Research Reveals Best Social Media Networks for Content Marketers

Which social media networks are most relevant to content marketers right now?

Content marketers need to know where (and how) they should focus their efforts for maximum ROI.

This article gives you four major research findings from reports tracking trends in social media marketing and the content that works best on each.

#1: People Spend More Time on Visual Networks

It’s impossible to miss the powerful effect of visual content on the social web. It can significantly enhance a brand’s marketing objectives by generating more customer interest and prompting prospects to take desired actions.

As an example of the power of pictures, consider that Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram each gained over 10 million visitors in 2012, thanks to eye-catching content. Numbers from Statista numbers shared on Mediabistro show that users spend more time on Pinterest (1:17 minutes) or Tumblr (1:38 minutes) than on Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ combined.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate visual content into your own social media strategy, one of the key things you can do is include one or more high-quality images in all of your blog posts. (Don’t forget to add an ALT attribute in the image properties to help your SEO!)

You can also leverage real-time photo sharing. Customers and followers are used to seeing staged photos that highlight your products and the best parts of your company. Sharing impromptu pictures can be equally compelling when shared in real time.

When you do post product or brand pictures on networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr, allow others to use your images in exchange for a link back to your site.

Don’t forget video! YouTube is the second-largest search engine (after Google, which coincidentally owns YouTube). Videos uploaded to YouTube do very well in search and boost your site’s ranking. Interviews, Q&As, product demos or tips are popular with a wide audience beyond your current followers.

Finally, don’t give up on memes, which are especially popular on Tumblr. For the best success with memes, make sure they’re witty and match your brand and audience.

NPR did this particularly well by modifying the popular Ryan Gosling Hey Girl memeon their Tumblr page.

#2: Google+ Is Best for SEO

Google+ is finding success with social marketers more as an SEO option than a marketing tactic. While it’s doing better than Pinterest and Tumblr, only 14% of marketers are giving high priority to Google+ in 2014. 23% of those surveyed won’t consider the platform at all.

You should still have a presence on Google+, even if you’re only using it for SEO.

As you cultivate your presence on Google+, the first thing you should do is optimize your Google author profile with a great image. With an eye-catching photo, it won’t matter if you rank third or fourth on the search engine results page. Your image is what gets people’s attention and lends to your authority.

When you post an article on Google+choose your first sentence carefully and use keywords or phrases. That sentence is part of the title tag and can affect your search ranking. As a bonus, one of the great things about Google+ is that you can edit your title and posts anytime. If you find your post isn’t getting the traction you want, try a new title and lead sentence. That’s a lot of control right there!

As always, continue to publish great content on your blog and Google+. While you’re at it, go ahead and +1 your own content. Why not? Google already knows you’re the author anyway. At the very least, it encourages others to +1 your post as well!

#3: Facebook’s Updated News Feed Affects Page Posts

In January 2014, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm to deliver more relevant content to users. Status updates from pages are no longer treated the same as text updates from users’ friends, because most users interacted with friends, not pages.

What does this mean for you as a content marketer? You have to mix it up. Since users may not see or engage with your page updates often, make your posts as interesting as you can. Include photos, videos, links (don’t forget to include a preview image), questions, events and offers.

In all cases, use the story type that best fits with the message you want to tell.

One more thing: If you use Facebook’s Promote feature and your post has an image, that image can’t have more than 20% text.

#4: B2B Marketers Are Most Successful on LinkedIn

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective platform for them, with Twitter and SlideShare close behind.

How can you take advantage of the most effective social media network? Take advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform (previously reserved for a few editorially selected influencers like Bill Gates, Martha Stewart and Joe Pulizzi) to all 277 million LinkedIn members. This could be a game-changer.

If you decide to publish on LinkedIn, know that posts with the same basic information found on 50 other blogs won’t be successful. LinkedIn users look for well-written personalized insights, professional expertise and interesting industry opinions.

Surveys are helpful to gauge trends in social media; however, it’s even more important to track your own successes and build on them. You can use both options by keeping trends in mind and using them as guides as your marketing strategy and tactics evolve.

What do you think? Are the survey results above consistent with what you’ve seen in your own social media marketing? Which platforms are working best for you? Please share your successes and experiences in the comment box below.

