2018 Social Media Strategy Overview

Two heads sharing questions and ideas

There is no one side fits all strategy to Social Media, but ignore it at your risk. There are several major platforms and a plethora of minor platforms, but for small business brands and political brands, there are a few to focus on. Thank you to Pew Research for putting these facts together.


YouTube, by reputation, is that of a video streaming service, but the YouTube.com site is a much broader social platform. Comments, discussions, sharing, and thumb up/thumb down scores all contribute to the YouTube experience. Sure you can embed a YouTube video on your website without using those functions, but YouTube.com is now the second largest search engine (after Google.com), and Google Video searches rely heavily on YouTube. A strong YouTube presence, including the social components of commenting on related videos and replying to comments, is very important. As of January 2018, 73% of Adults use YouTube.


The largest of the pure Social Platforms, 68% of Americans have Facebook Accounts. Only Facebook knows what percentage of them are regular and active users, but Pew pegs it at 74% of American Facebook users use it at least once a day. That’s self reported, so take it with a grain of salt, but Facebook may be the easiest and most direct way to reach people. It is not sufficient to have a Page that you share content to. Links to your website, with proper boosts, and audience building campaigns are critical to brands having the ability to engage with people that interest them.


Instagram, the Facebook property, is in third place with 35% of Americans having accounts, 60% of whom use it at least daily. That makes Instagram an important, but not as critical, part of your social media strategy. A simple Instagram account, with a regular picture and caption being added, with good hashtags, can go a long way towards building your brand. A serious effort to build followers and engage can have more serious results, but it depends on your brand. If your goal is to build deep relationships with users (premium luxury brands), Instagram should be front and center. If you need a more casual relationship with the bulk of the population (think politicians, Instagram can be more perfunctory).

Niche Platforms: Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter

These platforms, are relatively popular, all having a decent population, with dominance in their area, but lack a universal presence. The usage gap between these platforms and Instagram is only a few percentage points, but Instagram is rapidly growing and these niche platforms are relatively static in their user base. For completeness, Pinterest has 29% of Americans, Snapchat 27% of Americans, LinkedIn has 25%, and Twitter 24%. These aren’t small audiences, with large segments of the population in their niche.

Pinterest is very popular, but is demographic specific, being 81% female, and a median age of 40. The active pinners are younger and even more female, and among Millenials it equals Instagram. It has a strong advertising platform, and is very strong around lifestyle, hobbies, and brands. If you market your brands towards women under 50, Pinterest is a great addition to your platform. (OmniCore’s Pinterest Statistics)

Snapchat is popular, but niche. The advertising platform is immature, and it is challenging for non-celebrities to build a following here. Unless you are in fashion, music, or other youth targeted segments, it is probably more worthwhile to focus on other platforms. But if you are targeting college students and younger, SnapChat is essentials. (OmniCore’s Snapchat Statistics)

LinkedIn is a valuable, and expensive to market on. If your target audience are business professionals, it’s a critical platform. Sales Professionals live and die by LinkedIn. Gainfully employed people may only look at Linkedin when job hunting. If you are selling into corporate markets, LinkedIn needs to fit your platform. If you are marketing to consumers, LinkedIn is probably not going to generate an ROI.

Twitter is a super strange platform. It’s relatively small, but sometimes has an out-sized influence. It is popularly credited by the media with dominating the 2016 election, but there are so few people on it. It is more popular overseas, where the lower data needs and more free-flowing conversations avoid censors. Twitter is extremely possible with journalists, public relations firms, and celebrities. The ability to run the messaging from a cell phone makes it much flexible for those in the business of communicating with those industries. While Twitter shows Videos and Images, pure text messaging still works. If your business is looking to reach journalists, generate publicity, or communicate with customers in a free-wheeling fashion, Twitter should be part of your communications strategy. Twitter’s advertising tools are shockingly primitive, but it’s very powerful if you are trying to reach the demographics active there.

Open Graph Brings SEO Opportunities to Facebook

So Facebook’s push for Open Graph integration, where the “Like Button” replaces the direct link, creates new opportunities for businesses to focus on Facebook’s search mechanism.  Some initial tests indicated that it is possible to now optimize for Facebook search, i.e. bringing SEO to Facebook.

Facebook Open Graph allows one to connect their site to Facebook without full integration, simply using new Facebook Meta Tags and the Like Button (a snipped of Javascript code).  Facebook is tracking these likes and building a “graph” of the Internet based upon the recommendations of your social network, and now they are including relevant results when you search Facebook for something.

