As many savvy content marketers know, the world celebrates Social Media Day on June 30. The event was first launched by Mashable in 2010 as “a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication.”
To show you how far things have come, when Social Media Day first began Facebook had roughly 400 million active users. Seven years later, the world’s largest social media network touts 1.65 billion active monthly users. It’s clear that social media is continually connecting even more people across the globe and impacting the manner in which we disseminate information.
Few would have thought when social media sites first started gaining momentum nearly two decades ago that they’d have any application in the business world. Remember when Friendster and MySpace ruled the social media sphere and were primarily occupied by angsty teens?
With the major social networks continuously working to carve out their place in our daily lives by developing proprietary algorithms and creating new ways to communicate, it begs the question: What direction is social media marketing headed?
I see a Snapchat rising
Marketers don’t need to look any further than the incredible rise of Snapchat to see where social media is headed. This social network was once written off as a passing fad – a tool for teens to communicate away from the watchful eyes of their parents. It now has an estimated 100 million daily users and saw revenue go from $3 million in 2014 to $59 million in 2015.
What propelled this massive growth for the underdog network? If you ask me, it can be boiled down to one simple fact – Snapchat demands your attention by making the content itself transient. You don’t have the option to stop using the app and then pick up where you left off. You have to actively engage with the network to be a part of it.
Creative marketer Jay Acunzo provided a terrific analysis of why a Snapchat follower is more valuable to marketers than a follower on any other social network. He argues that on Snapchat “views are ‘more active’ than elsewhere” and goes on to draw parallels from Snapchat’s ephemeral nature to how we consume live events on television, calling snaps “micro-Super Bowls.”
Snapchat taps into people’s fear of missing out to keep users coming back for more. Much in the same way as missing the big game sets you behind the crowd, not checking Snapchat one day means you’ll miss out on that content forever.
“Snapchat demands your attention by making the content itself transient.”
What does this say about the future of social media? Users are looking for control, ambiguity and a sense of privacy when interacting on social media. They want the ability to choose their content and do so without the fear of having their data recorded and later sold. The fleeting experience of Snapchat provides the sense of security that they’re seeking.
Social networks take notice: Change is coming
There’s no doubt that Facebook still holds the keys to the social media kingdom – with the aforementioned billion-plus users, it is by far the most renowned and widely used network. It will be some time before anyone is able to gain significant leverage on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that other networks aren’t influencing how Facebook develops future products.
To quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.” In this case Facebook is the head and consumers are the neck. Facebook is taking cues from where users are going, and lately they are heading to networks that provide a more fleeting experience.
Facebook might still be the major player in the game for the foreseeable future, but in an industry that’s as fickle and unpredictable as social media, there’s no telling when the tides will turn. And that has the Walmart of social networks concerned. Features such as Facebook’s new Slideshow for mobile or Facebook Live are blatant attempts on the network’s part to adapt the platform to the changing tastes of social media audiences.
Facebook isn’t the only major network taking plays from the Snapchat playbook, either. Mashable pointed out that Twitter’s new #stickers feature shows the network’s attempt to decode the interests of the Snapchat user. With #stickers, they are trying to regain the audience they’ve lost to the latest up-and-coming social network. You can even seen some semblance of Snapchat in the recent updates that Apple announced for its iMessage software for mobile devices.
How marketers can stay ahead of the trend
Social media is an ever-evolving, white unicorn that’s all but impossible to catch. As soon as you feel you’ve made some ground, it changes course and you’re stuck rerouting your next attempt to catch up. With the onset of transient social networking, marketers will need to find even more creative ways to grab users’ attention.
As user interest further dictates the development of social networking, marketers won’t have the option to “growth hack.” Meaningful communication and conversation around your brand is where social media has been pointing and will continue to head for the foreseeable future.