Each time a new social network gains some traction, the impulse is to roll the eyes.
Snapchat is a good example.
When the service debuted many assumed a disappearing photo messaging app could only catch on among a small handful of bored teenagers. And it would certainly never be able to make money. What brand would want to pay for ads that eventually disappear?
But a new BI Intelligence report proves that this is exactly the wrong assumption to make about the latest social network. That’s because for all the talk of “social marketing strategy,” a deep analysis of brand success on Facebook and Twitter shows that what really determines which brands win and lose is who gets there first and keeps the lights on.
Maybe that’s why McDonald’s and Taco Bell have recently launched campaigns on Snapchat. The latest social fad could soon be the next Instagram, and by the time most brands figure this out, they’re already at the back of the pack.
In this new exclusive BI Intelligence study of top consumer brands on Facebook and Twitter, we show that audience success on social media accrues to big brands that join social networks early, independent of how great their social media strategies might be. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and these are perhaps the most instructive for brands. We look at who the early-adopter effect matters to the most, and which brands managed to buck the trend and catch up anyway, despite a late start.
The report also includes a downloadable Excel file with a list of the top 83 consumer-facing global brands and the size of their follower bases on Facebook and Twitter, along with our extensive data sets analysing how brands perform comparatively based on when they joined the network.
Here’s a look at some of the study’s key findings:
- There’s a positive “early adopter effect” in social media: For most brands, earlier adoption equals more fans and audience success relative to other big brands. Simple scatter charts, statistics, and trend lines show there’s a clear relationship between early adoption and audience size on the top social networks.
- Some megabrands buck the trend: Some globally famous brands that are household names virtually everywhere were able to develop a large social media following very quickly, regardless of whether they joined relatively early or late.
- Conversely, the early adopter effect is more important for non-megabrands. The relationship between length of time on a social network, and audience size is strongest for second-tier top brands. Those brands that aren’t global household names should think especially hard about joining emerging social media platforms early, ahead of the pack.
- The implication of this study is that global brands shouldn’t wait before jumping into emerging social media — Snapchat, Reddit, Google+, LINE, etc. — they should join up, try to learn the ropes, and see what happens. They can always pare down later if the platform fizzles.
- Of course, joining early is no guarantee of success. Many brands who join social media platforms early haven’t seen that lead to audience advantages over their competitors. But our analysis does suggest that early adopters have a much better chance of surpassing the number of followers achieved by the typical big brand.
Incidentally, BI Intelligence also recently published an analysis of data showing that college students are receptive to Snapchat-based marketing.
In full, the report:
- Includes full datasets in a downloadable Excel file, with lists of all 83 top global brands with their social network join dates and follower counts used for this analysis.
- Looks at a few specific brands that have been underperforming peers in terms of fan accumulation over time.
- Considers how brands tend to join networks in a kind of stampede, once a critical mass of usage and media attention suggests they can no longer ignore a specific platform.
- Investigates why many mega-brands buck the trend.
- Includes five full-size charts that illustrate the early adopter effect.
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