This creates an opportunity for companies that are bringing their brand to Facebook to get additional exposure through Open Graph, which creates an incentive to use the technology.  This is exciting, as the move to the “walled garden” of social media threatened to disrupt the open world of search.  In the past, users could recommend a page on their blog, creating a “link graph” for the search engines to use, but now it’s easier to just click “share” and send the link out to your friends that way.  Without this part of the link graph, the search engines are missing out on the recommendations that they build their systems upon.

Open Graph brings out the ability to restore this, even if Facebook is the only company taking advantage of it for now.

Social Networking Across the World

Social networking is amongst the hottest topics of the past few years, but while our US Centric media has focused on Twitter (popular in urban areas) and Facebook (popular throughout the western world), the growth of social media is universal.  Here is a country-by-country map of the dominate Interestingly, Google’s Orkut has a small presence in Latin America, and it is likely that Facebook will overtake it in 2010.  This has the added benefit of destroying anyone who thinks that Google’s web dominance in anyway approaches Microsoft’s desktop dominance in the late 1990s.

Most interesting to me, the map looks increasingly like a Cold War map, with NATO/Facebook squaring off against Warsaw Pact/V Kontakte, although the division is less political and more language based.  Proper Cyrillic support is necessary in Russia and areas with high numbers of Russian speakers.  As communication morphs, increasingly email is the dominate business communication and social media is the dominate personal communication method, making sense of personal communications matching personal friendships while business needs the real time communication for which the academic system was developed for.

As communication increases, the world becomes increasingly similar, and a US-centric view of your potential user base may look myopic as more and more of the world starts to look similar.  If you can sell in the US via Facebook, you can sell across Europe via Facebook, as long as you adapt to the social and language conventions of your target country.

Tweetdeck Enhances Facebook, Adds Myspace

If you are playing with Social Media, you’re aware of TweetDeck, the Twitter-centric system that helps organize that mass chaos that Twitter can devolve into.  If you are just updating your friends of your comings and goings, particularly via SMS, ignore TweetDeck, but if you are monitoring and participating in far ranging online conversation, TweetDeck forms the center of it.

Custom Searches let you monitor stories and discussions, and with the new version, the directory makes it easy to add discussions and other topics.  TweetDeck supported Facebook Status updates, the original system that Twitter appeared to copy and enhance, but now TweetDeck is integrated with Facebook for tracking all sorts of information.  TweetDeck is also adding MySpace support, the popular service that seems buzz free but with many active users.

Mashable also seems to be big fans of this TweetDeck upgrade.

Demographics of Twitter — Teens Catching Up

The latest demographics show Twitter usage amongst teenagers catching up with older dynamics.  The service still dominates in the 35 – 54 year old segment, which makes sense given that the mid-career professionals with nobody looking over their shoulder at the office all day (literally, more likely to have an office or at least a large cubicle) are making more use of a tool that requires constant connectivity for usage.  However, teenagers are slowly taking more of an interest in Twitter, which seemed odd to those that assume that technology is most often adapted by the young and moves up.  In the case of Twitter, it captured the Blackberry-addict demographic, not the TXTing on a phone demographic that they aimed for.  The comScore Blog Entry shows this with some lovely charts.

Twitter started by assuming that you’d want to update your close circle of friends with your goings on.  When Twitter hit the scene, my friends in urban areas on the coasts jumped on it to update everyone with what they were doing socially.  The teenage demographic doesn’t WANT to publish everything publicly, at least where their parents and/or teachers can find it.  Myspace offered teenagers tremendous room for self expression, while Facebook focused on the college (and later high school and young professional) markets of dating and social connection… high college students keeping in touch with high school friends, etc.

Interestingly, Twitter is now integrated with other parts of the web much better, making it a more useful tool for this demographic.  One of my high school classmates posted on Facebook that we should follow her on Twitter, as she isn’t on Facebook much anymore, but whether this is inevitable or a function of Facebook’s chasing Twitter and de-emphasizing what made it originally popular remains to be seen.  The old core of Facebook, finding old friends and reconnecting, or sharing college experiences with friends across the country, seems to have been supplanted in a barrage of data.  Facebook knocked Myspace off as leader by offering a clean and easy to use interface, but when they started fighting Twitter for buzz the news feed stopped being about sharing photographs and more about comments on statuses and wall posts, making it more and more a poor impersonation of Twitter.  If you want status and comments, Twitter’s world of feeds and mentions is a far cleaner interface than Facebook’s increasingly cluttered system.

