Ben Silverman

Throughout 2015, we’ve seen several major changes and improvements to the way we conduct business on social media. We’ve seen brand new networks rise, while others have fallen. We’ve watched popular networks pivot, and promising networks not take off as expected.

This year’s social media ad revenue is estimated to total $23 billion. In Q3 of 2015, Facebook enjoyed $4.3 billion in ad revenue (up from $2.9 billion in Q3 of 2014), and Twitter took in $500 million from social ads (up 60 percent from last year). According to Hootsuite, Instagram will make $2.81 billion in mobile ad revenues by 2017.

The majority of top businesses are represented on social media, and Onalytica estimates that as many as 40 million small businesses use Facebook pages or advertise on the network. AdWeek reports that 91 percent of major brands are on two social networks to keep up with the average adult, who uses at least two networks personally. 

I sat down with Sumit Sharma, Brafton’s Social Media Engagement Manager to highlight the most influential changes in social media marketing in 2015.

2015 social media at a glance

Trends in social FB_cropmedia can be hard to predict. The most promising networks from last year might be gone by next year. The most unsuspecting apps one year could be one of the most valuable the next year. Who would have thought in 2010 that Instagram, an app that started out as a sharable cameraphontwitter_crope filter, would be purchased by Facebook two years later for $1 billion and turn into one of the biggest networks in the world? Vine, on the other hand, started out in 2013 with great promise, backed by Twitter and poised to be one of the most popular video-sharing apps. Today, only 10 percent of top brands use it regularly, and its growth has slowed dramatically.

The juggernautsThese are the networks that a huge portion of internet-users – kids, adults, marketers and amateurs likely use. They’re widespread, profitable and great platforms for marketing.

Facebook: 1.54 billion monthly users – $16.29 billion 2015 revenue, strong growthinstagram_crop

Twitter: 307 million monthly users – $periscope_crop1.4 billion 2015 revenue, slow growth

Instagram: (owned by Facebook) – 400 million monthly users

On the rise2015 saw the inception or popularizing of many cutting edge and exciting social network platforms:

Periscope (owned by Twitter) – Apple App Store’s 2015 App of the Year. Grew to 10 msnapchat_cropillion users just four months after launching.

Snapchat – Declined a $3 billion offer from Facebook and a $4 billion offer from Google. Valued between $10 billion and $20 billion. 200 million monthly users post about 6 billion videos per day. Estimated $100 million revenue for 2015.

The old faithfulsThese are the networks you know, but are showing signs of slowing growth and influence. Youlinkedin_crop might use them personally or market on them professionally, but this group of networks is chugging along with less room for growth and expansion tpinterest_crophan social media giants like Facebook.

LinkedIn – 200 million monthly users – $2.2 billion 2015 revenue. While LinkedIn’s user-base only grew by 3% over the last quarter, it is still one of the strongest and most effective professional networks for marketing, especially for B2B.

Pinterest – 100reddit_crop million monthly active users, 85% female.

Reddit – 200 million monthly visits, 8.86 billion monthly page views. A casuG+_cropal, tight-knit news and entertainment board. Corporate promotion is tricky and risky, but can yield great results when done correctly.

Google+ – While its 2.5 billion accounts sound impressive, up to 90% of those accounts have never engaged on the network, since every Google account, including Gmail, automatically includes a G+ account. The 250 million actiYouTube_cropve users’ data is closely tied to their YouTube, mapping, music and search activity.

YouTube Google’s 11-year-old video site boasts 1 billion users (one-third of all internet users), a revenue of $4 billion and 4 billion daily video views. YouTube reaches more 18 to 49-year-olds than any cable station in the US. Partner revenue has increased 50% and mobile revenue has doubled year-to-year. 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and 6 billion hours of video are watched every month (that’s almost 700 millennia of footage every month!).

The misfiresThe failures and disappointments forup_down_instagram_vine_new corporate marketing in 2015:

  • Ello
  • Tsu
  • Vine
  • Yik Yak

Changes in the past year

A few important changes that took place in social media marketing this year included the increased depth in audience analytics and a deeper integration of social media into consumer interaction and direct sales. On the former, both Twitter and Facebook introduced tools to measure and target audiences on a more granular level:

  • By checking your own personal account analytics, you’re able to see details about your individual community as intimate as their level of education and phone carrier.
  • As social media professionals representing brands, you are able to know more about the people you’re speaking to, what they’re responding to, and how to more effectively reach and communicate with them.

On the latter, while social media has steadily become more parallel and, at times wholly necessary for the success of other media products, it was taken to a new level this year with direct selling via social really reaching a stride. We’ve seen this in the successful iterations of impressive (albeit, now annoying) Instagram ads and product pins for purchasing items on Pinterest.

On the inverse, the platform Ello, which was originally lauded for its stand against advertising, seemed to be so focused on that “gimmick” it forgot to find a unique voice and feature offering to allow it to be competitive in an already oversaturated market.

