The State of Social Media: Spring 2018

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Does the constantly changing world of social media have you feeling … shook? It’s hard to keep track of which platforms are on the rise and which are already so last month. As a media buyer, it’s my job to stay on top of this ever-changing landscape, so I can help my clients spend their social media dollars wisely. While I can’t predict the future, I can guarantee that this snapshot of the current state of social media will be accurate for at least the next week, maybe two.

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Instagram

Since its release in 2010, Instagram has continued to show that slow and steady wins the race in the social media game. By learning from the successes and failures of other platforms, Instagram has charted a steady path with fewer embarrassing missteps.

More than other platforms, Instagram seems to understand the importance of getting it right the first time. They aren’t above a little creative borrowing, either. Instagram recently adopted live-streaming and temporary videos and added integration with Facebook. (That last one might not have been optional.) Instagram has thrived by balancing new features with a consistent, quality user experience.

What this means for advertisers is that sponsored posts actually benefit from being unobtrusive and appealing to users. Plus, thanks to integration with Facebook, you can easily buy ads on both platforms at the same time. Instagram is especially suitable for businesses trying to get their products in front of consumers.

YouTube

What’s the most popular search engine in the world? Okay, it’s obviously Google. But do you know the second most popular engine? Yahoo? Bing? Nope, it’s YouTube. Gone are the days when the most this platform had to offer was cat content. I mean, the cats are still there, but now they have to compete with tutorials and reviews about EVERYTHING.

Need to master a new makeup technique in time for prom? YouTube has a video for that.

Got a leaky pipe? Watch a tutorial. Anything you need to know or learn, odds are YouTube has you covered.

Fun fact: my dad learned how to debone a turkey from watching a YouTube video. Never underestimate the power of the ‘tube.

YouTube has become a juggernaut in the digital space—the kind of search power that has major value for advertisers. Not to mention that it’s also a social community with fans and subscribers. Savvy brand marketers are encouraging YouTube interaction and engagement, sending out kits for review and tapping influencer networks.

You’d be surprised how fast you can sell out an entire supply of limited-edition hot sauce with 13 million YouTube subscribers. YouTube is a great option for businesses looking to work with influencers or make their product more accessible and understandable to consumers.

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Facebook

Well that escalated quickly. It turns out that allowing a billion-dollar corporate behemoth to access every byte of your personal data was…unwise? We’ve all seen the damage done by the Cambridge Analytica scandal to Facebook’s formerly good image. Mark Zuckerberg may claim the number of deactivators inspired by #deletefacebook wasn’t “meaningful,” but the fallout has given many users pause. The zeitgeist is full of think-pieces asking tough questions like “is it finally time to log off and go outside?”

So what does that mean for advertisers? Surprisingly, not much. The inescapable truth is that no other platform can do what Facebook does. And while the company has certainly taken a hit, Facebook still has more than 2 billion users. In response to recent events, Facebook is investing more time and energy into data security and user experience. If it takes a lesson from its sister property, Instagram, Facebook could see its highest engagement numbers in years. Only time will tell.

Snapchat

As the formerly proud owner of a pair of Snapchat Spectacles, it physically pains me to admit this, but as usual, Kylie Jenner said it best: “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or it is just me.” No Kylie, it’s not just you. Once the darling of social media thanks to its innovative features and meteoric rise, Snapchat has now found itself struggling to recover from a poorly received redesign and slow user growth.

So where do we go from here? Snapchat still does better than any other platform with people below the age of 20. The company claims its users are acclimating to the changes and that improvements are on the way. The coming months will give us a clearer picture of whether Snapchat can truly recover its lost glory. In the meantime, can I interest you in a pair of gently used Snapchat Spectacles? They’re priced to move.

On the Fence

Twitter

It turns out that reports of Twitter’s death were greatly exaggerated. Once maligned for its inability to adapt to changes in the social media landscape, Twitter is experiencing a surge in interest. Benefiting from a combination of real world attention and feature improvements like increased character counts, the platform is one worth watching.

It remains to be seen whether Twitter will be able to sustain its recent popularity. What matters for advertisers is using the platform in ways that are effective. Brands with a distinct voice who invest the time needed to engage on Twitter can reap the benefits—just look at Wendy’s and Arby’s. But unless you’re willing to dedicate substantial resources to it, there are better options out there.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn almost feels a little old-fashioned compared with the other social media giants, with its professional content and lack of inappropriate personal sharing. That said, LinkedIn boasts a highly engaged audience of users who are active on the platform for the focused purpose of networking or job hunting. Whatever its limitations may be, LinkedIn has done a great job of rewarding users for the time they spend. It might be the only social media space where you actually reap real-world benefits from the effort you invest.

For advertisers, LinkedIn is a great choice for those seeking to connect with business owners, operators or decision makers. The platform offers a variety of ad options like sponsored content and InMail ads, which are effective for generating leads or website hits. And no other platform can beat LinkedIn’s targeting ability. While engagement levels may not be as high with LinkedIn ads, marketers can rest assured that their ads are reaching the right people.

Looking Ahead

When talking about social media, the most we can ever say is how things are right now. Trends appear suddenly and disappear just as suddenly. New features in one platform (like temporary videos) can drive innovations in others (moments, live streaming). It’s impossible to predict what the social landscape will look like in a few years. So what does this mean for advertisers?

Crafting a social media strategy is key, but so is flexibility. Marketers should try to stay as nimble in the social media landscape as the platforms do. Remember to check in with your analytics and your audiences often to ensure that you’re still headed in the right direction.

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