How “Good” Is Your Social Media Follower Growth?

March 23, 2016

So you grew your brand’s social media audience. Congratulations! But before you go patting yourself on the back… just how “good” is your growth? As more people join social networks worldwide, and competitors accumulate followers more quickly, is the value of your audience depreciating?

First, let’s put follower growth into perspective. As the population of Millennials grows up, brands in every industry will market to a digitally native audience. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • By the end of 2014, 24.93 percent of the world’s population was active on social media.
  • By 2018, the number of social network users worldwide is predicted to grow to 2.44 billion, or nearly one third (32.58 percent) of the projected global population.

TL;DR: As more of the global population joins social networks, your brand’s social media audience should grow.

Call it social media inflation. Nominally, you may have a lot more followers this year — but if your audience growth didn’t outpace the competition or the industry average, then the value of your social audience likely depreciated.

Sure, some brands grow “smarter” than others. Sweepstakes and giveaways, for example, might result in more followers, but are less likely to convert “likes” into loyal customers. But without historical and competitive context, reporting on follower growth is an empty, self-congratulatory exercise.

Enter the 2016 Social Media Inflation Index. I used the TrackMaven digital analytics software to analyze a sample of 26,965 brands across all industries. The results, presented in the summary graph below, display the median monthly follower growth percentage per brand on five major social networks — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest — across 2015.

social media trends

Key social media follower growth trends:

1. Instagram follower growth is explosive. On average, brand follower growth on Instagram increases by 6 percent to 8 percent month-over-month. That’s twice the monthly follower growth rate on LinkedIn and more than three times the monthly follower growth rate on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Annually, brands saw 100 percent median follower growth on Instagram, surging from 11,000 followers on January 1, 2015 to 22,000 followers by January 1, 2016.

2. Brands saw median annual follower growth of 42 percent across the five major social networks. Put differently, a typical, middle-of-the-road brand had 42 percent more followers in its social stable by year’s end. On a channel-by-channel basis, brands grew their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn audiences by almost 1/4 annually (23, 23, and 24 percent median follower growth, respectively). Brands saw the smallest annual follower growth on Pinterest (20 percent). And on Instagram, brands doubled their followers year-over-year (see #1).

3. Pinterest follower growth sees seasonal shifts. Brands on Pinterest saw the great surge in follower growth during summer months (July 2015 through August 2015). Pinterest follower growth dipped in the fall, then surged again at the height of the holiday season in December 2015.

4. Facebook account cleanup majorly impacted brand follower growth. On Facebook, brand follower growth took a major hit in March 2015 with the cleanup of inactive accounts from brand Page Likes. Long-established Facebook brand pages took the biggest hits: In March 2015, Pepsi lost 1.8 million page likes and Dr. Pepper lost 1.3 million page likes.

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