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The latest annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report [download page] was recently released by Social Media Examiner. The wide-ranging study, based on a survey of more than 5,700 participants around the world, offers some insights into marketers’ shifting preferences surrounding platforms and content.

The report notes that social media is an important facet of 92% of respondents’ businesses, consistent with prior years’ results. That’s to be expected given that 88% report increased exposure and 78% increased traffic from their social media marketing efforts. Fewer have translated those benefits into improved sales (52%), however.

While three-quarters agree that they analyze their social media activities, only 38% (down from 41% last year) are able to measure the ROI from their efforts. Indeed, only 42% claim that their marketing on Facebook – the most popular platform – is effective, with 4 in 10 uncertain. On a related note: 42% are uncertain about trends in their News Feed exposure in the past 12 months, though a majority (53%) agree that it has decreased.

Most Popular Platforms

Marketers remain active on a variety of social platforms, and their propensity to experiment with newer platforms seems to increase with their experience. For example, although only 7% of the total sample report using Snapchat, that figure rises to 12% among those with more than 5 years’ experience with social media marketing.

Time investment also – logically – plays a role: among those select few (6%) spending at least 40 hours a week with social media marketing, fully one-quarter are using Snapchat. By comparison, just 3% of those spending 1-5 hours a week with social have put time into Snapchat.

Such discrepancies are also evident for platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, though to a lesser extent. It seems that those spending a small amount of time on social media focus mostly on LinkedIn, and Facebook, where the gap in adoption is much smaller.

For now, the most popular platform overall is of course Facebook, used by 94% of the respondent sample. Twitter (68%, down from 76% last year) is next, followed by LinkedIn (56%, down from 67%) and Instagram (54%, up from 44%).

Social channel use and importance continues to vary among B2C and B2B marketers. As expected, B2B marketers continue to favor LinkedIn to a greater degree than B2C marketers (81% and 44% using, respectively), with B2B marketers also much more likely to be using Twitter (75% vs. 65%). For their part, B2C marketers are more apt to be using Facebook (97% vs. 89%), Instagram (60% vs. 43%), and Pinterest (32% vs. 26%).

Those differences show up in marketers’ most important platforms, to some extent. Roughly 7 in 10 B2C marketers name Facebook their most important platform (of the 6 options provided), with Instagram and Twitter trailing distantly in joint second spot (8% share each). Among B2B marketers, Facebook is the most important network for the first time, though it was cited by a slim plurality (43%) over LinkedIn (37%).

(For more on how B2B firms are using social media, see MarketingCharts’ B2B Digital Marketing Insights Report.)

Platforms Gaining in Importance

Despite being the platform with the broadest adoption among marketers, Facebook again emerges as the one for which the largest share will increase their efforts, as more than two-thirds (68%) plan to up their posting frequency on the platform over the next year.

That’s likely a reflection of its status as the most important platform overall, with B2C marketers (72%) being more likely than their B2B counterparts (63%) to see increased Facebook activity on the horizon.

Beyond Facebook, 63% of respondents plan to increase their Instagram posting frequency, with this platform perhaps being one of the big winners this year. Not only is marketer adoption of the platform up this year, but also willingness to post more over the coming year. This will be driven more by B2C (68%) than B2B (53%) marketers.

Twitter (56%) and LinkedIn (55%) are next on the list in terms of planned increases, with Twitter enthusiasm seemingly dying down from last year and the year prior. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, B2B marketers are more likely to be upping their LinkedIn efforts than B2C marketers (68% and 48%, respectively).

As for Snapchat, 23% plan to increase their activity on the platform in the coming year, up from 16% of respondents last year and 7% the year prior. Moreover, some 42% want to learn more about Snapchat this year, up from 28% last year and 19% in 2015. So while overall adoption of remains low relative to the leading networks, it seems that marketers are warming to the platform that’s hugely popular with teens.

Paid Social Media Trends

As with last year’s report, this year’s study shows that there is a single leader in paid social media: Facebook. Indeed, more than 9 in 10 respondents said they regularly use Facebook ads, almost 4 times as many as the next-most used channel for paid social. With that kind of popularity, it’s little wonder that Facebook’s average revenue per user in the US has surged by a factor of 6 in recent years, from $3.30 per quarter in 2012 to almost $20 (more than $19.80) in 2016.

The next-most used social advertising channel? Instagram – with one-quarter (24%) regularly using ads on the platform. That’s double the proportion from last year (12%), and is up from 4% in 2015. Once again, Instagram appears to be the platform that’s seeing the most uptake this year, in line with separate research indicating that Instagram is growing in importance as an advertising channel.

Signs point to Facebook maintaining its dominance in social advertising, though: it’s the only platform in which a majority (64%) of respondents expect to increase their paid social media use. By comparison, 42% plan to make more use of Instagram ads (up from 31% last year), while fewer than one-third will do the same for YouTube ads (31%), Twitter ads (30%) and LinkedIn ads (29%).

Video Still Has Room to Grow As A Content Type

Turning to social media content types, marketers identified visual (85%) content as their most commonly used, demonstrating continued and rising popularity for this type of content. Blogging (66%) and videos (57%) follow, consistent with last year’s figures, with live video (28%) and podcasting (8%) further back.

This year for the first time visual content (42%) exceeded blogging (32%) as respondents’ most important type of content, though again there are differences by target audience. Those marketing to businesses still name blogging their most important content type, while for B2C marketers visual content is the most important.

When it comes to future content activities, video gains ground. Three in 4 plan to increase their use of video content in the near future, while just 12% will avoid video altogether.

Enthusiasm surrounding increased activities on video slightly exceed visuals (73%) to lead all content types in future efforts.

Finally, despite low adoption, 61% of marketers plan to increase their use of live video in the next year, marking a huge surge in interest from last year’s report.

About the Data: The report’s results are based on a survey of 5,710 marketers, the majority of whom work for small businesses (1-10 employees). Two-thirds focus primarily on B2C marketing, with the remaining 33% on B2B.

About half (49%) of the respondents are based in the US.

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