In the dark corners of the internet, a prophecy has begun to spread: social media networks are dying or already dead, we just haven’t realized it yet.
Can this be true?
As social media marketing strategies become more complex, many are wondering – are we as marketers wasting our money? Or are the social networks simply more dynamic than naysayers might admit – evolving, changing, and giving access to increasingly rarefied audiences?
Without question, 2018 was a tumultuous year for social media. Issues of privacy and personal data have dogged our social networks, while high-level government investigations have been forced to consider the influence social networks may have even had on our democratic institutions.
Data indicates that social media is thriving, providing marketers with unprecedented access to their audiences, increasing their ROI across all platforms. Yet, change continues to be the single most significant characteristic of the landscape, requiring marketers to adapt to new realities with every step they take.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. The social media giant reported in 2018 that 2.23 billion users log into Facebook every month, 66% of whom log in daily (Facebook, 2018). This alone is an impressive stat that should reassure you that your audience is on Facebook, and your competitors are certainly there as well.
However, claims about Facebook’s imminent demise can be found across the internet. Such claims ultimately refer to statistics that show teens are leaving the platform for alternatives, or not bothering to sign up for Facebook accounts at all. Yet, Facebook reported in Q3 2018 that 35% of their ad audience is under the age of 25, with another 30% aged 25 to 34 – demonstrating that Facebook usage overall still skews as ‘young,’ even while users over the age of 65 have doubled in the last few years (Kemp, 2018). Clearly, rumors of Facebook’s death have been greatly exaggerated, misconstruing a demographic shift in social media platforms.
Although teens aged 13 to 17 account for an insignificant portion of Facebook’s ad audience, estimated by some at 5% in 2019, the Pews Research Center recently caused alarm when they revealed a 29% decrease in teenage Facebook users between 2015-2018. At the same time, reported teen use of Instagram, now also a part of the Facebook advertising portfolio, increased from 52% in 2015 to 72% in 2018, a 38% increase. The most popular social media platforms for teens in 2019 are YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%), and Snapchat (69%), followed by Facebook (51%).
Although teen audiences are not the only market segment that can be reached through social media, this demographic tends to be an indication of future trends. Marketers looking to single-out a teen audience on social media in 2019 should clearly be reprioritizing their efforts to focus on Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat – a new reality that may have caught some marketers by surprise.
So, what changes in the social media landscape do we need to keep in mind in 2019 and beyond?
- It’s all about the videos. Some estimates suggest that 2019 will see 80% of what we consume on social media platforms become video content (Stelzner, 2019). This might mean that your successful content strategies from three or four years ago may be a disaster for you in 2019. Content strategists are recommending marketers move from first thinking about content as text, to starting with visuals in order to keep audience engagement up. Studies have shown that visual content is more than 40 times as likely to be shared on social media than other types of content (Mawhinney, 2019).
- Let’s go ‘Live.’ Live video, or the “stories” format, has been around for a while but has gained momentum in the last year on Facebook and Instagram. This format, with its interactive aspects, provides a unique opportunity to directly engage with your audience and create a feeling of connection between a brand and its audience. Consensus seems to indicate that live videos are perceived as significantly more authentic than highly-produced content, making this format equally viable for businesses of all sizes. It also will mean an increased focus on the people and personalities behind the brand, opening up ways to think about how you can connect to your audience with a more human approach.
- Social customer care. Your brand can’t be a passive bystander to conversations on your page, leaving engagement opportunities unattended. Through your social media channels, you stand to gain respect as a brand for simply being present and taking the time to talk to your audience. Increasingly, customers are reaching out on social media with grievances that need timely attention. To ensure a superior customer experience, your social media channels should be considered high-profile avenues for customer service support. Studies have shown that 70% of customers helped through social customer care return as customers in the future, and 71% of customers who have a positive service experience via social media are likely to recommend that brand to others (Epstein, 2013).
- AI-driven personalized customer experiences. Experts agree that if you haven’t already wondered how an AI can improve customer experiences on your social media channels, then 2019 is the year. AI chatbots have already become integrated on Facebook’s Messenger with brands who have realized it’s a simple way to add additional customer support to the mix. The goal here is to ultimately increase response time with your audience while also improving brand experience at the same time. The technology has improved so quickly, some experts are suggesting that 85% of all customer experience interactions on social media with popular brands will be AI-driven by next year (Hinds, 2018).
- The right message; the right platform. The days of replicating content across multiple social media networks are gone, and if you’ve been using this technique, it has likely started to lose its effectiveness anyway. Social media marketing has been growing increasingly competitive, so don’t be afraid to drop time-wasting platforms, and focus on your best-performing channels that will bring the highest ROI.
- Post content when you can engage. There is myriad advice available on when to post content to gain the greatest possible reach, but if you find the greatest value in your social media channels comes from interactions you have with customers, it may be time to reconsider the timing of your posts. Schedule your content to be posted when you or your social media manager are available to respond to customer feedback. Studies have shown that the average brand takes 10 hours to respond to customer comments in their social media channels, while customers expect to hear from those brands within 4 hours. Furthermore, customers receiving quicker interaction via social media are likely to spend 21% more money than their counterparts (Epstein, 2013). To maximize your ROI, post while you have someone readily available to engage with customers for at least 4 hours after posting.
One final thought before you reconsider how the quick-changing face of social media marketing in 2019 can affect your social media strategy in the coming months: never stop researching your audience. Your audience can be elusive. Pay attention to every available metric on your social media channels. Listen to anecdotal feedback from customers you or your social media managers have engaged with. Look closely at your competitors’ social media channels to learn from their successes and failures, as well as your own, to find opportunities to access your audience in new ways. The changing landscape of social media in 2019 is a competitive environment where we must always be better and smarter to win over our audiences.
Epstein, J. (2013, August 4). Social Customer Service (Infographic). Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.getambassador.com/blog/social-customer-service-infographic
Facebook. (2018, July 25). Second Quarter 2018 Results Conference Call. Retrieved May 01, 2019, from https://s21.q4cdn.com/399680738/files/doc_financials/2018/Q2/Q218-earnings-call-transcript.pdf
Hinds, R. (2018, April 02). By 2020, You’re More Likely to Have a Conversation With This Than With Your Spouse. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.inc.com/rebecca-hinds/by-2020-youre-more-likely-to-have-a-conversation-with-this-than-with-your-spouse.html
Kemp, S. (2019, March 12). Internet growth accelerates, but Facebook ad engagement tumbles. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://wearesocial.com/blog/2018/07/internet-growth-accelerates-but-facebook-ad-engagement-tumbles
Mawhinney, J. (2019). 45 Visual Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know in 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy
Stelzner, M. (2019, February 21). How to Create Long-Form Videos That Sell. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-create-long-form-videos-sell-daniel-harmon/