What a Shrinking Social Media Landscape Means for Influencers and Marketers
On October 27th, Vine announced it would officially be shutting down operations. It was a sad day in social media, but not necessarily an unexpected one. The death of Vine is a symptom and signal of a much larger trend coming to a head in recent years: A consolidating market in the social media landscape, as well as the tech industry, more generally.
Tumblr is crumbling. Meerkat recently announced they would be closing their doors. Facebook and Microsoft are shamelessly cloning products as opposed to acquiring them. Twitter has failed to adequately monetize and maintain high engagement. Not long ago, social media giant LinkedIn was acquired by bigger giant, Microsoft. Periscope might soon perish at the hands of Facebook Live. Twitch might be in trouble at the hands of Facebook’s partnership with Blizzard.
I’m sensing a pattern here. And these are just some of many examples…
There Can Be Only One!…Or Two I Guess
For better or worse, massive changes are taking place. Sure, history proves market consolidation like this occurs after a period of rapid innovation and disruption, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling.
The Law of Duality within The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing states every market becomes a two-horse race in the long run (Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Nike and Reebok, Uber and Lyft, etc.).
One of the biggest changes as a result of this is the prevalence and popularity of algorithmic feeds on social media platforms. Pioneered by Facebook’s EdgeRank, algorithmic feeds seek to maximize attention and time spent on a single platform in hopes to whittle down competition.
After looking at these trends, two questions come to mind:
- What does this mean for social media influencers & social media marketers?
- What will be the foolproof method for sustaining influence on social media without our channel(s) becoming the next casualty?
While the exact answer may be out of reach, here are some thoughts that will help…
1. Deeper penetration into one or two social media platforms
The popularity of algorithmic feeds is here to stay. Why wouldn’t it be? Feeds that aren’t time-sensitive allow social media networks to keep people on their platform, audiences to be more engaged, and influencers to spend more time on their channel all while using the pretext of wanting only the greatest quality of content to be displayed to users.
One of the simplest ways to conquer algorithmic feeds is to hone in on one or two platforms to maximize your clout on those channels. By spreading yourself too thin on many social media platforms, you are risking having only mediocre engagement on all of them.
Choose the platforms you love best. The ones you find yourself on constantly and are addicted to. Your authentic voice and passion will shine through in your content, which will result in a much more engaged following.
2. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to use paid amplification to boost your content
Because engagement is the greatest deciding factor for algorithms, marketers and influencers will need to either invest the immense amount of time needed to build a 100% organic audience on these social platforms or need to “pay to play” via running ads and boosting posts.
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to put some dollars behind your work on social media. There seems to be a stigma in the social media community around putting money behind content. We like to think only saps and cheaters pay for promotion.
Perhaps 2 years ago that mindset was true. Yet, one of the most intriguing aspects of social media is how it’s always evolving, and today the game is different.
If you have an audience who genuinely loves your work, then by all means, put some dollars behind your top performing content. It will give you a leg up on your competition in an already cutthroat space.
3. If you can’t be first, be different
Be honest with yourself: When it comes to trends and market predictions, sometimes we “miss the boat”. Sometimes, an app or social media platform we never thought would get past it’s first 6 months becomes the next big thing.
Being first to an emerging platform is key, especially in a landscape where new networks are becoming less and less viable and top networks more and more viable. However, being a little late to the party isn’t the end of the world.
Prolific entrepreneur and business personality, Sally Hogshead says, “Different is better than better”. Gary Vaynerchuk says, “If you weren’t first to Facebook in your niche, you can still be first on Facebook Live”.
There are always avenues and opportunities to be first and to be different, you just have to look at everything will extreme detail.
If you see something is missing from your industry on a platform, then see if you can fill that void. If all real estate agents on Snapchat are informative but boring as hell, then try being the first fun real estate agent to use Snapchat.
The fastest way to grab people’s attention is to be different. Just ask Prince, The Beatles, Ernest Hemingway, and anyone else who’s dead that we still know by name.
4. Take the time to study social media, but more time to learn for yourself
There is no substitute for testing things yourself. Every brand is unique, with an even more unique audience. Not all tried and true principles or social media tactics will work exactly the same for everyone.
Just because you’re a YouTuber with a millennial audience doesn’t mean your brand will succeed on Snapchat. Just because you have a t-shirt company doesn’t mean your brand will benefit tremendously from Instagram shopping when it hits the market. Never discount variables, and don’t leave anything to chance.
Next time you read a piece of content on social media, test it out for yourself as soon as you close the tab. It will benefit you tremendously in the short run and the long run.
5. If your platform is dying, diversify
Keep your eyes peeled to see if your bread-and-butter social media platform is dying, thriving, or stagnant.
If your platform happens to be on its last leg, diversifying can be extremely tough. It’s hard to call it quits, especially if you have spent so much time, energy, and focus building a dedicated audience on a certain channel.
But to stay ahead of the curve, occasionally it has to be done.
The Vine stars who have managed to stay relevant did it because they diversified and hopped off Vine when there was still time to do so. They went on to utilize Facebook video, cultivate Snapchat followings, and start lucrative YouTube channels. Logan Paul is a prime example of this principle at work.
There were Tumblr influencers who foresaw the platform was going downhill and jumped off the ship as soon as they could. Farokh Sarmad, founder of luxury lifestyle brand Mr. Goodlife, diversified and began repurposing his Tumblr content on Instagram. Now his Instagram page boasts 800,000+ followers and he has been featured on podcasts and news channels all around the globe.
Many Twitter influencers have done the same and migrated over to platforms like Facebook and Medium to ensure they won’t die when the blue bird stops singing.
This doesn’t mean you have to jump off the ship entirely. It can be a gradual process over time. Who knows? Maybe a platform that appears to be dying will get a new CEO. Maybe they will develop a new feature that revitalizes interest in users. Thus, if you see your primary social channel going downhill, slowly begin to move away from it to ensure it is not a false alarm.
The death of Vine is symbolic of a much larger trend taking place in social media and beyond. The market, especially in tech, is in a period of consolidation. The cookie jar is getting smaller, and less hands will be able to fit inside. With giants like Facebook shamelessly cloning products, it appears building sound software to compete for a share in the market will be harder and harder for the little guy.
As members of the social media community, it’s up to us to understand, digest and successfully navigate these trends in our industry despite how we may feel about them. Additionally, if the trends become too obstructive, then it is also our responsibility to change them by creating something better.
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