Negotiating the Competitive Social Media Landscape of 2017

social media

A Changing Social Media Landscape

In November of 2007, brands and businesses were given the opportunity to have an official Facebook presence. The same day, Pages for companies launched and 100,000 companies joined the social conversation. Established brand names, new businesses, local companies – they all felt ready and fired-up about social media and the magical aura that surrounded its impact for businesses at the time.

As we enter 2017, social media – for many – feels like it has lost a bit of its magic. What were once feelings of excitement that surrounded the influx of platforms, mediums, businesses, brands, and users has now transformed to feelings of frustration and disillusion.

Why So Frustrated?

It’s no doubt that an overcrowded landscape is making it harder and harder for brands and businesses desperately trying to reach, connect, and engage with the right people at the right times – and in meaningful, memorable, and relevant ways.

2016 was called “The Reachpocalypse” for a reason. Before 2012, 16% of Page followers were set up to see a brand’s update. Now, Facebook has cut the reach of organic posts to about 2%. Instagram’s introduction of ads in 2015 (three years after Facebook’s purchase), also made it easy for organic posts to drop to the bottom of users’ feeds.

For users, it’s easy to feel lost in the multiple feeds of information – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, Medium… Skepticism has risen about privacy issues online, and many people have expressed annoyance about targeted ads, never ending emails, messages, and reminders that seem to pop up on every platform until you hit that buy button. 2016 has also raised some important concerns about the role social media plays in the political spheres, heightening the expectations people have of some of the top tech and media companies of today to assume a more aware role.

Social Media in 2017

In short, it’s been a rough year for social media. And on the surface, it might seem like the impact of social has become insignificant. However, quite the opposite. Interestingly, as companies’ ability to reach audiences organically has plunged, the power of social media in swaying purchase decisions has surged. A recent McKinsey study found that about a quarter of purchase decisions are influenced by a primary social recommendation – not insignificant by any account.

And although navigating the social media landscape has become more and more of a challenge, businesses and brands that want to survive in the competitive landscape today need to be social.

1. Pay to Play

For 80% of companies in 2017, paid advertising has become a basis of their social strategy. And although paying might be a sure way to reach more people, it’s not a sure-fire solution. First off, money doesn’t grow on trees. And although brands can pay as little as $5 for a Facebook ad, actually sustaining that ad throughout the year is a large and often unrealistic investment for many businesses today.

And a paid ad that isn’t targeted in the right way to the right people isn’t going to get the job done. Being smart and strategic and working in line with a strong brand is key here as much as anywhere. Using paid and organic advertising and finding the right balance takes planning, research, and some experimentation. It’s about figuring out specifically who you are trying to reach, the best way to reach that audience, and in what ways.

What many brands and businesses aren’t taking advantage of is the data behind social. Running a low-budget ad may not help you reach a large audience, but it can reveal a lot about who that audience is. Who’s clicking? Who’s engaging? In what ways? Not only posting, but looking at how that post fares and is important to thriving within shifting times.

And luckily, because a balance of organic and paid ads isn’t going to break the bank – there’s room to experiment, test, and research within it. For instance, social might be a great way to try out two new taglines and judge responses, or see what kind of pictures your audiences best engage with. Being able to absorb the kind of engagements that are happening digitally and adapt accordingly is the only way you can position your brand to play in a competitive, and often deathly landscape.

2. Leveraging Employee Loyalty

What the reachpocalypse of 2016 has taught us, if anything, is the real impact of employee engagement. As business Pages might have a harder and harder time reaching the people that they want to reach, employees that engage socially become more and more valuable to a brand. Employee advocacy holds a lot of weight. And when information is shared from an employee, many brands find it is more engaged with, more seen, more shared, and often times, more trusted.

Employees have an easier time coming across as human, personal, and honest. And authentically sharing employees reflects well on a brand. So in order to get employees on board, make sharing simple. Giving people the tools they need and letting them personalize posts to their liking can help. So can appointing a point person to help when people need it.

However, at the end of the day, employees’ social engagement hinges on strong employee loyalty. You can make things simple and easy, but what matters most is that employees feel excited and proud of the brand they work for, and want to share it. When this is true, positive feelings surrounding the brand come to life across social platforms.

3. Greater Challenge Demands Greater Innovation

Just because social media may be more of a challenge today than it was five years ago, doesn’t mean businesses should go running for the hills. We’ve talked before about how brands need to be digital brands today in order to survive. And social is a large part of the digital landscape today.

That means brands and businesses have to be strategic. The challenge social media presents to marketers today demands even greater innovation and creativity. It requires teamwork and strong collaboration. Brands and businesses have to think outside the box and utilize their resources, and their people in new and unique ways. Rely on your brand to help guide strategic decisions on social platforms – remembering how you want to make people feel, who you want to reach, and why you matter to those audiences.

New platforms can enter any moment. And the best ways of using already established platforms is always changing. For instance, when Instagram introduced stories, the whole game changed. Being flexible, adaptable, and able to move fast is also key. Staying ahead of the curve, being willing to experiment, and always striving to create new innovative solutions is the only way to tackle the challenge the social landscape presents today.

Stay social and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more insights, thoughts, and advice.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

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