A new survey by Pew Research Center illustrates the growing importance of Facebook as a public relations tool. According to Pew, six in ten Americans now get news from social media, up from 49% in 2012.
As a percentage of the US population, Facebook leads the way with its enormous reach with 44% of adult Americans getting news from the site. YouTube and Twitter follow, with 10% of the US population getting news from the video sharing site and 9% getting news from Twitter.
It is important to point out the different ways people use these sites.
[Tweet “Ignore Facebook For B2B At Your Own Peril #B2BMarketing”]
YouTube For News
People go to YouTube primarily for entertainment, be that in the form of music videos, movie trailers and clips, video game demonstrations, comedy or the latest viral videos. Another primary reason people turn to YouTube is for How To videos.
Though it is not known as a go-to source for news, people do search YouTube in reaction to the news. They will look for clips from late night talk shows or based on something they saw on the evening news.
In the wake of natural disasters or highly publicized incidents such as acts of terror, people will search YouTube for on the scene, first-person footage.
Finally, for select breaking news stories, YouTube has broadcast live feeds from media partners. As YouTube competes with the likes of Facebook in the live video streaming area, I’d expect this type of video format to expand, especially considering that the site has a live streaming mobile app in development.
Facebook For News
Of all the social networks, Facebook has the most critical mass with 1.65 billion active users worldwide. Simply by virtue of its reach, Facebook is the de facto mass medium among social sites.
Couple its reach with the fact that people spend a lot more time on Facebook than they do on other social networks (50 minutes a day on average), and it should come as no surprise that one the things that takes up people’s time there is consuming news.
But again, like YouTube, news is not the primary reason people use Facebook. People primarily use Facebook to stay in touch and keep up to date with their friends and family.
News stories are something they happen to see in the course of scrolling through their feed, along with status updates from those people to whom they are connected. Those status updates sometimes include links to news stories.
But increasingly over the past few years, Facebook has been tweaking its algorithm to position it as a source of news stories while at the same time courting media organizations to publish content directly to the platform in the form of Instant Articles.
The recent controversy over whether or not Facebook favors liberal over conservative news stories revealed that the Trending Stories section is not actually driven by algorithms but are picked by human editors.
That fact demonstrates how seriously Facebook takes its role in news discovery. Were the Trending Stories left to an algorithm, it would likely be subject to spamming and may highlight stories that would have the effect of discrediting Facebook as a legitimate source of news discovery.
Finally, the recent news that Facebook will offer users the ability to live stream video indefinitely rather that the previous 90 minute limitation, gives the platform the ability to entice media organizations to live stream their television broadcasts.
A common behavior in the wake of breaking news is for people to turn to TV to watch the coverage. If Facebook can lure its users to stay on the platform to watch live television, well, you get the idea.
Twitter For News
While Twitter does not have Facebook’s reach, from the beginning the site has been a go-to source for news.
Journalists, editors, and producers are all over Twitter as a tool with which to distribute their stories and a medium through which they can find and develop sources.
Because, unlike Facebook, it is entirely public, Twitter is also the preferred medium in which to break news. And not just for journalists.
Celebrities and athletes use Twitter to break their own news. Participants in news events and citizen journalists use Twitter to provide first-person accounts of events. Think Arab Spring and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Because it is almost exclusively public (with the exception of Direct Messages and the odd private account), Twitter’s reach is much greater than it would appear at first glance.
Indeed, in recent years Twitter has been arguing just that, since people who do not have a Twitter account can see tweets on broadcast television, embedded in online content, and, with the deal Twitter has with Google, now directly within search results.
The larger point being, when people turn to Twitter, they are often doing so for the express purpose of consuming news content, which Twitter is helping to facilitate even further through features like Twitter Moments.
LinkedIn For News
LinkedIn has firmly established itself as the new resume. If you are looking for a job, you’d be a fool not to be actively using LinkedIn.
But over the past several years, LinkedIn has been spreading its wings beyond Resume 2.0.
The site added status updates for both personal and company pages, which many people use to share news stories as a method of positioning themselves as experts on a topic.
The site bought SlideShare, the social network for presentations, as a way to add professional-oriented content. Lynda.com, the online education platform, was purchased for the same purpose.
Most importantly in terms of news consumption, LinkedIn introduced the LinkedIn Influencer program to give high-profile individuals a blogging tool on the site, eventually rolling that function out to everyone and aggregating that content on LinkedIn Pulse.
The company bought the Newsle app that notifies you when your connections have been cited in a news story in order to boost engagement around news content on the platform.
Finally, last year LinkedIn rolled out its Elevate program which gives companies the tools to encourage employees to position themselves as experts and be company ambassadors through social sharing.
All of these moves are changing the behavior of LinkedIn users from using the platform only when in the job market or sales prospecting, to increasingly logging in to both consume and share news.
Not surprisingly, given the nature of the network, the news consumed on LinkedIn is of a predominantly professional nature.
Dismiss Facebook For B2B At Your Own Peril
It is because the fundamental characteristics of each platform are so firmly entrenched in people’s minds—YouTube for video, Twitter for breaking news, LinkedIn for professional content, and Facebook for family & friends—that Facebook is often dismissed with a wave of the hand by B2B marketers.
But there are plenty of B2B companies effectively using Facebook to reach their audiences.
General Electric On Facebook
GE has nearly 1.6 million followers of its Facebook page. One of the ways General Electric uses Facebook is for attracting talent via contests:
Siemens On Facebook
International giant Siemens has more than 360,000 followers on Facebook. Among the ways the company uses the platform is to report on its own projects:
Scania Group on Facebook
It don’t get more B2B than Scania Group, a trucking company that boasts nearly 800,000 fans on Facebook. The Scania Group highlights features of their business that would appeal to both customers and potential employees alike, such as this cool (pun intended) climatic wind tunnel:
Facebook’s Targeting Capabilities
If the fact that B2B brands are actively using Facebook pages to reach their audiences doesn’t move you, consider this: Facebook has created the most sophisticated advertising platform yet developed.
Based on all its users’ behavior on the site and all the information people post on their profiles coupled with its massive reach, Facebook can slice and dice all the data and offer it as hyper-targeted advertising. And because it’s hyper-targeted, when done right, Facebook advertising can be hyper-effective.
Using a very simple example, Scania Group could target likely customers in the construction business by job title; say, Fleet Managers.
Fleet managers are on Facebook just like everyone else. They are in the habit of consuming news there just like everyone else. It would be an simple and effective step to use Facebook advertising to promote company news and content to those folks, who, by virtue of their profession, are likely to pay attention to it along with all the other news that interests them.
We’ve had great success using just this approach.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because you’re in a B2B industry, you can’t reach your audience through Facebook. And don’t let your preconceived notions of other networks blind you to their potential, either.
Get The Success @ Creative PR Newsletter
The mission of the Success @ Creative PR newsletter is to help you succeed in your communications career by giving you valuable tips, trends, cool tools, insights and inspiration that will help you throughout your career. Get new marketing stats every week! Click the button below to subscribe: