Hello, cherished reader. Let me pose you a question;
What is Social Media?
I imagine that answers such as “Facebook” and “Twitter” are present, and you’re adding that to wider definitions such as “a means of communicating with my friends and family at any time, en-masse or individually.” All of these are traditionally accepted definitions, and I’m sure yours is better than ours. However, as every website has a feedback button, and every topic has a forum, and every e-mail has a subscribe button – surely it is now the case that all media, is social media? Media after all, is designed to be social – if nobody is talking about it, does it really matter (ergo, tree falling in the woods conundrums)? There’s no end of opportunities for us to share information with each other, and with intelligent algorithms or user interaction, we typically discover the crowd-sourced most important topics as they’re “voted” to the top of the pile.
There are, however, dangers here. What if those who are at the top of the pile, never wanted their story shared at all? What if the topics most read are also the most dangerous – explicit content, extremist views, misleading or false? Social media enables the rapid sharing of information, but all too often at the price of actually questioning the validity and quality of the information we receive. Writers look the be on-trend, and rightly so. The shelf life of a story has never been shorter. And indeed, the variants and interactions available on a story have never been more – Facebook and Twitter, in the end, can’t thrive without difference of opinion.
We see this challenge to the writer played out on a daily basis, as they grapple to manage the balance of opinion and substance across platforms. This blog has written extensively on the curiosity gap and Buzzfeed style reporting, mainly because it works. The modern format of “snackable” news that is easily digested and consumed by the reader allows us to be aware of more topics, and form opinion on these subjects. Unfortunately, the rapid consumption and opinion forming rarely allows for critical and processed thought.
Consider the Netflix sensation, “Making a Murderer”. Without a doubt, this was by far one of the most truly divisive pieces of programming in modern times. Conflicting judgements were made on a range of subjects across all media platforms – from stances on policing, to the verdict on the case, and down to the appropriateness of the show itself. It’s both unfair and unreasonable to assume that all members and associates of those involved with the case would have wanted it to air. However Netflix, one can only assume, considered either that A) the case was in the public interest, or B) the profit potential and media storm benefit outweighed any ethical deficit in the event the case wasn’t in the public interest.
Why is this an issue? The question, and the point that should be taken away, is that it wasn’t the courts or each individual who got to make the decision – it was a third-party, in this case, Netflix. As mentioned towards the start of the article, all media is social. And by deduction, nothing shared is ever secret. Sadly, it’s not likely to be you who determines the content shared, by whom, and the manner in which it is received. The media, in all forms, can serve as our judge, jury, and executioner – without the ability to prosecute, but with the unsolicited power to irreversibly damage an individuals reputation or social footprint. We don’t argue that this should change, but do argue that this should be observed and respected. By respecting that power, and understanding the effect you can have when wielding it in your social media interactions, you can be more than a social media user, you can be a positive contributor to people’s lives. And so, reader, I ask you again;
What is Social Media?
In an article for Forbes, the shocking news arrived that Pokémon GO was on the brink of passing Twitter in terms of daily active users. As of time of writing, it still is. As of one week from writing, this will likely have happened. Much has been made of Twitter’s struggles, but it’s not for a lack of effort to turn it around. They’ve signed deals with the NFL, integrated Periscope, and are teasing users with a raft of possible changes. Except, it’s not just Twitter failing this time. What’s particularly curious, is that Pokémon GO hasn’t reached all regions, and even so, it’s toppled Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook to take the top spot on the Google Play store. How did it come to pass, that the enslaving of cute and friendly super-animals on our phone became the centre of our attention?
Answer #1 – Humans are boring creatures.
