Research Results: Social Media Preferences

Social Media Cat

Recently, I thought it would be interesting to discover the social media preferences of our Facebook page followers at Social Media Marketing. The poll is here. I’ll leave it open for a while and invite you to contribute your thoughts. If you want to take the poll, stop reading now! Go and complete the poll first, then come back after so your answers will not be influenced by the results below.

But since most of the results are in, and I promised to share them, here are the highlights with a little analysis and suggestions for how to use them.

A few of the most popular answers:

83 percent

On social media, I like to see posts that:  Are informative: “How To” videos, current news events.


67 percentOn social media, I read posts that: Include pictures or video; ask my opinion or request a comment.


67 percent

I watch videos on Facebook more now that they play as I scroll.   No.


83 percentOn social media, I am likely to “Like”, comment, share or get involved with posts that: Coincide with my own opinion; provide information, news, tips or entertainment.

This was not a scientific poll, and there was a small sample size. However, there is room for reflection on what the answers mean to social media marketers and how they can engage their community of followers. But I’ll get to the analysis later. Let’s look at how people responded when asked some open-ended questions.

Revealing comments about social media:

The thing I like the most about social media is:

  • Instant updates on breaking news, sometimes directly from the source itself.
  • Feeling connected to my friends, family and acquaintances.
  • It’s a great way to stay connected to long-distance friends and family.
  • I read and learn/stay updated about different current issues.
  • Keeping in touch with people

The thing I like the least about social media is:

  • It’s a time-suck!
  • Negative comments or arguing.
  • Boring updates that tell you nothing important.
  • Some people go overboard with their posts and opinions.
  • Some people don’t like if you disagree with them and they can become combative.
  • Personal updates that I have no interest in.
  • Videos of animals doing allegedly entertaining things.

Most of the comments confirm what Chris Brogan and other social media gurus keep telling us:

People want valuable content when using social media.

In addition, current news has great value and people overwhelmingly want to keep in touch with their friends and family.

Pictures and videos are popular, of course. But what’s interesting, is that most people do not like the way Facebook now automatically plays a video as you scroll over it. And this didn’t increase their likelihood of watching those videos. So the results suggest that although videos are still a good idea, don’t expect this Facebook tweak to increase your views.

Sheila Gregory Social Media Marketing Twitter Header

When it comes to mobile versus desktop use, as you might expect, the majority of respondents proved they’re hip with the current trend. Two-thirds said they use their mobile device to view social media most of the time. If you are an experienced digital marketer, you’re already using social media to drive traffic to your website, so make sure you’ve optimized your site for mobile consumption. And don’t forget to test the view on a variety of devices! Seeing is believing when it comes to the digital experience.

Now, it was no surprise to find that most people like to read posts that reflect their own opinions, proving that we tend to fall prey to what U of T philosopher and author Joseph Heath calls “confirmation bias” in his award winning book, Enlightenment 2.0. This is the psychological phenomenon that influences us to pay more attention to ideas with which we agree. Then we tend to use them as evidence that our beliefs are correct, and ignore contrary ideas. Heath argues that no matter how rational you are, you can’t override this basic human characteristic in your day-to-day thoughts.

Clearly, people don’t want to engage in arguments, negative thoughts or boring posts. I don’t think we needed a poll to tell us that. But what it might suggest is that community managers might remove those types of comments unless they are doing something to increase their followers. Possibly less engagement is better than negative engagement.

What are the lessons for social media marketers?

  • If you want to increase engagement, you must know and understand your followers’ opinions and beliefs, then ensure your posts line up with them.
  • Post lots of visually interesting, informative and valuable content. No boring updates!
  • Monitor and incorporate breaking news stories so yours is the site of choice for keeping people informed.
  • You might increase engagement by finding ways to involve entire families, colleagues or groups of friends. Find ways to allow them to engage with one another on your site and you may be able to engage them yourself.

Research, such as this poll, is only the beginning when it comes to determining what makes people tick in social media spheres. We can only scrape the surface and then test, re-test and test again to shoot for the best results.

If you just started using any of these ideas to engage your followers on social media, please include a link to your site in the comments below and let us all know if they are increasing your likes, comments, video views or shares. We’d like to know that research really does help!

See the complete Facebook poll results.



My top social media campaign of 2014

Are you inclined to open social media articles with headlines that include lists? For example, “5 ways to improve your writing” or “3 Foods you should never eat”. I admit, I’m more likely to open and read them because of a combination of three things:

  1. Curiosity (I like to guess what’s on the list, then want to know if I’m right).
  2. The promise of a quick and easy read (sometimes I have the attention span of a two year-old).
  3. Knowing that I can scan the heading for each item and easily see the end of the list (Mom taught me to finish everything I started).

Mashable lists

Do you ever check out the top five or top ten list of anything on Mashable? It’s especially interesting if you like the “best of the year” type articles. For a 2014 year-end review of social media campaigns, Mashable lists its top five. The winner, celebrated at the Mashies Awards, was Burger King’s “Motel” campaign which entices people to “cheat on beef” by trying their new chicken burger.

What about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

I cannot agree with this choice and was surprised to see that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t even make the top five. This initiative took North America by surprise with every celebrity, co-worker and average neighbourhood dude taking the challenge and donating to ALS societies everywhere. Talk about VIRAL! Even fictitious characters were doing it:

The effort raised $16.2 million for research into ALS in Canada with 260,000 Canadians participating. The American ALS Association announced over $100 million raised in one month alone. This is what happens when you inject a simple, fun and entertaining idea into your social media efforts. People love it and it becomes contagious.

The title of this article is not a list – I’m offering only my top ONE, so maybe the open rate will suffer. And maybe Social Kitty is not as trendy and informative as Mashable, but my top ONE social media campaign of 2014 is definitely the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE.

ALS Canada

I haven’t seen anyone doing the challenge since winter set in, have you? Of course, you don’t have to throw a bucket of ice over your head in January, but you can still donate online to ALS Canada to support research into this devastating disease.

Whats My Line: Community Manager?

Those of us who are interested in working in Social Media Marketing might go searching various keywords on job boards online, including Community Manager, Communication Coordinator or Social Media Professional.  However, I do not like these titles.  I would like to see a new term being used to described these members of the marketing team.

The whole point of Social Media networks is for the participants to create content, engage and get into the 2 way nature of the communication.  So do they want to be managed?  I doubt it.  I think most of us register on the various platforms because we want to have a conversation about something we are interested in and we want to find others who are interested in the same thing.  We want to share information or our thoughts or experiences.  Do we want some “Social Media Professional” poking their nose in and directing us to products or services they are trying to push?  I do not think so.

Now this “Community Manager” or whatever, may be quite welcome if he or she is solving problems, answering questions and providing valuable customer service on their sites in which case there may be an argument for calling them by that handle.

However, I rather like to think that the person who works for the organization is also a person who just likes to talk about what they like and share information from the point of view of  just another group member.  So my vote for the most common professional title to use would be “Community Participant” or “Social Media Participant”.  What do you think?  Do you have another title that fits?