Blogging is Top Focus for Marketers Research Shows

Do you ever wonder what tactics, tools and strategies other social media marketers are using?

Regardless of how long you’ve been involved in social media, chances are you have some questions that you’d like answered.

Questions such as, “What are the best social management tools?” or “What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?”

These and many more questions were answered in the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, which surveyed over 3000 marketers with the goal of understandinghow they use social media to grow and promote their businesses.

Here are some interesting findings from the survey:

#1: Marketers Want Most to Learn About Blogging

When asked what social media platform they wanted most to master, 62% of marketers said blogging, putting it in first place slightly ahead of Google+. This answer is consistent with other studies, which show that the appetite for blogging education is growing.

An important trend to consider is that 28% of marketers now have mobile-optimized blogs. This is highly significant when you consider that the number of smartphone subscribers in the world has broken the 1 billion mark.

Key Consideration:

The power of blogging to reach huge audiences and prospective customerscannot be underestimated. If you want your voice to be heard on the social web, you need to have a blog.

If you’ve just started blogging for business, focus on consistently giving your audience helpful advice that solves their problems. If you’re not 100% sure what kind of content to offer, survey your customers and ask them to tell you. Asking your customers not only gives you valuable insights about what they find useful, but can help to promote your blog as well.

Here are more tips about blogging for business.

#2: Blogging Highly Valued by the Pros

Most marketers (49%) selected Facebook as the single most important social platform for their business, followed by LinkedIn (16%), blogging (14%) and then Twitter (12%). But for the Pros (marketers with three or more years of social media experience), blogging jumped to second place!

Similarly, a recent Technorati report on Digital Influence also indicated that 86% of influential marketers blog consistently, and a majority of them do not produce much content outside of their blogs.

Key Consideration:

Consumers are looking for “trusted digital friends” to give them advice on what to buy and where to go. Experienced marketers know that offering valuable advice on their blogs generates trust and influences consumers’ buying decisions. If youproduce compelling articles and useful advice on your blog, you’ll become a trusted source of information, and people will start to spend more time there, eventually becoming your customers.

#3: Podcasting Finally Growing Up

Marketers were asked to indicate how they plan to change their social media use in the near future. While only 5% are currently using podcasting, a significant 24% plan on getting involved this year. That’s a nearly five-fold increase!

The report shares three reasons why interest in podcasting is growing: Apple’s introduction of a dedicated podcasting mobile app, smartphone subscriptions topping the 1 billion mark, and major car manufacturers such as BMW and Ford starting to integrate podcasting technology into new cars.

Key Consideration:

Marketing expert Seth Godin says it’s not a good idea to try to sell anything to a stranger. It’s true. But when the right people connect with your voice through podcasting, they gradually become engaged and start to pay attention.

Pat Flynn often says that other than meeting face-to-face, podcasting is probably the best way to interact with your prospects. So if you’ve been thinking about breaking into podcasting, here are the technicalities of setting up, as well as some tips forbuilding a successful podcast with a loyal audience.

#4: Only 1 in 4 Marketers Able to Measure Social Media ROI

When asked to rate their agreement with the following statement, “I am able to measure the return on investment for my social media activities,” only 26% of marketers agreed! What’s interesting about this survey is that social media is clearly a core strategy for businesses, yet measuring it remains a mystery.

Key Consideration:

Research shows that for many businesses, measuring social media ROI is still too basic—focusing on likes, followers and mentions.

During Social Media Marketing World 2013, Nicole Kelly, author of How to Measure Social Media, said business executives and funders of social media campaigns are looking for real business metrics such as sales, revenue and costs. The challenge for marketers is to learn to speak their language by showing how social media fits into the sales funnel and how it impacts the bottom line. Here’s a great piece from Nicole that explains how to measure social media.

#5: Two-Thirds of Marketers Uncertain About Facebook Marketing Effectiveness

Perhaps the most surprising finding in this study was that most marketers don’t really believe in Facebook! Sure they use it, but they don’t really think it is effective. Only 37% agreed with the statement “My Facebook marketing is effective.” Specifically, 44% of B2C marketers agreed with this statement, while only 29% of B2B marketers concurred.

Key Consideration:

Make no mistake, Facebook IS an effective marketing platform and there are numerous case studies to prove this. It’s possible that some marketers who participated in this survey hadn’t actually tracked their Facebook marketing campaigns and were uncertain about their own efforts.