Teenagers either have a close social circle that they are in touch with, or looking for ways to break out of the social world that they inhabit during the day.  A service that wants to reach them needs to offer one (or both) of those options.  Twitter offers teenagers the ability to aggregate information flow that interests them, and the increasing integration with other aspects of the web make it more interested.  When I was in high school, BBSes were the online way to communicate, by college, ICQ and later AIM became the online social center.  As Twitter takes that portion of the mindspace, Twitter’s relevance in that group increases.  However, the idea that my instant messages would be published on the website (even with the distinction between direct messages and public ones) seems odd to me, but AIM seemed odd to email/USENET users before us.

Why 140 Characters works for Twitter

A common exercise in demonstrating the human mind is give people a broad assignment, like “write something funny,” which isn’t something that most people can do without preparation.  A set of guidelines (like write a Limerick beginning with, “There once was a boy from Kentucky”) makes writing on the spot much easier.

Similarly, Twitter’s 140 Character Limitation actually makes the site more expressive.  I love the limitation inspired by SMS, which makes it a great “on the go” tool.  However, the internal language of Retweets (RT), Mentions (@), Hashtags (#category), plus URLs somewhat makes a mockery of the system.

I’ve expressed my issue with URL shortening, it “breaks” the web which at its core is linking to valuable resources.  The redirects have always made spidering the web harder, tracking links more difficult, and otherwise interfered with common usage of the Internet.  They create the risk of link rot, and in the case of Twitter, undermine the importance of link anchor text.

If I publish the name of my blog entries on my Twitter feed, they clearly should be clickable, but instead, a shortened URL will appear in the Twitter entry to conserve “characters.”  Given the ability to encode links within hypertext, it seems rather silly to “use characters” for the link, encouraging one to use a third party “shortening” service.

However, if in the middle of a Twitter discussion, I want to express a real idea, the “hypertext” approach would be to publish it to the web and link over, creating a permanent record in an accessible manner.  In our new Web 2.0 world, we use a service like TwitLonger, which essentially lets me upload a stream of text and make it available via Twitter.  I guess it’s the same thing, but now it’s floating out there on someone else’s system, someone who may or may not figure out how to make any revenue off this service.

Limitations can encourage creativity.  When I ran an SEO shop, I gave relatively strict requirements, which let me team mass produce content, while a broader range of action would have people simply staring at the screen.

WP.me: Bad Idea, But Predictable

Short URLs like Tinyurl.com were created for serve a valuable purpose, as URLs get long (think long query string, or SEO friendly long text strings), emailing a link is problematic for those using text mail clients as the text wraps around.

Twitter’s use of “shortened” URLs for the 140 character limit are totally arbitrary.  If you are sending it via SMS, the protocol supports a URL being passed along as data, not text.  Further, one could always shorten the URLs for SMS purposes and not on the web.  And on the website, you could use anchor text, the words that you click on, instead of the URL itself.

Nonetheless, Twitter decided to not support URL as special items, and the shrunken URL became a part of Twitter culture and it is here for any area that posting a link doesn’t show anchor text.

Now WP.me is a horrid idea.  Creating a special WordPress.com URL isn’t a horrible think, for those that are Username.wordpress.com, switching to Username.wp.me seems pretty harmless, and offering a shrunken URL format seems fine.  The “Permalink” of /year/month/day/URL-friendly-title works for Pre-2000 Internet days that the search engines still live in, making it SEO friendly, but less friendly for today’s world of Social Media and quick URL sharing.

However, that doesn’t appear what they are doing.  They appear to be pushing it as a shortening service, so you can still be AlexHochberger.com, but your links will be WP.me/ASDFAD if you choose to use Short URLs.  I suppose this serves a purpose for Twitter posts worried about Link Rot, but it also may trap you on WordPress.com.  If you outgrow their limited Blog feature set, how do you make certain that your WP.me links don’t rot out.  Wordpress.com seems a bit more stable than Bit.ly, but if Bit.ly survives long term, your links are save, WP.me may only work on a single host.

Given Bit.ly’s sharing a VC relationship with Twitter, I think that they are pretty safe, because if they can’t figure out a business model, VCs can usually force a merge up of their two investments.

Twitter Users and Businesses are in a Bubble

TinyURL.com has been around forever (didn’t realize it was just 2002, until they got publicity), people used them when ugly nasty query strings broke in emails.  They predated Twitter, predated Social media, and predated link popularity as a mainstream thing to worry about.

