It's tough to know it all when it comes to social media, and a good Social Media Specialist will happily admit that. Working in social media means keeping yourself constantly immersed in a rapidly changing environment. Social media is a multi-faceted communications tool, so it's important to be able to jump on any new features and discover ways to make it work for your brand.
So what are the big guns currently doing to grapple for your attention, and who is winning?
Instagram is reigning supreme for brand engagement.
Brands are seeing three times more engagement on Instagram than Facebook (AdWeek). An impressive feat, given that Instagram has 700 million monthly users versus Facebook's 1.94 billion! With the introduction of business pages and a growing suite of ad formats you can expect Instagram to follow the paid-to-play path laid by Facebook, leading to a decline in reach and engagement for organic posts.
Yes, that means you will most likely begin to notice a drop in your likes and comments – and that's where Instagram ads and paid promotion will come into play.
So, how do you prepare? Start factoring Instagram promotion into your paid social media plans now. Test your content, experiment with imagery, copy and formats. That way, if organic engagement does fall off a cliff, you will be prepared with a paid media parachute, tailor-made to your target audience.
2 (or 3, or 4) become 1.
2016 was the year of social copycatting, with Instagram launching Stories to rival Snapchat, Facebook launching Stories to rival Snapchat, oh, and Whatsapp launching 'statuses' to rival Snapchat.
Facebook continue to see video as key to their offering, which they are expanding to include private Facebook live chat. Now, when watching any Facebook live broadcast, you and your friends can start a private conversation about what you're seeing and experiencing.
Instagram has launched filters, swiping another valuable tool from Snapchat. Snapchat then introduced a feature where groups can exclusively send Snaps to each other (think Whatsapp group but with a 24-hour deadline). Expect to see an ongoing battle for our most valuable commodity, your attention.
While the lines between social platforms may be blurring, this is no time to get lazy with your content. As we discovered in our Truth About Youth research, young people use each platform differently, so each platform requires a bespoke approach. Keep messaging consistent, but optimise your content for each platform. This attention to detail will keep your various audiences engaged and keep you ahead of the branded content herd.
User Generated Content is a must.
We are a generation of digital exhibitionists. For better or worse, we measure our social success in likes, comments and shares. Uploading an image to Instagram, hashtagging it or, tagging a brand is a way of screaming 'NOTICE ME'. When a brand decides to champion an image that we took, we feel appreciated while also gaining social kudos.
But what benefit does this have for brands? User Generated Content (UGC) is relatable, trustworthy, and shows that brands notice and appreciate their loyal fans. It's a way of saying 'Hey, thanks for taking the time to take this picture.' It also places your product naturally exactly where you want it to be, in your target consumer's environment. What better endorsement can you ask for?
So how can you stay ahead of the curve? Keep on top of social trends and be ready to evolve along with them. Hasn't that been the key to survival for millions of years already? And don't forget to say thank you to your brand's fans. After all, it's the polite thing to do.
Susie Santry is Social Media & Content Specialist at McCannBlue.