Many will say that social media has been around forever. Some would profess that it goes as far back as the days of cavemen when sharing of information was done by writing on cave walls. Yes, as humans, we have found numerous ways to connect, build relationships, and share via many channels as we have evolved as a society. But clearly the emergence of Blogger in 1999, Friendster in 2002, LinkedIn and MySpace in 2003, and Facebook in 2004 defined the age of digital social media. Yes, we have been social animals for centuries, even predating mankind, but social media, using media, does not really predate the Internet.
And now, social media moves from a state of infancy to adolescence. Nice statement to grab a headline, but I will give you four points why we are at a historic point of change for social media.
1) The New Facebook
Facebook is clearly a new company. A public company. This means a new set of rules to play by. As a public company, their number one objective is growth and increasing profits. You can say that is the objective of most companies, but public companies are under a microscope much more than private ones. For example, Facebook has strong pressure to demonstrate revenue from mobile. I am sure this is an issue that they have discussed internally for a while, but now as a public company there is even stronger pressure to deliver a solution that generates mobile revenue given that at least 50% of people access Facebook via mobile.
It will be difficult for Facebook to remain attractive to their three constituent groups: their users, marketers that look to leverage the user base, and Wall Street. As Facebook attempts to stay attractive to the three, I believe the Facebook direction changes. They are a significant part of the entire social media vertical, today. This means that their strategic and tactical direction affects all of social media as they are such a large part of it.
2) Dawn of a new mobile
Yes, for the past ten years we have said this is the year of mobile. And I think it has been true each year as mobile adoption and penetration continues strong growth, year over year. But I think we are at a paramount shift with regards to mobile. It all comes down to a variance of mobile user behavior. This is due to the tablet (basically solely the iPad at this point). We will see the use of tablets to be as ubiquitous as the use of smartphones in the next 12-18 months. And mobile usage patterns and behavior on smartphones versus tablets is dramatic. Just think about it from your own perspective, how you might use a tablet (with a larger screen and maybe not as portable) versus a smartphone (with a small screen, but can fit in your pocket). A telling statistic is something John Arrow stated on The Golden Age of Mobile panel at The Admerica conference in Austin this week … commerce on mobile rates at 4% users for smartphones versus 11% for tablet users. Yes tablets, practice of second screen usage during TV-watching, and other yet-to-come mobile usage patterns define a new mobile chapter.
3) Ad effectiveness on social
I believe that we are going to see more and more analysis and evaluation on the effectiveness of advertisement on social platforms. Think about your usage patterns and mentality when you are on the Internet seeking information versus on a social network. I would venture to say that most people are subconsciously more receptive to ads when seeking information versus socializing. Thus, digital marketers need to think about the placement of digital ads. There are many that question the value of ads in digital. Yet, we have empirical data that shows contribution to leads and acquisition at our agency. And I do think that ads play some role in social, but clearly brands can be more effective using social to build relationships. It is not a question of whether to use digital ads, but rather where and how to use them.
The scrutiny of Facebook ad revenue associated with their IPO has opened the conversation of ad effectiveness on Facebook and social media as a wider topic. I think we are beginning to see rational thinking with regards to how brands use social media to their advantage. And while ads play some role in social media, clearly there are stronger strategies for brands that can drive greater measurable results.
4) Starting to understand the metrics that matter
As I engage with more and more clients and emphasize metrics that represent social media success, I sense that people are finally getting it. I explain it like this …
Social media is not a great way to generate sales. Social media is excellent at teeing up sales. While the sales funnel is dead as I explained in “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like, we use elements of the “pre-historic” funnel to define what should be measured – specifically awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. All of these user behaviors effect sales (as defined and detailed in “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like“) and can be measured. As more people begin to realize this, we will see more and more companies executing winning social media endeavors and less and less social media guru/expert imposters polluting practices.
So yes, social media has reached a definitive new chapter for the reasons I defined. Social media is evolving quickly. If I can give you one word of advice that has worked for me, it is as follows: I have never considered myself a social media expert. I am a perpetual student always hungering to experience and learn more. I have been successful with social media for two reasons:
• Keen examination and awareness of user behavior and actions, and
• Consistently seeking information, new emergence of platforms/technologies, and evaluation of successful and ineffective social initiatives.
I love what I do and am thrilled to be in such a dynamic industry. I love to …
Make It Happen!