However, research also indicates that Facebook seems to work better for B2C than B2B. If you have a B2B brand, don’t be discouraged. Here’s some advice from Marketo, a B2B company that has been very successful on Facebook.

Other Significant Findings

Tactics and engagement are top challenges for marketers

When asked what top social media challenges they are facing today, marketers said that tactics and engagement strategies were at the top of the list. No matter what kind of company you have or what products you sell, you can improve engagement with your audience on any platform including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Here are some great tips to improve engagement.

Increased exposure and traffic top benefits of social media marketing

A significant majority (89%) of marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, while 75% said that increased website traffic was the second major benefit. Social media is essentially a word-of-mouth tool. It’s where friends discover and share interesting ideas, including the ones on your site! Here are some tips to drive traffic to your site using social media.

More time spent on social media equals greater benefits

If you’ve ever wondered whether more time invested in social media produces better results, the answer is “yes.” According to the survey, with as little as six hours per week, 92% of marketers indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. More than half of marketers who spent 11 hours or more per week saw improved sales. Do you think you could put a little more time into social media marketing every week?

Fascinating differences between B2B and B2C

As expected, Facebook dominated among B2C brands, though it was interesting to see LinkedIn and Facebook tie for first place among B2B brands. Only 5% of B2C marketers said LinkedIn played an important role for them. Twitter and blogging are also valuable platforms for B2B marketers. Another surprise was that B2B marketers showed zero interest in Pinterest.

Your Turn

What do you think? How does your own experience compare to these findings? Please share your comments in the box below.

Half of Plastic Surgeons Use Social Media New Study Shows

Half of the plastic surgeons responding to a recent survey reported using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with patients.

The finding doesn’t surprise Dr. Louis C. Cutolo, Jr., whose Staten Island cosmetic surgery practice serves Brooklyn and other areas of New York City.

“Most plastic surgeons I know,” says Dr. Cutolo, “embrace social media tools as a way to educate people interested in plastic surgery.”

I don’t know how this ‘happy union’ between plastic surgeons and social media came about. What I do know is that for a lot of women in America, plastic surgery is a serious trend – one that is fueled by a “need” for sleeveless fashions and bikini bodies, especially during the warm summer months. But vanity aside, women are also powerful and influential social media users and plastic surgeons seem to understand both these trends better than any other group of physicians.

That’s why surgeons like Dr. Cutolo invest their time interacting with potential patients on Facebook and Twitter, educating them about different types of cosmetic surgeries that could interest them.

Patients are not just looking for formal information about plastic surgery procedures, they also want to discuss the topic in a more casual atmosphere, asking questions, sharing experiences with their peers, and getting a feel for the different options out there.

Investing time on social media is not wasted time. In fact Dr. Cutolo’s Facebook page is often updated with links to stories about the plastic surgery field or tips about subjects such as skin care. For more on how plastic surgeons can use social media read the full article by Dr. Louis Cutolo.

How Marketers Are Using Social Media in 2013 [Infographic]

It’s that time again.

Social Media Examiner has recently published their 5th annual Social Media Industry Marketing Report, which shows how B2B and B2C marketers are using social media and their future plans in this space.

If you’re doing social media for your own business or on behalf of your clients this 43-page report is a must-read, which you can download here.

As we did last year, my team has created an infographic to give you a little glimpse of the actual report. Again, this is really just a quick summary and you’ll want to read the full-length report for yourself.

  Your Turn:

Are you surprised by any of these findings? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Why Healthcare Blogging is Better than Social Networking: New Research

Are you wondering how to influence patients and consumers?

The latest findings from Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report show that “consumers are turning to blogs when looking to make a purchase.”

In fact, blogs rank favorably with consumers for trust, popularity and even influence.

Here are some interesting findings from the Technorati report.

#1: Blogs Influence Consumers’ Purchasing Decisions

The report found that blogs are now the third most influential digital resource (31%) when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%).

Consumers said that blogs rank higher than Twitter for shaping their opinions and higher than Facebook for motivating purchasing decisions, such as selecting a hospital.

Why are blogs so influential? Bloggers tend to be very honest and sincere in their reviews of products and services. They talk about both negative and positive aspects of a brand, and in doing so become a trusted source of information. Trust drives action, and thus consumers look to bloggers before they buy.