Social marketing improvements in 2015

  • Better analytics
    • The major frustration with social media marketing in the past years has been measuring ROI, especially in B2B businesses. 2015 proved to be a great year for marketers, as better analytics were introduced by major networks providing them with enhanced views into demographics, engagement rates, conversions and more. This not only allowed marketers to prove social ROI, but also encouraged more B2B businesses to incorporate social media into their marketing budgets.

You can read more here about why we ditched social media automation.

  • Social media content quality soared in 2015
    • Audiences have become even more receptive to long-term creative campaigns than spammy, constant, repetitive auto-posts. Most businesses moved away from auto posting on social networks in 2015 to ensure a better, more engaging user experience.
  • Mobile-first mindset
    • In 2015, there was a noticeable shift in the line of thinking of many social media marketers moving toward a mobile-first mindset as mobile searches surpassed desktop searches for the first time ever. According to Google’s most recent quality guides, mobile content marketing is a key factor in SEO.
  • Social media’s impact on SEO
    • With Google crawling tweets, social media’s impact on rankings became even more clear in 2015.
  • Ads are reaching an increasing amount of people
    • There has been a major push toward social media advertising in 2015 especially with Facebook. According to eMarketer, advertisers worldwide will spend $23.68 billion on paid media to reach consumers on social networks this year, a 33.5% increase from 2014. By 2017, social network ad spending will reach $35.98 billion, representing 16.0% of all digital ad spending globally.
  • Real-time updating
  • CTA buttonsfacebook_mobile_CTA_buy_button
    • The introduction of new, customizable call-to-action buttons on social media has helped to increase user engagement on social posts and ads, as well as shorten the funnel toward sales.
  • More ways to publish content
    • Facebook has released Instant Articles to quickly deliver rich, mobile-optimized content.
    • Twitter released Moments and Paid Moments to display multimedia, mobile-friendly, curated pieces about worldwide trending topics across the web.
  • Payment integration

Social ad improvements in 2015

Social ads are more customizable and targetable than normal web ads. This year, Facebook desktop and mobile ads have respectively shown 8.1x and 9.1x higher click-through rates than non-social web ads. Here are some of the most notable improvements in mobile advertising from the past year:

  • Wider targeting options for listed, self-reported interests
  • Behavioral targeting advances
  • Custom/tailored audiences
  • Better conversion tracking
    • Accurate conversion tracking helps optimize budgets and inform how to improve your campaign.
  • Local optimization
    • Ads are getting more local – With the help of Facebook’s new local awareness campaigns, brands (especially in B2C) can reach interested, nearby people, and offer custom CTAs like “Get Directions.”

Each of your campaigns can drive more foot traffic by giving customers directions, making it easy for them to call you and offering the option to use messages. – Social Media Examiner

Network by network

  • Google crawlingstar_wars_twitter_google
    • Google began indexing tweets this year, bringing relevant content from Twitter to Google search results. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages product also serves to display fast-loading Twitter cards on results pages.

      Twitter’s embedded promoted post, viewed on a partner site, logged out of Twitter
  • Promoted content for non-users
  • Twitter polls launched in Fall 2015
  • Native videos launched in Summer 2015
  • “Moments” tab was launched
  • Better targeting options
  • Better analytics
    • Twitter introduced several new metrics such as household income and marital status to help marketers analyze and improve their social media strategies.
  • Links can be posted on a page with multiple photos
  • GIFs are now integrated into the newsfeed
  • Verified Facebook pages for businesses
    • In October, Facebook started rolling out a feature allowing businesses with physical addresses to have a verified mark on their page.
  • Spring cleaning
    • Facebook started removing fake profiles and bots in March 2015 to make Likes more meaningful for business pages.
  • Promoted pins
    • Pinterest opened promoted pins for all advertisers.
  • Buyable pins
    • Pinterest announced buyable pins in June, which allow buyers to make purchases directly from Pinterest.
  • Reached the 100 million user milestone

    Top Instagram photos from brands with the most engagement
  • Reached 400 million monthly active users
    • By eliminating third-party apps and closing its API, Instagram is making a more unified user experience.
  • Brand representation
    • More businesses, even B2B businesses, turned to Instagram to build their brand identity. 123 Fortune 500 companies use Instagram for marketing.
The others
  • Snapchat
    Snapchat sponsored lens
    • Snapchat introduced sponsored lenses for selfies, which, at $700,000 per day are reserved for the largest corporate brands, reach an estimated 16 million users daily.
    • Snapchat launched Discover, a daily feed aggregating content from major brands.
  • Tumblr
    • tumblrTumblr TV was launched in december for the new Apple TV.
    • After 8 years,  Tumblr finally allows messaging between users.Elements_LtBlue_Box5_Line_Large

It’s been a huge year for social marketing. The leading social media outlets have the influence previously only found in network TV. Millions of brands are taking advantage of new strategies for promoted and organic marketing across dozens of networks. If you have any questions about Brafton’s social media strategies, take a look at our free social media marketing eBook. Here’s to a great new year!