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Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock the past few years, you’re aware of the prevalence of social media in our world. Almost everyone today participates in some kind of social media activity, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or one of the other ubiquitous social platforms.

Of course, marketers have taken notice of this trend. A few years ago I was writing articles about whether or not businesses should participate in social media marketing. Today that’s not even a relevant question — the question now is how do you create a social media marketing plan?

Eye-Opening Stats

I just ran across some stats from Hootsuite that confirm what we already know about social media usage and drive home the importance of using social media as a marketing tool.

First, practically everybody who uses the Internet (and that’s practically everybody who’s breathing) can now be reached via social media. Specifically, 98% of Internet users age 16 to 64 visit or use at least one social network monthly. Four out of five of them access social media using a mobile device.

This probably isn’t surprising to learn when you see so many people walking around like zombies with their eyes glued to their phones. At the gym yesterday, I watched a guy do a set of reps, look at his phone, do another set, look at his phone again, and on and on. Geez, can’t we put our phones down for an hour while we work out???

Sorry, I digress. Digging deeper into the stats, Hootsuite found that four out of 10 social media users access news via social media platforms. Hence the national obsession over so-called “fake news” that tends to permeate social media. And out of every 3 minutes Internet users spend online, one minute is spent on a social media platform.

But here’s the stat that blew me away: Social media users spend an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes every day on social media. This rises to 3 hours and 2 minutes for mobile social media. Read those stats again and let that sink in for a minute.

Pay Attention, Marketers!

Here are some stats from Hootsuite’s report, titled Social Media Trends 2018, that should resonate with every business marketer who is finalizing marketing plans for 2018:

• More than one out of four (28%) Internet users use social media for online product research, up from 25% last year and 23% the year before.

The Hootsuite report anticipates that this percentage will continue to rise in 2018. Therefore, businesses should adjust their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies with this in mind, says the report.

• Among 16 to 64 year olds, social media is now the second most-used tool for product research (41%), just behind search engines (52%) and ahead of consumer reviews (35%). Social has actually overtaken search engines for product research among 16 to 24 year olds.

The Hootsuite report concludes that with so many people now using social media for product research, it’s just a short leap to buying products directly via the social platforms. Therefore, businesses should start thinking about how they can enable customers to transition to social commerce, says the report.

• Ad blocking is becoming more prevalent even as social networks serve up more advertising. About one out of 10 (11%) Internet users block ads, while four out of 10 (41%) Millennials do.

The Hootsuite report says that the rise of ad blocking should serve as a warning to business marketers that consumers still resist broadcast marketing tactics. Instead, businesses should strive to use social channels to build genuine audience engagement and personal relationships, says the report.

I’m No Longer Surprised

When I last wrote about social media marketing two years ago, I admitted that the rise of social marketing had caught me by surprise. Well, I’m not surprised anymore.

It seems pretty obvious now that social media represents the latest new frontier for marketers. Businesses that ignore this fact do so at their own peril.