Thanks to the unique power that is social media algorithms, increasingly few platforms allow for anarchic chaos. Some may regard this a good thing. However, consider that your Facebook news feed will prioritise video and show friends over publishers and pages. Now consider that before showing you content from friends, it segments further into more “filter bubbles” – so that even the friends you disagree with don’t typically make it to the top. Pro – it stops you discovering a former best friend is now a racist. Con – that’s the kind of thing you probably want to know. The intrusive nature of social platforms upon users is making social media increasingly dull. Twitter is a news ticker. Facebook is an ad-spam mess. Instagram will soon lose it’s uniqueness. And Snapchat…well, OK, you’ve got us here. They’re the apple of everyone’s eye. But it’s a toy we’ve all played with. Pokémon GO offered something old – Pokémon – and something new – Mobile, Free, Social, AR, and Fun. Social media platforms need to recapture this, and entertain their fans – sometimes, that means not giving us what they think we want.
Answer #2 – The Power of Nostalgia.
As mentioned, social media is increasingly becoming a live news ticker. The prioritization of video does little to change this, if anything, it promotes it. Consider the news items we’ve had over the last few weeks. Brexit, Zika, Orlando, Dallas, ISIS, Syria, Trump/Clinton, and much more. It’s hard-hitting content that could easily shift the status-quo of all we know. Can we really be surprised then, that when presented with the opportunity to check out for a while and capture a Pikachu on the railway, people are incredibly keen? Social media has a responsibility to inform and allow the sharing of information, and as we’ve seen in the Arab Spring, it can be a tremendous force for good. However, rightly or wrongly, we now approach information overload much faster and have a much reduced attention-span. Nobody wants to tune into Chernobyl FM unless it’s for Schadenfreude, and to this end, social media needs to re-invent itself. We would never endorse the burying of difficult content. But we do endorse the ability to choose how we approach it. Social media always presents it in cold-light, before your eyes – and sometimes, all we want is a cat picture.
Answer #3 – People Like Free Stuff.
Word of mouth, and to a lesser degree, electronic Word of Mouth, remains the most powerful means of marketing. It’s therefore no surprise, that it’s incredibly hard to generate. Except, Pokémon GO got this right. Social media presents a unique opportunity to generate rapid global traction within minutes, if engaging with the right people at the right time. Trusted figures jumped on the bandwagon, and soon it was rolling with genuine pace. This highlights two things about social media in it’s current form. Firstly, that there’s no replacement for interesting content that people want to engage with. Secondly, that accessibility wins prizes. Through allowing a free and easy download, Pokémon lends itself to being approachable for all – new and old to the franchise. Social media may be free, but is it truly approachable to all? We’re inclined to say not. Not everyone likes sharing. Some can’t do it in 140 characters. Some hate photos. Social media needs to become flexible to the wants of users, and make life as easy as possible for users to share as they please. Once the penny drops, the second coming of social lies just round the corner.
Goodbye, Mewtwo. Hello, Peach.
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Social media apps have been part of the social marketplace for long enough, yet now more than ever users are looking to get more out of them for less time spend. A study from SimilarWeb, which contrasted the app time spend of the key four social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, showed a significant decline in the time users spend in-app. Most alarmingly, Instagram time spend decreased by over a third, and Twitter by over a quarter. With the old guard having struggles to varying degrees, let’s take a quick look at what social media apps you need to know about, that give you value without taking up your time. We’ve even gave you some handy videos!
Curiously, this is a fairly new development – Reddit apps have often been provided by third parties, and found high levels of growth. Yet, not enough as entice the owners to make one – until now. They’ve woken up, embraced what everyone has wanted, and built their own. With a glossy interface and early growth across iOS and Google Play, this could be the tool that gets Reddit out of the shade and into the spotlight. But whatever you do, don’t go in there thinking you’re going to make millions in sales without giving value.
We touched on this a short while ago, but Twitter have made a big investment into Periscope in the hope that integration with this live streaming superhero will turn around their fortunes. Despite the decline in app time on platforms like Snapchat, it’s important to consider that videos typically gain 8-10x more engagement than more traditional forms of copy. As such, this can represent a great opportunity for businesses and users alike. Need more evidence? Just ask Chewbacca Mom about the value of live video.
