One thing is for sure: the social media world is ever-evolving and there is no sign of a slow-down in sight. There were a lot of changes in 2018, each providing a lesson and a great deal of insight on how the public perceives and uses available platforms.
But as far as changes go, some are always more impactful than others. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, for example, really impacted how marketers behave and interact with Facebook – but it also changed public perception of the platform’s safety.
Events like these permanently alter the social media world for users and businesses, but Cambridge Analytica is really just the beginning. I’ll cover this and many other major issues in today’s blog post.
Data Protection is Critical
This obviously isn’t a new concept, but it data protection certainly made headlines last year. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed the company harvested data from more than 87 million user profiles. Despite the way CA and Facebook attempted to frame the issue, the public viewed it as a purposeful breach of trust (and rightly so).
Later in the year, affected users were automatically signed out of Facebook on their devices. This time, it was another breach of privacy related to the “View As” function was found. Facebook has since disabled the button.
Facebook wasn’t the only organization with data protection issues. The dying Google+ platform had an issue with its API; developers were able to access user’s friend info when it was supposed to be kept private. Companies like FIFA, Uber, and British Airways all made the news for similar issues, too.
One of the biggest data protection changes occurred in May, when the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act. New laws enacted very strict personal information protection rules for European visitors. And while the laws apply to the EU, any business serving anyone from the EU had to change to keep up.
Social Interaction is Paramount
In the past, most marketers (and users) looked to social media profiles as a tool for information sharing. But that meant we were talking about people and ideas instead of speaking with people, which isn’t ideal.
That’s all different now. Social strategies in 2018 evolved to place heavier emphasis on brand awareness, social engagement and meaningful interactions.
What does that really mean to you? Two things:
- First, your social media team needs to be consciously aware of engagement. They must also become more responsive. People want to know their favorite brands are listening to them, but they also desire action as a result of that feedback. You need to do more than just copy paste “thank you for your message.”
- Second, you need to create your content in a way that encourages deeper levels of engagement. It needs to be truly valuable and worthy of conversation. Social platforms want to see follower shares on post bringing in engagement, too, not just existing for the sake of existing. The trickle-down effect is important.
Facebook and Twitter made a lot of changes to their API settings this year, limiting the way you can use third-party apps to post to your profiles, pages, and groups. Facebook, for example, does not traditionally allow users to schedule posts to their personal profiles, but many people used Hootsuite to get around the limitation. Facebook removed this functionality to protect the integrity of personal profiles.
Twitter also made a major API change. In the past, a user could load multiple accounts into a third-party management app and then cross-promote the same exact post to multiple platforms at the same time. They made this change to protect the integrity of the platform and the posts, but it was also targeted at cutting down on spam and the fast spread of misinformation – including political propaganda.
Video is Still Top Priority
Content is still king and video content is by far the most popular and highly consumed form we saw in 2018. We saw a lot of creative marketing techniques blossom over the course of the last 12 months, including short videos that play on loop (think the older now-defunct Vine and Instagram videos). This format is ideal for capturing short attention spans.
So where are people marketing these shorter videos? Instagram and Facebook stories, Snapchat, Facebook Watch, and IGTV, mostly. YouTube is less popular; it’s better for longer-form content instead.
Dark Social is Growing
It’s not as ominous as it sounds — dark social isn’t like the black market or the dark web. Instead, it’s the interactions that take place behind the scenes on social media platforms. For example, someone shares your post but instead of publishing it to their public wall they send it to a friend via private message instead.
This type of engagement isn’t bad for your brand; in fact, it can be a bigger motivator for conversion than even direct warm marketing campaigns. The problem is you can’t see the engagement or how much of it you’re getting, which makes it extremely difficult to measure. Trial and error is the number one method here.
In 2019, focus on creating shareable content with the knowledge that it may spread “in the dark.” Make sure what you create is valuable, clear and self-explanatory. Your team won’t be able to see interactions to engage or answer questions, so the content needs to stand on its own as valuable.
The public trusts influencers more than ever before – maybe because they’re more willing than ever to destroy them if they do even the smallest thing wrong. But I digress; the big takeaway here is that you need to get super-creative at building relationships and partnerships with influencers of all sizes. Depending on your industry, you may have to dig a bit deeper to find a related niche. The work is worth the effort, though.
The trick here is to remember that influencer relationships are long-term, not one-offs. You want to partner with people who are seriously happy with your product or services, are willing to continue using them, and will then honestly promote them. What you absolutely do not want is someone who will lie on your behalf. Authenticity is key, even in sponsored relationships.
Think outside the box, too. Influencer marketing isn’t just about retail products like cooking supplies or deodorants. Do you offer an accounting or analysis product? Consider partnering with small businesses to create reports or data showcasing your features while highlighting their own successes. You’ll have win-win content that serves dual purposes.
In the end, 2018 taught me so much about social media, promotion, and the way users perceive their relationships with the brands they follow. The question now is whether or not you’re paying attention and are willing to adjust your strategies. Flexibility is your number one winning strategy for 2019.