Neil Patel

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Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media

Social media is fraught with legend, hysteria, and mass confusion. Because of its intensely personal nature, we tend to approach social media with a lot of strong feelings about its effectiveness, lack thereof, best practices, and how things should be done.

Since most of us use Facebook, we think we know how effective it will be, or what kind of posts garner the most attention and interaction. Since we have a Twitter account, we have a sense of knowledge about how it works, and what a business should do (or not do) on Twitter.

All that is great, but how much of our social media behavior is founded upon fact? I decided to dig into the data and do some research. What I’ve extracted below are five surprising data points that will have a profound effect on how you approach social media.

1. Email marketing has an ROI of 3100%.

Source: Oberlo

What? A statistic about email? You thought this was about social media, right?

My title is “Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media.” This statistic qualifies as shocking, and it impacts the way we approach social media.

The basic fact is this: Email marketing has a huge ROI — way better than any social media marketing ROI can ever dream of achieving. Compare 3100% with the ROI of social media, which is crawling around on the floor. Is there even a comparison?

Paid and organic search have the highest customer acquisition percentages. The next biggest contender is email. Based on its ROI—higher than paid and organic search—it’s a no-brainer. Email marketing is awesome.

The fascinating thing about email marketing is that its acquisition rates are rising dramatically. Email marketing’s effectiveness far outranks any social media platform, and its growth outstrips them.

Even the customer lifetime value (CLV) of social media is hardly worth a second glance. Again, email marketing crushes social media by a huge margin:

customer lifetime value by channel

Simply put, email marketing is way more effective than social media marketing. It has greater effectiveness, better ROI, and higher CLV.

Learn this lesson: Spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.

2. YouTube is the #1 social media platform in America

Source: Pew Research Center

Whenever we think of “social media,” we automatically think of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

But what about YouTube? According to 2018 research done in the United States, 73% of Americans use YouTube. For comparison, Facebook comes in second place at 68%.

YouTube deserves more of your social media time and effort. You can’t afford not to put more work into creating and adding videos. The more YouTube content, the more you’ll engage your potential customers.

Learn this lesson: If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.

3. Facebook drives more referrals than any other social platform.

Source: eMarketer

Want to know which social media site sends you the most amount of traffic? It’s Facebook — by far.

In recent research, there was no contest. Facebook crushed the competition, asserting itself as the most powerful social media referral engine on the planet.

Research from 2019 shows that Facebook is responsible for over 80% of referral e-commerce traffic, dominating all other platforms. In second place is Instagram with 10%, followed by Pinterest with 8%.

While many marketers say that page interaction is shrinking, there’s nothing shrinking about the number of referrals that Facebook continues to drive.

Simply stated, Facebook still drives more traffic than any other social media site, soaring way above its nearest referral competition.

Learn this lesson: Stick it out with Facebook and keep driving referrals.

4. Pinterest users spend 29% more than non-users when shopping

Source: Pinterest

First off, a Pinterest disclaimer (or two), and then a Pinterest happy dance.

The first disclaimer is this — Pinterest has a high bounce rate and low engagement. Disclaimer number two: Pinterest doesn’t work for everyone.

If you are into food, crafts, photography, weddings, design, fitness, humor, travel, fashion, and inspirational quotes, then Pinterest is killer. It holds promise for some, but not for all.

The happy dance is this — Pinterest is the third-biggest social media referral platform. Though it trails Facebook distantly (and is just a few points behind Instagram), it still beats out Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn by a sizeable margin.

Now, let’s talk about ROI. Pinterest, as it turns out, does have one. But it’s a delayed reaction. When a pinner curates his or her pinboard, it takes a while for there to be social buildup, let alone revenue.

Unlike Twitter, which has a short half-life, Pinterest visits increase as time goes on. It’s like wine. The older, the better.

As it turns out, the revenue doesn’t start happening until more than a few months after pinning. Pinners spend more time exploring other people’s pinboards then they do searching for stuff offsite to pin.

The average Pinterest pin gets 10 repins, but it takes time for those pinners to start repinning pins. This leads to a corresponding delay in revenue.

Pinterest is money, but it’s slow money. It’s like investing in a CD or a bond. The egg just takes a little while to hatch.

Learn this lesson: Use Pinterest. And be patient.

5. 60% of Twitter users expect a response within an hour.

Source: Twitter

Customers use Twitter as a company hotline. If you don’t respond within minutes, you’re toast.

Research on the topic, the most recent of which was published in 2015, led with the headline “Consumers Will Punish Brands that Fail to Respond on Twitter Quickly.” The flip side, “consumers will reward brands that harness Twitter’s power to meet their rising expectations.”

What kind of punishment are we talking about?

  • “38% feel more negative about the brand.” As a result, they may no longer purchase from the company.
  • “60% will take unpleasant actions to express their dissatisfaction…publicly shaming the brand on social media” In other words, they may spread their grief further on Twitter. It’s easy to tweet off a 140-character-or-less gripe about the company. “74 percent of customers who take to social media to shame brands believe it leads to better service.”

What’s in it for brands who are on the ball, and who respond to Tweets instantaneously?

  • 34% are likely to buy more from that company;
  • 43% are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products;
  • 38% are more receptive to their advertisements;
  • 42% are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

There’s a lot to gain by a quick response, and a lot to lose if you don’t. So if you get that Twitter notification on lunch break, don’t wait. Step on it, respond right away, and please your customers’ socks off.

Learn this lesson: If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.


Here are the five lessons we need to learn

  1. For right now, spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.
  2. If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.
  3. Stick with Facebook.
  4. Use Pinterest. And be patient.
  5. If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.

Facts are indisputable, and the action points are obvious. Let’s not get lost in the romance and novelty of social media. Let’s stay clear headed, smart, and engaged. There’s power in social media, and we need to handle it in the right way.

What are some of the most compelling social media statistics that you’ve heard?

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