Ok, you caught us – we’re a little biased on this one. But with good reason. We’ve been featured in some interesting articles, and offer users and small businesses the chance to use our automation tools to manage their social media. Users can decide how active or inactive they want to be, safe in the knowledge that SoGrow is building a targeted and relevant audience. Not convinced? You can try it free for 30 days, with no obligation or contract to stay. We’re big believers that our social media app could help change the way that people spend their time on social media – more focus on creating engaging content, less time on the boring leg work. What’s not to like (other than self-promotional parts of blog posts…*ahem*)?
Modern Wall Street’s helpful video above helps explain Peach, the social media platform for iOS that’s fast becoming the hottest property in mobile circles. Essentially, Peace serves as an aggregator and provides a walled garden – everything is on the platform, and you don’t need to leave it. Get the best and most relevant content for you, your friends and your connections, across all key social platforms in one place. To put it simply, Peach pulls everything into one place. The lovechild of Twitter, Slack, Instagram, Snapchat, and Outlook – in other words, worth checking out. Looking for a more detailed insight? Influencer Carlos Gil, reviews it here.
Facebook, described delightfully in The New Yorker as “a tyrannical boy king with a short attention span“, has tweaked the News Feed. Again. As is their right, of course. But let’s consider the reasons why. Facebook have continued to alter the algorithm, the API, and everything in between with the core underpinning values of “Friends and Family Come First”, and “A Platform for All Ideas”. These two lovely but naturally opposing concepts can make it difficult for anyone, from the social butterfly to the social media marketer, to really know what’s going on. So let us turn to our qualified friends at TechCrunch, for a breakdown of how Facebook decides the content you get in the News Feed…roughly.
Consider the above, for a number of different functions. Firstly, everyone hates ads. This is a near universally accepted truth. People will tolerate a targeted ad, and will enjoy an entertaining ad. But, on the whole, if taking all ads everywhere and contrasting against all natural content – there’s only one winner. We can take two things from this. One, that this is why ad agencies get to charge what they charge (and rightly so). Two, that the way business approaches Facebook is going to change. People who use their Facebook Pages have long bemoaned the fact that Facebook was becoming less about engaging content and more about digging deep into our pockets. With this update, we can expect to see the Facebook News Feed heavily favour the updates from your friends and family, and filter out business and celebrity. The result? Referral traffic and reach is going to struggle to gain traction naturally, so if people are to see more from your page, they’re going to have to like or share from it. Here’s what we think are the top three things to consider for the latest Facebook man-child update.
1) Likes and Comments could stop being vanity stats.
Ask anyone who’s paid for a lot of Facebook ads, and many will confirm that the goal is to drive relevant and targeted people to your website, and get them to purchase. This makes sense, or rather it should, because this is how advertising works. Show the pretty picture, person likes the pretty picture, buys the pretty picture. Repeat ad infinitum. However, if company pages and content are going to be less prominent, this might not be as possible without a substantial backing of relevant likes and shares. We’re cautious about pushing it, but are inclined to say that in the not to distant future we’re going to see much more “like and share” focused content – as even if a user likes the page, they might not see your content without a friend sharing it. Good for the user, who will hopefully find more enjoyable and less sales-focused content. Bad for the social sales funnel, which might have got a little longer.
2) The Small Biz Cash Grab hits Publishing
You’d be forgiven for thinking while reading this that we resent Facebook. It’s far from true. Hell, we’re hoping to be able to automate everyone’s social media and help you find success – we can’t do that without the biggest platform. However, the fact remains that for many small businesses and retailers, Facebook has been far more pay-to-play than it ever really should be. To naturally choose to depress small business content, on account of a limited initial footprint, makes it near impossible to gain traction without digging into your pocket. In many regards, this is a fair price to pay in order to be part of Facebook’s glorious empire. But, it’s still a sad day for publishing. News, as we know, is rarely cheerful. Doom and gloom sells papers, happy go lucky news doesn’t. But the same is rarely true on social media. Consider the recent criticism of Twitter, and the reliance it had on the news of the day to gain clicks and capture your attention. Publishing of news is a vital part of a social economy, and it feels a real shame that a tightly squeezed sector will be forced to get the wallet out to reach the people who already want their news. More news behind a paywall is not an enjoyable thing.
