There’s no denying that social media has become commonplace in our lives. It is the cornerstone of any marketing campaign – digital or otherwise. Around 42% of the world’s population uses social media.
However, social media is constantly evolving. There are so many reasons for this. The platforms themselves are bringing out new features to keep ahead of the competition. Last year, Instagram commemorated one billion users by launching IGTV. Facebook is constantly moving the goalposts when it comes to its algorithm. Its most recent update claimed to put the community feel back into its news feeds which were becoming dominated by brands. Twitter is currently making plans to help the platform to be more conversational. Basically, nothing stands still so neither does social media.
However, it’s been pretty universally felt by brands, organisations and charities than organic reach on social media has declined in recent times. Gone are the days when you could reach hundreds, or even thousands, of your target audience without spending a penny on promoted posts. There is an argument to be made that the result is a better user experience. There is now a focus on quality of engagement and conversions rather than quantity, such as those vanity statistics which sound good but mean very little offline.
Something had to change. And it has. We know social media is not just going to disappear quietly, so marketers had to shake up how they were using each platform to achieve results.
A couple of companies have hit the headlines for dramatically overhauling their social media strategies. JD Wetherspoon quit social media with the Chairman Tim Martin saying he didn’t think it was a ‘vital component of a successful business’. Bath product company Lush also got people talking last week when it announced a revamp of its social media strategy to focus on creating a community feel after hitting a glass ceiling in organic reach.
However, it doesn’t have to be as radical as quitting completely. There’s plenty of ways to play the new social media game and win. Some tips are:
Facebook Groups: This is a great tool which can be a gold mine for marketers who use them correctly. Brands can either create their own groups – something which Facebook actively encourages – or join those where their target audiences can be found. Although Facebook Groups are nothing new, their popularity is surging with a 40% increase in the last year alone. Facebook Groups can be public or private, meaning that people have to apply to join them. This sense of exclusivity can be a great way to add prestige to your brand. It also ensures that you can monitor those who have access to your group to reduce the risk of spam or other junk content appearing.
Strong visuals: When we spend so much time scrolling through social media, it goes without saying that content needs to be eye-catching. This is one of the reasons behind the rapid growth of video. In addition, 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service from a video. Producing strong video content doesn’t have to blow the budget either. In fact, in some cases and for some brands, the less polished content can perform better as it feels more fresh and authentic. Also, with a plethora of online tools swamping the market, production costs and timelines have removed some of the barriers which previously made creating video content out of reach for some.
Instagram Stories: This is a great development from the more traditional way of posting on Instagram. It also overcomes two of the platform’s most obvious pitfalls – appearing in a feed and how posts can’t link to websites. An Instagram story will appear at the top of someone’s news feed for 24 hours – so you could post at any time and still reach your audiences. Posts which include a URL can also be reached with one swipe up too – so it is arguably easier to drive web traffic. New tools for dressing up Instagram Stories are unveiled all of the time. Our favourites are the ‘location’ function so your business can be discovered by people searching in a certain vicinity. We also like questions and polls to encourage interaction and the ability to cross-post content from your profile or IGTV content.
The art of conversation: Primarily, social media should be exactly that – social. However, it’s very easy to slip into a bad habit of making the conversation very one-sided. Lush is right, it should be about forming a collective community where people can chat, be entertained, swap stories and ask questions. Brands can then use this as an opportunity to put their products or services on a platform for people who are warm to those messages and are likely to respond to them in that context. Brands need to listen to their target audience if they want to see genuine results – not just pop a random salesy post in their news feed every now and then.
In summary, the evolution of social media will never stop. It is constantly moving the goal posts and ensuring that users have new and fun ways to interact with content from their friends and favourite brands. This keeps it fresh, so we all keep coming back for more. It is the job of the marketer to be open to the new opportunities these changes present and have a flexible social media strategy to keep up with it. This can be a lot to undertake.