Forrester Says Marketers Are Wasting Resources on Facebook, Twitter

Marketers looking to build stronger connections with consumers typically turn to social media industry leaders Facebook and Twitter for their outreach. But those are the wrong places to be looking, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

So few people actually see posts from top brands on Facebook and Twitter that focusing heavily on those networks can be a waste of time, money and resources, Forrester vice president and principal analyst Nate Elliott concludes in the report titled “Social Relationship Strategies That Work.”

“It’s clear that Facebook and Twitter don’t offer the relationships that marketing leaders crave,” Elliott wrote. “Yet most brands still use these sites as the centerpiece of their social efforts — thereby wasting significant financial, technological, and human resources on social networks that don’t deliver value.”

The issue according to Elliott is anemic reach and engagement. In February, Ogilvy reported that top brands’ Facebook posts reached only 2% of their fans. That has likely fallen further and with last week’s Facebook announcement that it will further throttle promotional posts, the trendline hasn’t yet hit bottom. Organic reach on Twitter is just as low, the report says, citing “multiple industry sources.”

Engagement is even worse. Only .073% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts on average; for Twitter the average is .035%.

An On-Site Alternative

Instead of spending social capital on Facebook and Twitter, Elliott suggests that brands add community building features on their own websites, noting a Forrester survey that showed U.S. adults were three times as likely to visit a business’ site as to engage with its Facebook page.

As examples, Elliott pointed to the Sony PlayStation social, which aggregated social posts from 75,000 loyalists. The site drew 4.5 million visits at four minutes a visit and helped the company’s successful PlayStation 4 launch, in which it outsold its biggest competitor by nearly 2-to-1.

And semiconductor manufacturer Analog Devices created EngineerZone, a community for its B2B clientele where thousands of people shared ideas, answered questions and read blog posts and FAQs from Analog executives. It reached a much larger audience than the brand’s entire Facebook page. “Better yet, 90% of EngineerZone users say the community is helpful to their design process,” Elliott wrote, “and 76% say the community makes them more likely to buy Analog’s products again in the future.”

Social Alternatives

The Forrester report isn’t entirely down on social media. It recommends turning to social networks that generate higher brand engagement, like Instagram and Pinterest. Forrester data shows that top brands’ Instagram posts receive a per-follower engagement rate 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter.

REI, for example, shifted its social priorities to Instagram after noticing much higher interaction with its posts there compared to Facebook. REI’s 1440 Project, which asks its fans to share photos from their outdoor pursuits, has generated more than 100,000 photos and more than 500,000 visits to the company’s microsite.

The engagement created is off the charts, and there’s even spillover to the brand’s Facebook page:

REI’s Instagram photos deliver almost 3,000 times more engagement per follower than its Facebook posts. And yet, this strategy helps rather than harms the company’s Facebook efforts: When REI shares 1440 Project content on Facebook, it earns 42% more likes than the brand’s other Facebook posts.”

The full report is available from Forrester for a $499 fee.


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