3) This will almost certainly fail
The Facebook algorithm is an evolving and ever-changing being. As such, it’s not fair to look it in the eye and say it failed, because it’s only ever a few hours or days away from another tweak. And anyway, Silicon Valley is built on the principles of failure. Facebook is an angry teenager, who’s techno we must learn to love. And like an angry teenager, they’re going through changes they don’t quite understand – all this content from all spheres, overloading their mind, on top of having lost out on the girl they loved to Microsoft, before claiming they weren’t all that into her. Most people, rightly or wrongly, get a little bored with seeing the same people talk about the same things everyday. Humans are creatures of habit, and to keep the platform fresh and retain users, we need to be able to see new content from new people. This can’t work with the existing News Feed state, and in time, will gradually be adjusted.
The short summary – This is just a phase, and Facebook will come around. Everyone stay patient, and be ready to give them a big hug. We always loved Facebook, no matter how messy their bedroom is.
Content marketing, that alien buzzword creature. What a ridiculous notion, that by putting out sufficient quantities of high quality content, someone could attract customers without reaching out to them. A curious idea, indeed. Except of course, we’ve now seen it work. Inbound marketing strategy typically results in more leads, conversions, and best of all – does it for much less financial cost. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional outbound direct mail, or even *gasp* picking up the phone. However, with the success of content marketing, came an overwhelming number of blogs, guides, tips, tricks, and endless more channels that can guarantee you ever more fantastic results. So, as we move towards the next phase of Inbound Marketing, how can a brand look to position itself and stand out from the crowd? A TrackMaven study back in February suggested that while the amount of content produced last year rose 34%, engagement on these decreased by 17%. What this means, is that it’s a saturated market. And as such, we need new ways to stand out. The answer, is in automation.
According to brandpipe, marketing automation is now worth a monumental $5.5bn as an industry. Across the board, it’s the go to tool for finding new leads, nurturing, distributing content, and maintaining engagement. There are no shortage of automation tools that can help you share your content – from MailChimp for your e-mails, to (wink wink, nudge nudge), SoGrow for your social media automation needs. The responsibility of the marketer, entrepreneur, business owner, or key communicator is to establish which channels best connect with each type of customer, and segment accordingly. Not every e-mail will drive traffic, just as not every Tweet is going to generate brand new business. However, the right blend of marketing channels will bring you the best chance of having your content seen by the right person.
How do we identify the right person? There’s two ways that we can look at this. Option A, is the creation of targeted content, and sharing it with the appropriate audience – this would be the “talk at” the audience model. This is an excellent way to raise your brand awareness and make people conscious that your brand exists and performs. However, let’s consider an alternative, Option B, Permission based content marketing. Now, that sounds like an impressive phrase that you can drop into your performance review and show off to your line manager, but what does it actually mean? Ever gave a website your e-mail address to receive an e-book, access a guide, access a trial, or anything in between? You’ve actively gave them your permission to be contacted. Not only does this make sure that your marketing operations remain strictly white hat and avoids the sending of unsolicited e-mail or other contact – the numbers don’t lie. It’s a few years old now, but in a study from 2011, opens on the opt-in lists were twice as high as those who hadn’t consciously given permission. Better still, not only did it receive more opens, the click-through rate on these e-mails were double the average engagement. In the years that have followed, there’s nothing to suggest this trend has really changed.
The Next Step
The moral of the story. Automation isn’t a scary thing, and is a force for good – when used with active permission based methods. The same applies to all channels – messages to your followers about your product is reasonable, messages to the world about them can be less so. To bridge the gap, and achieve opt-in results, it’s important to get your brand in front of people and deliver your value proposition. SoGrow, lets you do just that. Learn how, at www.sogrow.co.uk