12 months and longer. They know using social media is important and effective; they simply want to track things better and improve their campaign quality.

State of Social Media: Dark Social

Tracking isn’t a need simply because it looks good on reports. It’s extremely important because it allows budget decisions to be made more accurately. Unfortunately, a challenge has cropped up with social media – “dark social.”

Dark social is sharing that happens via private messaging channels, including apps. It might be a private IM, Facebook Messenger, Slack, or any other similar messaging platform. The issue exists in analytics reports where dark social sharing is wrongly dumped into the “direct” traffic bucket.

“In many cases, we’ve found that 70% of social sharing and 50% of social traffic is happening on dark channels,” the report said, “which means it’s being attributed as ‘direct’ traffic in web analytics and social marketers aren’t properly attributed for this sharing. What’s more, for ecommerce companies, 50% of social sales aren’t attributed to social either.”

(Increasingly, there are ways to beat the dark social challenge. RadiumOne, for example, provides software that can track and help convert dark social data into marketing opportunities. This kind of technology comes at a time when, according to a report from the company last June, “global dark sharing is now 84 percent of all consumer sharing of publisher and marketer content.”)

As all of this relates to the state of social marketing, the report said “dark social is emerging as a critical component of social strategies for companies with web properties, and is a direct cause of ROI and budget challenges.”

Facebook: the social elephant

The report outlined nine large U.S. social networks being used most often among major Interbrand 100 and Fortune 500 companies as they communicate with their target audiences.

To no great surprise, Facebook topped the list for good reason.

“Facebook’s 1.65-billion share of the 2.2 billion global social media users makes it the elephant in the room, and a big reason why so many companies consider Facebook to be central to their social marketing strategy,” the report said.

That 1.65 billion number? That’s the number of users every month, and it includes 1.51 monthly mobile users.

They see Facebook as “a destination for news, trends, shopping, and entertainment,” the report said. And while marketers and advertisers continue to invade the public’s Facebook space, their efforts moving forward must involve video. Why?

“In 2016, video is at the center of any conversation about Facebook marketing, with over 8 billion videos viewed on the network each day,” the report said.

State of Social Media: Other information

The other eight social networks examined by the report included: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. The report takes a deep look at each one of the platforms in their current state and provides solid profile data on all of them.

Five interesting takeaways:

– 75 percent of Instagram’s 400 million monthly active users are outside of the U.S.

– “Pinterest is a powerful search engine: especially with new updates such as Smart Feed, Pinterest tailors the way pins are viewed on a user’s feed to help provide more relevant content.”

– “Google+ may be the most powerful social network you never use. Integrated with YouTube, Gmail, and several other services, Google+ has over 2.2 billion registered users but only 540 million monthly active users.”

– “Watchtime on [YouTube] has increased by 50% year-over-year for three straight years. “Timely content resonates best.”

– “More than 60% of U.S. smartphone users aged 13-34 are Snapchatters. Snapchat is an extension of many brands’ identities, and emerging as a core component of the social strategy for for brands like Taco Bell, Coca Cola, and Louis Vuitton.”