Tr.im didn’t seem to have a model other than “I’ll knock off TinyURL” with 6 fewer characters using an international TLD that seems Web 2.0 and clever.  They seem extremely upset that Bit.ly, with one extra character ripped off their idea.

The fact is, there is NO reason that Twitter counts URL characters in Tweets.  The idea of a microblog was the SMS integration, hence the 140 character restriction, the 160 of SMS less 20 to handle control characters.  Twitter could easily treat your URL as a symbol, relaying it as a normal URL on the website, and a Bit.ly one on their SMS connections with the appropriate character count.

Twitter is a small percentage of the Internet.  It’s a fascinating exploration of how a simple technology can capture imagination and run with it, most of Twitter, @username, #hashtags, and shortened URLs were all things pushed by the user base, not Twitter with it’s simple Follow/Following/Feed base approach to their data.

However, TinyURL had 70% of their traffic from non-Twitter, Tr.im seemed to have no push other than Twitter, and left the company in the lurch.  I find the whole thing kind of silly, Twitter ought to roll URL shortening into their package, and stop molesting links when it’s not needed (on the website) and shorten where the 140 character limit matters.  But Twitter isn’t a technology company, they are a social fad with a only presence.

95% of Americans don’t Tweet, so while Twitter is exciting to a part of the technology elite, it’s not where most Americans go to find things, so overstating its importance is a bit silly.  Email and Web search still dominate the Internet usage, social media may get there, but Twitter is not the end all and be all of the universe.

This makes Tr.im’s whining about Bit.ly not only counter productive and pointless, but also wrong.

Twitter as the Next Web Browser?

When the first web browsers came out, most of the resources weren’t on the web.  HTML files, hypertext sets of links, would point to resources on Gopher servers, or more often, FTP servers.  The existing network of FTP indexing and search tools got HTML front ends, and the web evolved.  Critics realized that there was nothing new, HTTP instead of FTP just made it stateless without logins.

Now a shopping service has created a Twitter service where you send them a message, and they find what you are looking for and tell you.  Reuters considers this an innovative business.  You can obviously use the Website, IMshopping.com, but there is nothing magical about the Twitter connection?  There is no reason that you can’t SMS them, Twitter them, Instant Message them, or email them.  In fact, over a decade ago, those of us without direct Internet access could FTP via email.  There were gateways where you could email a request and you would get a response, and using UUCP Email Gateways, those of us with daily email connections could get files… it just would take a few days with one directory listing every two days (day 1, request a directory, email went out that night, the response came back after the connection, so on night 2 you got the response).

The Twitter API makes it easy for you to integrate, both sending and receiving messages via Twitter.  There isn’t any reason that it’s easier for users to Twitter you, but for people on Twitter all the time, I guess opening a web browser is now an inconvenience.

Twitter isn’t a technologically interesting system, but it sure is a clever social phenomenon.  If you have a web business and you aren’t harnessing Twitter, you’re missing a source of traffic.

Ethnic Targeting on Facebook

I opened up an email entitled, “The J-Files: Jewdar Theories” on how Facebook advertisements, wondering how they are targeting Jews and other people.  Having played with Facebook’s advertising, I can state that they are not targeting by the religion field.  However, how tough is it to find Jews to target.

So I went into Ads and started typing Keywords looking for Jews… Hillel, Israel, IDF,, Jewish, Jews, etc., and quickly identified 650,000 Jews on Facebook.  Going through the Jewish Fraternities and Jewish Sororities (starting with AEPi and AEPhi) each netted 15-20k as well.  Going through the myriad of Jewish organizations and I could probably finding 1 million Jews to target.  Of those, I’d probably have 100k-200 false positives that would ignore me, and 800k-900k Jews that think I figured them out.  That’s without joining the “find 1 million supporters of Israel and X” groups and

I’m pretty certain that similar keyword searches through other ethnicities would gain similar results.  Historically black colleges for targeting, black fraternities/sororities/social organizations, Facebook groups about being Black/Hispanic (plus Latino and Latina) and proud, etc., that people join could no doubt find more people to target.

So without Facebook letting you filter on ethnicity/religious, it isn’t difficult to find 80%/90% targeted keywords, and going broadly, you could probably get plenty of 50%-70% targets (list community colleges in predominately Hispanic counties, etc.).  Can I identify 100% of the Jews/Hispanics/etc. on Facebook, absolutely not.  Can I get large groups of people with an 80%+ likelihood of an ethnic identification to target with ads, absolutely, and that’s the power of social media.