A lot can happen on social media in three hours.

Whether it’s 50 million tweets being sent on Twitter, 5 million photos being uploaded to Instagram, or 12,960 hours of new video being added to YouTube—the rate of activity taking place is more than any of us could ever imagine.

But what about in your social world—what happens in three hours amongst members of your social community?

According to a new study released this week, it’s those first three hours after you upload a photo, ask a question, or share a link on Facebook that will matter the most.

Plus, find out which two social networks are getting positive feedback from small business owners this week and which activities are most popular amongst smartphone users in the U.S.

Read about these top stories and more in this week’s marketing news roundup.

1. 75% of Facebook post engagement takes place in the first 180 minutes

A study from Optimal Social, the winner of a recent Facebook-sponsored contest for marketing developers, provided some revealing details into the life cycle of an average Facebook post this week.

According to the study, which analyzed data points from hundreds of thousands of Facebook Pages, and 8,500 of the world’s top brands on Facebook, 75% of the engagement from a typical Facebook post takes place within the first 180 minutes.

The study also found that nearly half of that engagement takes place within the first hour.

Bottom Line: While the content you share on social media never goes away completely, it’s important to understand that every post, tweet, or pin does have a lifecycle of its own. This is particularly important on Facebook, where the visibility of each piece of content is limited to around 16% of the people who actually “Like” your Facebook Page.

The best way to extend the lifecycle of your content on Facebook is by listening to what your audience is most interested in and creating content that’s relevant to them. By creating content that’s relevant to your target audience, you’ll be more likely to generate valuable engagement which can help expose you and your content to a wider audience and extend the lifecycle of each post.

2. Study: Email is the top activity on smartphones, ahead of web browsing and Facebook

According to “Always Connected,” a new study from research firm IDC, email is the most common activity for U.S. smartphone users, with web browsing and connecting to Facebook a close second and third.

The study, which includes responses from more than 7,400 iPhone and Android users between the ages of 18 and 44, found that 78% of respondents check email on their smartphones, compared to 73% who browse websites, and 70% who check Facebook.

Other top responses included:

  • Maps/Directions – 64%
  • Games – 60%
  • Search – 57%
  • Share/Post Photos – 53%
  • Local Search – 46%

Bottom Line: The number of people accessing their emails via a mobile device presents a huge opportunity for small businesses and nonprofits when it comes to email marketing.

Today, when you send an email to your list of email contacts you’ll be connecting them in more places than ever before and will have a better chance of delivering a message that’s both timely and relevant to your readers.

But all of this mobile activity also comes with certain challenges. If you’re not creating emails that are mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on the chance to connect with your customers, members, or supporters on-the-go.

And while it may seem complicated, creating emails that look great on mobile is easier than you might think.

Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure your next email is mobile friendly.

3. 74% of social media users are now using #hashtags

This week, a new study from RadiumOne took a look at hashtags and the type of value they actually bring to the social media experience.

According to the study, 71% of social media users are now using hashtags. Of those users, close to half are doing so to explore new related content.

Hashtag use is most common on mobile, with 70.5% of respondents using them mainly on mobile, compared to 29.5% mainly using them via a desktop.

Here are some top ways social media users are using hashtags today:

  • Communicate personal ideas and feelings – 40.7%
  • Search/follow categories and brands of personal interest – 34.1%
  • Re-direct audiences to external web content  – 14.8%
  • Promote corporate or social events – 10.4%

Bottom Line: Even if you haven’t already started using hashtags in your own social media marketing, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them being used on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or even Google+.

Hashtags, when used correctly, are a great tool for exploring new content. They can also be used to start or join a conversation. Adding a hashtag to your event for example, can give attendees the chance to engage and share content while also giving you the chance to share information and updates from the event.

Look for opportunities to incorporate hashtags into your social media marketing strategy. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

How a #Hashtag Can Help You Graduate to More Social Events

Ready for a Tweet Chat? 5 Tips on How to Join the Conversation

[Q&A] Instagram for Small Businesses: 4 Organizations Share Their Secrets

4. More small businesses viewing LinkedIn and Twitter as effective for their business

It’s no secret that small businesses have a lot of options when it comes to picking the right social network to connect with their target audience online.

And while Facebook continues to be the number one platform for a majority of business owners, new data from the Constant Contact Small Biz Council this week shows that more and more businesses are seeing positive results from trying something new.

For small businesses on LinkedIn, 29% said that the professional network is the most effective social platform for their business—up from 10% in May 2012.

The report showed a similar trend on Twitter as well. Today, 25% of small businesses say that Twitter is the most effective social network for their business—up from 7% in May 2012.

Other social networks saw positive results as well. Including:

  • YouTube: 15% (vs. 3% in May 2012)
  • Pinterest: 9% (vs. 1% in May 2012)
  • Yelp: 6% (vs. 2% in May 2012)
  • Google+: 5% (vs. 1% in May 2012)

Bottom Line: While business owners do appear to be more willing than ever to step outside of their social media comfort zone, the report also shows that business owners still have challenges they need to overcome. 54% of small businesses report social media marketing to be the marketing activity they need the most help with.

If you’re still not seeing the results you’ve been looking for from your social media marketing efforts, it may be time to reevaluate your normal routine. That doesn’t mean you need to hop on every social network and spread yourself thin, but it could be time to look for a new approach to social media marketing.

The Power of Relationships: How to Drive Repeat Business and Referrals with Engagement Marketing

At the end of the day, success on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn starts with building an engaged community of people who share a relationship with your business.

Relationships matter. In fact, they are the biggest advantage you have today.

That’s why we put together our newest guide, The Power of Relationships: How to Drive Repeat Business and Referrals with Engagement Marketing.

Power of relationshipsDownload it today! And make sure to share your feedback to this week’s stories in the comments below.