Are You Ready For The Post Social Media Age?
This is not a post about the death of social media. Sorry folks but social media is not going anywhere! However we are entering a new age of social media, the post social media age. It has roots in the time that came before and there will be overlap, but it is also distinctly different. What’s most important for brand and social media managers is what you’ve been doing up to now won’t work in this new era so you need to prepare or risk the decline of your brand on social media.
Where we have been? The golden age of social media.
For the past 10 years, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have dominated and even defined social media. They have been the golden triumvirate in this golden age of social media. Social media managers have spent their time figuring out how to grow and engage audiences on these three channels and for a while this worked very well. Brands grew to have thousands, even millions of engaged followers on these channels and end-users also perceived value from using the channels. As this era matured, the three channels evolved, went public, developed sophisticated paid advertising products and distinguished themselves further from each other. Social media is no longer a catch-all term and social media strategies have been replaced with individual strategies for each channel.Facebook Twitter & LinkedIn have been the golden triumvirate in the golden age of social media. Click To Tweet
No one would argue that the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn we have today is not what we had when these channels achieved popularity. The pace of development, and in the case of Facebook – innovation, has been incredible. There are a few specific developments on these channels that point to a bigger shift in the space, especially in the last year.
Dominance of paid media
Facebook is fast becoming a paid media channel, a position which seems to be aspired by the other two more than anything else. With organic reach ever declining, brands are becoming more dependant on using paid media on Facebook. While there are individual tactics to overcome this, ultimately the trend is towards a predominantly paid channel for brands. For end users this means paid posts and ads in their timeline as brands are reluctant to spend budgets on promotion of other less commercial content.
Ironically all of this is a result of Facebook trying to balance brand and personal content in the News Feed. As more and more brands joined the network, Facebook needed a way to stop brands from taking over the feed, and reducing organic reach was a way to do this. Ultimately paid posts and advertising on the network will become more expensive as competition increases and more brands use paid media there. Developments on the other channels, especially Twitter suggest that they want to move in a similar direction, motivated largely by revenue issues.Advertising on Facebook will become more expensive as competition increases.Click To Tweet
User movement away from what we had
Users are becoming generally fatigued with Facebook (News Feed), Twitter and LinkedIn, at least in their current guise. For years we rolled our eyes at people over-sharing, brands over promoting and the general proliferation of less than engaging content, but now audiences are starting to turn off. Are we slightly envious of that friend that refused to join Facebook? Facebook has been struggling to reverse a 21% decline in “original sharing,” or personal updates, from its 1.6 billion monthly active users.
Twitter is struggling to grow its user base and has officially switched from being a social media app to a news app, with recent hires in Dublin suggesting Twitter wants to position itself as an online news channel rather than a social network. I’ve heard more than a few people remark that actual conversations are reducing on Twitter. It seems we just don’t talk anymore, at least when it comes to Twitter.It seems we just don’t talk anymore, at least when it comes to Twitter.Click To Tweet
LinkedIn Pulse has saved that network from decline and set it up for a purchase by Microsoft but LinkedIn will have to continue to innovate to stay relevant and reduce the type of problems its had to overcome with LinkedIn Groups.
User behaviour towards something else
Related to the above is the move from Facebook (profiles), Twitter and LinkedIn to more private and dark social channels. We could see this coming for a long time. For years people talked about how to measure dark social but the industry saw it as a measurement problem rather than a user behaviour issue. In the meantime, dark social channels like Slack and WhatsApp have grown dramatically. Users no longer expect privacy on Facebook so they have moved to other channels to post private updates. Facebook saw this coming. They are ready and they won’t lose out in this new world – they have Facebook Messenger.The industry saw dark social as a measurement problem rather than a user behaviour issue.Click To Tweet
At the same time new channels are emerging and have gone mainstream – Instagram and Snapchat being the current leaders in this space (again Facebook are so ready for this with their purchase of Instagram). People are prepared to go to other social channels for specific contexts and uses rather than the catch all channel that Facebook once was.
What is next?
The future of social media is emerging. That’s not to say that what we have today will disappear but it is evolving into something new. In this new world people will share in a very private way, in smaller and more niche groups.
What’s obvious is that it is becoming more about one to one conversations, with the people and brands you choose to speak to when you choose to speak to them. But hold on, this sounds familiar. Isn’t this what we were told social media was from the start? Yes, but if it was like that at the beginning, it is certainly no longer like that now.
It’s not a case of out with the old and in with the new. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are not going anywhere any time soon but the old rules of social media no longer apply. Brands will need to find a way to speak to their audience as this new context continues to evolve.
How can your brand remain relevant in the post-social media age?
- Continue to invest in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but be ready to jump on new opportunities on those channels and change your tactics to suit the development of those channels. What worked five or even one year ago won’t work today so you need to be at the forefront of opportunities on those channels to have any real impact. You will also need to invest some budget on paid social. Social media is not free (and never really was) and paid social will become and increasingly important element in how you use these channels.
- Future-proof your social channel plan. You need to think beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and look at other opportunities for your brand. These may not be big opportunities today but more like seeds that will grow over time. We’ve grown familiar to social ROI so investing in channels like Snapchat where the ROI is questionable may been counter-intuitive but by doing so you are investing in the future of your brand on social media. Dedicate 20% of your time to testing tactics on new and emerging social channels and opportunities within existing channels like Facebook Messenger.
- Think about one-to-one conversations. No, this time for real. Chat bots are a major opportunity in this area as they allow your brand to respond to people when and where they want to talk to you. The Facebook Messenger bots that Ticketmaster and Sage have are good examples here.
Ultimately as a brand or social media manager you have to think more about the individual you’re trying to connect with and the multiple touch points you can have with them. As an end user I don’t really care about what you’re doing on social media until I need to engage with you. If you’re not ready or if I have a really poor experience, you’ve lost a customer. This is why a holistic, business wide approach to prospect and customer engagement is essential.
Do you think the evolving social media landscape will be dramatically different to what we have today? What opportunities do you see emerging? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments below.