Think of Kevin Pho, a physician-blogger whose influence on the subject of healthcare was established through his blog In 2009 his blog received 1.4 million unique visitors. In January 2012, Pho was listed on Klout as the number one healthcare social media influencer and number one social media influencer in medicine.

#2: Consumers Say Smaller Communities Are More Influential

Over half of consumers surveyed agreed that smaller communities have greater influence on a topic than larger ones.

The real value of online communities comes from discussing ideas, sharing information and learning from one another. Rarely does value come from the size of a community.

Consumers understand this. But brands often get hung up on acquiring massive communities, sometimes at the expense of user experience.

In fact, brand marketers often pursue popular A-list bloggers to advocate on their behalf, hoping this strategy will help a message go viral and explode the size of their community.

The problem is that while a message blasted by a popular blogger might reach the masses, it doesn’t always produce the desired result. That’s because trust drives action, and popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into trust. It may even be more effective to pursue a less popular blogger who has earned the trust of and subsequent influence over his or her own small community.

If you want to become more influential with your online healthcare community, focus on solving problems, building strong relationships (with your followers and other trusted bloggers) and offering helpful educational content.

#3: Brands Rely More on Facebook to Influence Consumers

Even though brands are devoting only 10% of their total digital marketing budgets to social media, Facebook is clearly the preferred platform, taking 57% of the slice.

Facebook is where the world hangs out and brand marketers know how important it is to be successful on this platform. In fact, the report shows that when metrics from earned media goals for brands were ranked, Facebook likes were at the top.

This means that brands aren’t just focusing on Facebook ads. They are also interested in seeing increased activity on their Facebook Pages so much that conversation and engagement strategies have become vital for consumer outreach. The key to influencing consumers on Facebook is sharing content that generates interaction (likes and comments) and draws in more fans. Check out Medtronics Diabetes on Facebook for a phenomenal example of how healthcare brands can influence consumer opinion.

#4: Top Social Media Influencers Blog for Themselves

According to the survey, 86% of influencers blog. Of these, 88% blog for themselves. Moreover, a majority of influencers (59%) don’t produce much content outside of blogs.

We’ve seen that trust is the currency of influence and that consumers are looking for “trusted digital friends” to give them advice on what to buy and where to go. That’s why bloggers who offer such advice are influential—because consumers trust their guidance.

If you want to grow your influence, the key is to become a trusted source of information in your industry. Provide compelling content on your blog and then amplify it through social media. People will listen and you will become their go-to resource for specific advice.

Cleveland Clinic for example has established itself as one of the premier healthcare brands in the world through blogging and creative content marketing.

#5: Brands and Influencers Measure Success Differently

When it comes to gauging the success of their campaigns, brands and influencers think differently. Brands see success as increased activity on Facebook, Twitter and their websites, while influencers rank blog or website page views as the best measure of success.

The reason why influencers focus so much on their blogs is because their priority is to deliver prospects to a site where that trust factor can begin to be tapped. For them, success is measured by the number of people reading their content.

You too can build trust by publishing high-quality educational content on your blog and providing calls to action that lead consumers and patients to a purchase opportunity. Think of sites such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic, which have become trusted sources of medical information for people seeking online health content.

#6: Brands and Influencers Have a Different Understanding of Influence

Brands are always looking for the “right people” to connect with on social media. They believe that effective influencer outreach can help spark valuable word-of-mouth campaigns that increase brand visibility and ultimately drive consumer action.

Personally I doubt that I’ll reach for a Snickers bar every time I get hungry just because Aretha Franklin or Liza Minnelli are advocates for the brand.

The problem is how brands define influence. The Technorati report says that brands are using comScore or Nielsen rankings to identify influencers, yet these metrics do not represent influencers very well. Meanwhile “real” influencers (folks like Kevin Pho whom consumers trust and rely upon for advice) are hanging out mostly on their own blogs creating tons of likeable content.

If you’re a healthcare brand marketer trying to connect with influencers, remember that having a large social media following doesn’t give you influence, it simply gives you an audience. Try looking for influencers who have very close ties to their communities, or bloggers who are relevant to your brand even if they don’t have worldwide fame.

