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Social media isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition, and US companies are leading the way in the use of social campaigns. Those are two of the key findings in a new report from the Useful Social Media (USM) group. 

The report, “Following Uncle Sam: National Social Media Marketing,” surveyed more than 300 members of the USM community. A social media campaign, the survey discovered, needs to have messages that are “much more tailored to their audience demographics than previously thought.”

Not All Facebook Users

The social media channel for a brand can only be successful if the profile of each target group is understood and if the campaign is specifically designed for that group. In other words, not all Facebook users are the same.

At first glance, this appears to be completely obvious. But, in fact, most reports on the subject primarily address social media channels, not specific campaigns within those channels. One of the most prominent difference among users, of course, is age. The report notes 91 percent of youth in the UK use social media, compared to only 42 percent of those age 45 to 54.

The jury is still out on whether social media is a major driver of online purchases, but that influence could grow. Meanwhile, it’s important to note that there are e-commerce differences by country to consider: there is an 86 percent cart abandonment rate for international users versus a 64 percent rate for American users. The report cites investment firm Piper Jaffray’s finding that teens’ strongest influence over purchasing decision is “friends,” with Facebook leading as the source of friends’ influence — even though Facebook’s impact among teens is dropping.

Similarly, Americans add items to their carts or convert to sales at much higher rates than international users. There are also differences such as the fact that women in the US are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest, but frequency of use between the genders is closer — ten points or less — for Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

Effective Sales Route

The report points out that social media-driven sales can be a much more effective customer path than direct sales, largely because of the value and pressure of peer assessments and feedback. But social media channels are also considerably more complex. The report notes that the social marketing funnel to sales involves a “user’s interest, intent, preference and behavior,” all of which affect the time users spend in social media before moving to shopping and buying decisions — and all of which need to be factored into considerations about campaigns.

US brands are six months to a year ahead of European brands in their strategic use of social media campaigns, according to a marketing company executive cited in the study — and hence the title of this report. A key difference: European social initiatives are still being led by marketing teams, while ones in the US are more often utilizing multi-department teams that better reflect social’s cross-company impact.

Big Data

One of the obvious differences between American and European companies is that the latter need to accommodate a wider range of nationalities with significant differences in their use of social media.

This report’s main contributions — an emphasis on the need for social media campaigns that are tailored to the many variations among target audiences and the leading role being played by US firms — is mitigated by the fact that so much of the quoted data cites other research from such sources as industry research firm Forrester,, customer intelligence service provider Trovus and investment firm Piper Jaffray.

These research quotes often yield more questions and make it harder to follow the thread of argument. Perhaps subsequent USM reports on this subject will drill down deeper into specific examples of social campaigns that worked in specific cultural or national contexts to ground the report in more tangible takeaways.

Title image by ra2studio (Shutterstock).