Social Media's Future: Where Are Your Favorite Networks Headed?

Social Media's Future: Where Are Your Favorite Networks Headed?

Love them or hate them, social media networks are the new way of communicating with friends and family. From the big players like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram down to the myriad of niche networks that saw a rise in 2014 like YikYak, Snapchat, What'sApp and Ello, users are communicating in new ways every day. Evolving the way your business is heard on these networks as they change is a necessary component in staying relevant and active in the minds of your customers.

According to eMarketer, among the 259.7 million US internet users in 2015, "60.5% will use Facebook, 29.9% will use Instagram, 20.4% will use Twitter, 18.1% will use Pinterest and 7.7% will use Tumblr."

It stands to reason that with such high demand for networks, they are continually changing and evolving. Keep reading below to find out how your favorite network is changing and how you can evolve your social media plan in the future to stay on top of the changes.


Twitter:

This 'micro-blogging' site has really transformed over the last couple of years. Long gone are the days of tweeting your breakfast, Twitter has quickly become so much more. Major social causes like World Aids Day to major pop culture events, such as the GRAMMYs have harnessed the power of Twitter as a conversation. It's rare to see a major event without an appropriately designated hashtag, and we have Twitter to thank for this game-changing best practice for social media.
As the network evolves, users have started seeing changes that edit the way they interact with the app. Recently Twitter introduced a "While You Were Away" feature on iOS and Android, that compresses tweets and only lists top tweets that have peaked based on tweet engagement and user habits.

For your business, this means you will see a decrease in how many people your tweets are reaching, as the ability to continually scroll is being phased out. Additionally, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto recently announced that filtered views were on the horizon for Twitter, meaning that promoted and customized content would be favored over chronologically posted tweets. This is being deemed as "Twitter's Biggest Mistake", with critics noting that the raw content stream that Twitter uses is the basis of its popularity.


To combat missed tweets, Twitter has unrolled objective-based Twitter cards, which allow you to grow your community, draw website traffic, or drive app downloads in an easy to use format. Other changes that Twitter has on the horizon are native videos and group messaging, which will evolve the network ever more.

Instagram:

Instagram is a photo-sharing platform where users are able to share photos from their experiences with their followers, and enhance these photos through the use of captions, filters and hashtags.

In January, the Pew Research Center released data that the network was the fastest growing major social network for US Adults, growing nine percent in 2014. Additionally, over half of adults 18-29 are using Instagram. This fast growth has caught the eyes of advertisers, and Instagram has received huge demand for advertising. While the platform introduced limited advertising in November of 2013, this was and currently is only available to major brands. 

In the absence of advertising options, brands have taken to acquiring influencers, freelance Instagram users who have gained a large base of followers. These influencers may work on a contract or ad hoc basis, natively sharing a brand's product or service through an authentic Instagram post that will reach the brands' intended audience. These influencers have become quite popular and new ones continue to pop up each day. 

This method of native advertising provides beautiful curated content in an authentic setting and has done very well for many brands. Another reason Instagram continues to grow as a powerful marketing tool is that brands know everything they post will appear in the feed without boosting or paying for engagement, while other social media networks continually filter content out from a business page that isn't boosted.

With the success of these influential posts, as well as the high demand for advertising, options for businesses of all sizes is likely to roll out in 2015. Just last week, Instagram announced a 'carousel ad' feature being tested in the United States, that will allow the limited group of advertisers share multiple photos in one post and test the engagement of advertising on the platform.

Facebook:

The King of the social media game, Facebook has had the largest impact on our view of social media. Debuting in 2004, this platform has single handedly changed the way we use the internet. While growth of the network has seemed to slow and critics cite is as a dying phenomenon, by large Facebook still has the largest audience of daily users.

Brands have long been promoting themselves on Facebook through profiles, which turned into Business Pages several years ago, and now through the variety of ad spaces that can be purchased along the right hand column of the desktop site or amongst the timeline feed, also known as native ads. Recently, Facebook has come under scrutiny for a major decrease in organic reach for brand pages, where companies are regularly only reaching 2% of their audience. As a business model, this allows Facebook to make money by charging brand pages to boost posts or run ads which increase reach drastically for the company.

In the coming months, speculation looms that Facebook will create a name for themselves in the mobile payments space, competing with major transaction companies like PayPal, Stripe and Square. Along with that, there are expectations that e-commerce will come into play in a big way, with native ads including a buy button and transactions for goods and services being completed in the platform, once again changing internet usage trends. 


Tumblr:

Are you familiar with Tumblr? Tumblr, which has been around since February 2007, is an idea inspiration board that is filled with user generated content. Each user has a profile or blog filled with visual representations from memes to artwork that inspire them. Much like Reddit used to be the front page for viral stories, Tumblr is quickly becoming a viral sensation with major sites such as Buzzfeed, grabbing information from users directly from the sharing platform for its news articles. Major brands are taking note of this, aggregating content in hopes that the Tumblr-verse will latch on to it and spin it into a viral hit for their respective company.

In addition to the virality of the platform, brands are looking to this native platform as a new place to reach younger audiences. Old Navy is launching their spring campaign through Tumblr, grasping onto younger millennials in a different way and relying on style ambassadors (another word for influencer) to help promote their Spring Line. More brands will start to use this visually-charged platform to tell stories in 2015 and drive web traffic and sales for their products that are directed at Tumblr's core millennial audience.


Pinterest:

Pinterest, the idea/how-to/inspirational sensation of 2013 has held on to a large audience since it's growth boom and for good reason. This audience heavily skews to females, and is an amazing way to showcase your company's products and offer valuable how-tos to potential customers. In fact, 52% of daily Pinterest users consult the platform before making a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. Even more insightful is the power of e-commerce that Pinterest has. The average purchase price of a sale from a Pinterest referral to a website is $60. Could you use Pinterest to drive online sales?

Another interesting note on Pinterest are the users reaction to promoted pins or branded pin activity. Only 27% of users preferred to not see promoted pins, while the rest of the users were indifferent or enjoyed content pinned by brands that helped them style and purchase products from clothing to home decor to gardening. While promoted pins were launched in late 2013, these were only available to a select group of larger brands, and only made ads available for brand partners with large budgets that weren't practical for medium and small businesses. 

However, this didn't stop these businesses from branding a page for themselves and sharing content with users that link directly to their website, creating real revenue outlets from the platform.

Pinterest has released minimal details of a new "self-serve" ad program (similar to what we've discussed with Facebook and Twitter), that currently is accepting wait list reservations for brands who want to be a part of the program. One interesting thing to note on these ads, is that the business user will have the ability to buy promoted pins on a CPC basis, meaning you will only pay when a user interacts with a pin to visit your website. This creates incredible opportunity for additional e-commerce outlets for stores that appeal to the Pinterest user.

The Future of Social Media

These platforms have proved their lasting power, evolving heavily over the years. Remaining relevant and reaching customers has become less of a guessing game as it was with traditional advertising, and now a necessity for your business. Although the giants in the social media game cannot be ignored, several new social platforms are created each day, adding new clutter and competition in the social space and working hard to create benefits that will drive user growth. In a future blog post, we'll be discussing the newcomers to the game and how you can effectively use them to reach customers in your social media marketing plans.

What questions do you have about using social media for your business? Our digital marketing team has several years of experience in creating strategy and engagement plans that can help your business share their voice online.

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Posted by Kindra Svendsen at 3:23 PM
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