Some great places to look include Google+ Communities and Boardreader (a search engine for online forums and community boards).

Quick Wrap Up

The biggest takeaway from the Technorati report is that blogging cultivates community, which is where influence is birthed.

Also there’s a lot we can learn from top influencers, such as what kind of content to publish, how top bloggers make money and much more.

So be sure to check out the full report to get deeper insights into developing strong digital marketing strategies.

Your Turn: What do you think? What insights revealed in this article did you find most interesting? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

9 Social Media Trends that Could Impact Healthcare Marketers

Are you wondering how consumers are using social media?

Would you like some insights to help your healthcare business better understand people’s social habits?

In this article, I examine a recent report published by Edison Research focused on people’s latest social habits. These findings provide useful insights about consumer behavior and how your healthcare business can respond.

Here are 9 of the most interesting findings from the study.

#1. Almost 58 million Americans have the ‘social habit’

A social habit is the tendency to use social media sites several times a day. By mid-2012 the number of Americans with the social habit had risen from 18% in 2011 to 22% (approximately 58 million people).

A similar study by NM Incite provides further insight as to why people use social media. 89% do it to keep in touch with friends and family, 67% for entertainment, 66% to learn about products and services, and 48% for career networking.

Key Takeaway: As consumers invest more time on social media sites, try to find new ways to connect and engage with them throughout the day. For example post a short question on your Facebook page in the morning; a helpful article in the afternoon; and an interesting photo or brief video in the evening. And don’t forget weekends.

Remember too that consumers are interested in learning about your products and services so showcase them using appealing images and keyword-rich descriptions. Also consider introducing an e-commerce experience on your Facebook page.

#2. Twitter continues to draw new and more engaged users

Twitter continued to draw new users by impressive numbers. 23% of consumers surveyed joined Twitter six months before, 30% joined less than a year before, and another 25% joined less than two years before. The study also showed that engagement levels among Twitter users rose from 69% in 2011 to 76% in 2012

Key Takeaway: New Twitter users will not know whom to follow right away. Make it easy for them to follow your business by tweeting useful resources and thoughtful tips that answer their questions, rather than tweeting promotional content. This will also help establish you as a thought-leader in your category particularly if your tweets are focused mostly on a specific health topic.

#3. 4 in 10 Americans hear or read about ‘tweets’ every day from media

The study found that 43% of Americans hear or read about “tweets” almost everyday in the media. Another 16% hear this term regularly but not daily. TV shows such as CNN’s ‘AC 360’ and ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’ are known for promoting and extending conversations to their Twitter platforms.

Key takeaway: Every day TV audiences are being heavily exposed to Twitter and the idea of tweeting. If your business advertises on TV (or is thinking about it), be sure to encourage your audience to take the conversation online, in the form of tweets. Don’t forget to give viewers a unique hashtag to distinguish your brand. To get your creative juices flowing take a look at this stunning TV ad by American Express with numerous mentions of “tweets” and ‘Twitter”.

#4. Brand-following behavior doubles

This was an interesting discovery. Turns out that social media users are more interested in brands than ever before. In fact brand-following behavior on social media sites increased by a respectable 17% in the last two years, and by 8% from 2011 to 2012. It is likely that this trend will continue on the same upward path.

Key Takeaway: According to Hubspot the top reasons why users follow brands are to get free offers and deals, because they are existing customers, for interesting or entertaining content, and because their friends are fans of the brand. Make sure that the offers you make on your website (e.g. free research reports, Webinars, or product giveaways) are also promoted on your social media channels. Be creative and change up your offers every so often to keep things fresh and your fans engaged.

#5. Facebook is dominant platform for following brands

A whopping 79% of consumers prefer to connect with brands on Facebook while only 9% prefer Twitter for brand-following. Why Facebook?

  • Facebook is a familiar space. Consumers already spend a lot of time there connecting with friends and family. Therefore it is a small effort on their part to connect with brands.
  • Secondly Facebook users are heavily influenced by their friends. If a friend likes a brand, they too will like a brand (remember birds of a feather!).
  • Finally Facebook offers a more user-friendly and visually interesting interface than other platforms. This allows brands to leverage offers, giveaways, contests and other entertaining content in a more appealing way.

