New research: Top industries and brands in social media

Chris Kerns

Editor's Note: This post was originally created by Spredfast before Spredfast and Lithium merged and became Khoros.

As a social marketer, it can be difficult to find sources of inspiration. It’s not that there aren’t hundreds of examples of good posts created every day, it’s that there’s almost too much activity to get a handle on. Which industries are pushing social marketing forward? Which brands I should be looking to, to spark new ideas that I can bring to my organization? It can seem impossible to find these answers while searching through individual Twitter feeds, Pinterest boards, and Snapchat executions.

Every once in awhile, it makes sense to step back and look at how the industry is evolving—to identify patterns and opportunities across this vast landscape. We’ve done exactly that with Volume One of the Spredfast Smart Social Report.

The first study in the report is The State of Social, a study that is designed to gauge the current state of the social industry. We looked across verticals and social channels to see the different methods brands are using to connect with their social audiences, and to find what is and isn't working.

How we did it

No matter how you slice it, a comprehensive view of the social world is going to take some time to put together. We gathered our data for the study with the following approach:

We gathered data for the study using the following criteria:

Performance for each social channel was measured with the individual channel in mind, including the following metrics:

  • Audience size: followers, likes, etc.
  • Consistency of response: time to respond to inbound communication
  • Volume of posts
  • Use of rich media: images, GIFs, video
  • Audience engagement: comments, likes, shares, favorites on posted comments

But let’s stop talking about the data, and get to some insights.

Leading social verticals

Individual verticals display different levels of social maturity. In fact, we do see a “herding” pattern when looking at social sophistication clustered by vertical. The behavior is demonstrated most dramatically in the Sports, Financial Services, and Travel/Hospitality verticals, which show a low variance in their social maturity scores.

In the full report, we look at the three top verticals in more detail, showcasing standout brands and areas for growth.

The State of Social study showed that one of the top leading verticals is Retail, where our study looked at Coach, The Gap, Target, Tesco, and Victoria’s Secret. Retailers earned top ranks by demonstrating social sophistication across a diverse set of channels. Retail brands saw the highest social maturity on Pinterest, where they had a rich breadth of content which received solid engagement from their audience. The biggest opportunity in retail exists with a Snapchat, which many brands are just now beginning to explore.

Breakouts of how all ten verticals in the study performed across all eight social channels are available within the report.

Standout social brand

Analyzing social performance data also pinpointed a standout brand within the retail vertical as an industry leader. Victoria’s Secret had a strong social presence across the entire social landscape.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Victoria’s Secret was one of the top performing brands on Tumblr receiving, on average, over 2,300 notes per post.
  • The brand has the highest Instagram following out of the fifty brands in our study, but doesn’t rest on its laurels. It is also a top ten content creator by volume on Instagram The combination of these and other factors had Victoria’s Secret tied for top Instagram brand with Mercedes-Benz.
  • Victoria’s Secret is also in the top three of our fifty brands for engagement rate on Google+ (keep in mind that there have been some significant changes to Google+ early this year).

Channel insights: Variance

When collecting data across all the different social networks, also looked at patterns for how brands, across various industries, were using different social networks. With our scoring system in place, we can take a high level view to see which networks are being experimented with the most, and which are considered table stakes for modern marketers.

To do this, we’ll look at the variance of scores across different networks. Or, to say it differently, which social channels have the most diversity in scoring patterns. If there’s a low variance, it means that most brands follow the same level of maturity on a network. With a high variance, there exists a mix of standout brands and brands not yet participating.

Low Variance: Facebook, Google+, Twitter

These social networks are established and enjoying a solid level of social maturity across the majority of brands in our study. These should be considered table stakes for any brand looking at their social strategy.

High Variance: Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat

These social networks see a good amount of brand activity, but it’s not consistent across all verticals and social teams. With these networks, there is a chance for brands to jump in and make a distinctive mark with the unique offerings (and audience) of each social channel.

Channel insights: Patterns by industry

Another great benefit from collecting this amount of data is that channel insights can be seen across industries. As patterns emerge, we can see opportunities for individual brands to stand out on a crowded social field. One example of this is with the Financial Services / Insurance vertical.

By seeing the data with a birds-eye view, we can see that there’s not a huge level of sophistication for Financial Services brands on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Snapchat. With solid creative executions, there is room for a leading social brand to take a leadership position in the industry on any of these channels. With their efforts, they have the chance to win the attention of some key demographic groups that dominate each of these social channels.

We're just getting started

This is the first of many Smart Social Reports that you’ll see from our Analytics & Research team here at Spredfast. While each future report will include new studies and insights, the State of Social study that we’ve outlined here will only get better. With each consecutive report, we’ll track the same fifty brands over the same eight social channels (and any new emerging channels as well) to give us a view of not just point-in-time data, but also movement of brands, industries, and social channels across time. We’re excited to keep delivering valuable insights to the industry. For more (a LOT more), remember to download the full, free Smart Social Report.

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