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Is social media at saturation point? Interest in Pinterest plummets but Facebook engagement still on the rise

Just as B2B brands have embraced social media as a key marketing strategy, a recent study by TrackMaven entitled The Content Marketing Paradox Revisited states that  the needle has moved and social engagement for B2B is saturated, making the job for B2B marketers ever tougher in this coming year.

However, there is no reason to change strategy, at least not yet.  The report notes that at its highest to its lowest point, content per brand on Twitter rose by 60 per cent and on Facebook is up over 31 per cent year in the past year. Yet, the report notes that engagement has dropped across all social networks, plummeting the most on Pinterest.

Whether this is due to marketing teams facing the monetization of social networks and the rise in mobile content consumption, it appears that blogging remains a core competency in B2B and is somewhat overlooked. Because the average brand is blogging with less frequency per month, social sharing from blogs has held steady with notable spikes across the year.

This is important to B2B marketers as the Track Maven report analyzed 22,957 brands across 50 million pieces of content on five major social networks between January to December 2015 and noted that content output per brand of the main social channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram means that although marketers are generating more content – they have  less to show for it.

Content overload is quantifiable indicating that users have reached a saturation point. While B2B brands and B2C brands and social networks compete for their share of engagement,  the engagement levels are way off.

As social networks proliferate and fight to monetize, the social media "free lunch" is over, the report states.  In the early days, social media could reach audiences far and wide with solid posts and interesting content. Today, there is a definite "paywall" in place that creates a series of checks and balances that often hinders content making it to its intended audience. Brands are willing to pay, but increasingly the onus is on the social networks to keep the user bases engaged and growing.  Given that mobile Internet usage is on the rise, social media is a now more of a moving target. The report emphasizes that marketers look to ad revenues earmarked for social networks as a leading indicator of organic reach.

B2B businesses consumers in particular understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch and although there are still plenty of helpings at the social media table - they come at a cost. 

Today, the social media titan Facebook and Twitter has witnessed ad revenue brow by 111 per cent in the past six quarters.  With Facebook's monthly users at 1.59 billion at the end of this past year, and Facebook nearly reaching $6bin in ad sales, and Twitter at 320 million monthly users according to its most recent quarterly earnings, the emphasis for marketers is to maintain a healthy growth of monthly active users and engagement, implying that the content must be useful, engaging, fresh and informative across all channels. 

The study indicates that mobile devices have transformed the way users see or respond to social media content.   In the past year, the study notes that there has been a 139 per cent increase in video posts, and a 91 per cent increase in photo posts. The urgency now is that social media today is more platform-specific. A mobile application that delivers newsworthy content and engaging information can and has outpaced traditional news and web sources. This trend will continue.

The bottom line for B2B marketers is that platform-specific content is fast becoming a marketing necessity.  Social networks are adapting to promote greater in-app time and activity and to stay relevant, B2B marketers need to create content that is well suited for each platform and consumable. For marketing teams, instituting a platform-specific content strategy will require more resources, more creativity, and an increased budget. But for the B2B marketers making plays with the right content on the right platforms, the payoff can be great.

The report notes that a time will come when there is a saturation moment for Facebook or Twitter, and states this has now happened on Pinterest. In fact, the average engagement ratio per post per 1,000 followers has dropped by 49 per cent on Pinterest, and although brand engagement on LinkedIn remains steady,  the clear winner is Facebook, whose average engagement ratio is three times that of Twitter.

 
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Across 2015, Twitter had the greatest increase in monthly output per brand, while LinkedIn, more favored by B2B brands post between 10 to 13 times per month, or roughly once every two to three days.

The study shows that in the rush to stay current on new networks, marketers are neglecting their blogs. The average number of blogs per brand per month actually decreased by 16 per cent across the year, and yet engagement climbed steadily to a peak of 190 average social shares in one month. While there is a decrease in the average number of blog posts per brand per month, the interest, sharing and engagement with blog posts on social media has not dropped off. There is just less activity taking place.

The bottom line is that there is no ROI on copycat content and the social networks are growing up, the report warns. Tracking engagement and referral traffic on social media as a way to understand which channels and content perform best for your business over time is key. Because social marketing is now monetized, paid content promotion has to be an essential part of your playbook. Using engagement analytics to make sure you spend effectively and sponsor the right stories, blogging and real time feedback on social networks can also set you B2B marketing strategy apart from the herd.

Featured by The Drum