Key Takeaway: To increase the number of your Facebook fans, consider offering free gifts and entertaining content (or a combination of these). Otherwise you could also reward loyal fans and attract new ones by providing real value (i.e. 50% off or more, not 5% or 10% according to Dave Kerpen of Likeable Media). Again don’t forget that contests and sweepstakes create a lot of excitement and energy since the idea of shared opportunity spreads fast on Facebook.

#6. Young Facebook users have lots of friends

Notice from the graph that 18 to 24-yr old Facebook users have the highest number of friends while more mature users have fewer friends. Keep in mind that birds of a feather flock together and so, friends of fans tend to behave like actual fans on Facebook.

Key Takeaway: To increase your brand’s visibility on Facebook don’t just target your fans, target their friends as well. Develop personas (or profiles) of your target audience and identify their demographics, interests, pain points, social behavior, etc. This information will help you to create content that is highly optimized for them. Then create messages that are sharable e.g. promotions that require voting (if a fan votes, their friend will be persuaded to vote as well!). The idea is to get high visibility on your fans’ newsfeed thus encouraging interaction with their friends as well.

#7. Only one-quarter of social networkers use “daily deals” sites

Generally the American population is not crazy about daily deals services such as Groupon or Living Social and only 23% of social networkers are registered users of these sites. Numerous sources suggest that there’s a lot of buyer remorse associated with Groupon. But now Amazon and Google have a grabbed a piece of the daily deals business. It’ll be interesting to see how consumers respond to these brands over the next twelve months.

Key Takeaway: Unfortunately the entire Groupon business model has long been held in question. But from the consumer’s point of view, everyone still likes a good deal. If you’re using Groupon, Living Social or a similar business model, make sure there is a profitable return for your healthcare business. Otherwise you may want to re-evaluate your goals to check whether this kind of model is still a good fit for you.

#8. One-third of social media users are ‘silent’

Most people like to engage (post status updates) on social media sites. However 34% of users are silent for various reasons. According to TopRank Marketing Blog some are lurkers (those who just sit tight and absorb information), while others are newbies who haven’t quite honed their social skills.

Key Takeaway: Silent users such as lurkers and newbies may not interact with friends or brands, but they are listening and can be valuable connections for your business. If you notice lurkers among your followers, try to reach out directly to them via direct messages. They’ll be more likely to respond if you rouse them with a thought-provoking question or comment.

Also the usual best practice of sharing tips and tricks, and other helpful content can also help to draw out newbies. As they start to figure their way around, they’ll remember you for helping them along the way.

#9. Check-in frequency declines

Both Gowalla and Foursquare saw sharp declines in user activity in 2012. In fact 57% of users said they ‘almost never’ check in. Of course Gowalla shut down in early 2012, but even with Foursquare still open for business consumers started to opt-out of the check-in craze due to privacy concerns according to a study published on Mashable. Others did not consider badges or upgraded status to be sufficient motivation to check in.

Key Takeaway: If you use location-based marketing to promote your medical practice try using a combination of specials and discounts (on select products) to encourage more patients. Because people are concerned about privacy and safety issues, your organization will have to offer unrivalled deals in order for people to give up their location.

Final Wrap-up

Healthcare marketers have a great opportunity to respond to these findings by developing strategies that appeal to changing consumer habits. Continue to focus on Facebook and Twitter as these platforms draw in new users. On the downside be careful about using daily deals and location-based marketing since consumers are apprehensive about these services.

Over to you: Which of these social habits did you find most interesting? Please tell us why you think so and share your thoughts below.

7 Social Media Trends for Consumers: Research Article

Are you wondering what the changing social trends are for consumers?

If so, look no further.

In Nielsen and McKinsey’s Social Media Report, consumers were surveyed to discover how they use social networks.

Here are seven key findings from that report.

#1: More Time Invested in Mobile

The survey found that consumers are increasingly looking to their smartphones and tablets to access social media.

While the PC is still the most widely used device when it comes to social media consumption, the study found that time spent on mobile apps and mobile websites accounted for a 63% increase (compared to 2011) in total time spent.

Additionally, 43% of users said they use smartphones to access social media, while 16% connect using a tablet.

Key Takeaway: When it comes to consuming social content, it’s all about mobile. For marketers, that means that mobile has to be your top content priority this year.

If you haven’t done so already, here are some ideas to get you started:

#2: Pinterest Usage Continues to Rise

Pinterest continues to experience exponential growth since its launch in 2011. The platform had the highest increase in audience and time spent of any social network across all devices such as PC, mobile web and apps.

“Pinterest users reported a surprisingly high correlation between pinning and subsequent purchasing: more than 1 in 5 Pinterest users has pinned an item that they later purchased. In the social world, this is a high conversion rate.”

Key Takeaway: As a marketer, remember that product photography is more important than ever when trying to persuade Pinterest shoppers to pin and buy your hottest-looking items. Capitalize on their shopping experience and make your profile as creative and visually engaging as possible.

Also, don’t forget to engage with people who have pinned your items to see if you could nudge them into buying something!

#3: Social Networking Generates Positive Sentiments

One of the most interesting findings in this survey was that 76% of participants said they experienced positive feelings after engaging in social networking.

Some of the words used to describe how they felt were: informed, energized, excited, connected and amused. However, 21% reported negative sentiments after social networking; examples are overwhelmed, anxious and wasted time. 24% remained neutral.

Key Takeaway: Social media is saturated with sentiment-rich data. Every update, tweet, blog comment or online review is a critical source of data that can inform your CRM program. As a marketer, you should be very interested in gathering and analyzing sentiment data to see if your social messages are producing the desirable outcomes you’re looking for.

#4: Twitter Drives Social TV

Twitter has emerged as the most powerful driver of ‘social TV’ interaction. That means when people are watching the Super Bowl, American Idol or the elections, they are simultaneously using Twitter to share their thoughts and experiences with friends.

In June 2012, a third of active Twitter users tweeted about TV-related content, which was up from 26% at the beginning of the year.

Key Takeaway: Social TV is still a new concept for marketers. However, considering that an average of 43 minutes are spent each day watching TV (HubSpot), and that many of those viewers are then sharing their experiences online, marketers shouldfind ways to align any TV advertising with their online strategies (e.g., incorporating hashtags or tweetable sound bites in their TV commercials). This prolongs the conversation about brands beyond the TV, while allowing for extended word-of-mouth marketing.

#5: Social Care is the New Customer Care

Social care is a way for companies to provide regular customer service through social media platforms. The study revealed that one in three social media users prefers social care to contacting a company by phone.

Consumers use a variety of channels for social care. For example, they are most likely to comment or ask a question about a company’s products or services on the company’s Facebook page (29%), on their own personal Facebook profile (28%), on official company blogs (15%), on Twitter (personal handle – no mention of company, 14%) and on Twitter (company’s handle, 13%).

Key Takeaway: Social media has conditioned consumers to get immediate feedback. As a marketer, the risk of failing to meet such high expectations is not just losing customers, but having negative comments about your brand blasted around the user’s network and their friends’ networks. If you can get social care right, you willcreate a wide gap between your brand and your competition.

#6: Mixed Feelings about Social Ads

Another interesting finding was how people react to social ads. While 33% of people surveyed find ads on social networks to be annoying, 26% are more likely to pay attention to an ad posted by a friend.

Generally a Like is the most common action taken after seeing a social ad (26%), followed by a share (15%) and a product purchase (14%). As far as demographics go, the study found that Asian-American consumers were the most likely to respond positively to social ads, while white consumers were the most likely to be turned off by social media advertising.

Image source: iStockphoto.

Key Takeaway: Because advertising on social media is more annoying than other digital areas, marketers should proceed with caution and make sure their ads are highly relevant and targeted. On the bright side, many people don’t mind social ads if they’re tailored to suit personal tastes and interests. This presents a great opportunity for marketers to raise brand visibility.

#7: Social Listening a Key Consumer Activity

Social media is transforming the way consumers around the globe make purchasing decisions. Consumers are using social media to listen and learn about other consumers’ experiences (70%); find more information about brands, products and services (65%); and compliment brands (53%).

Key takeaway: We tend to think of social listening as something only marketers and research analysts do. However, it’s interesting to see that consumers are also active listeners. This is an opportunity for marketers to educate consumers through compelling content, improve customer experiences (using social care) andmaintain strong customer relationships to uphold a positive brand image.

Your Turn: What do you think? Which of these trends did you find most enlightening?Please share your thoughts and comments in the box below.