We might not have a crystal ball, but one thing we can be certain of is that there will be a lot of changes in the future of social networking.
Marketers are always trying to predict the future. We always aim to be on top of whatever’s trending and find a way to (creatively) hijack the medium for our own (or our clients’) benefit. But more often than not, the reality is that by the time the majority of marketers hop on the bandwagon of a new medium, it is already something from which trendsetters have moved away.
But all is not lost!
Copious amounts of research provides us with insights into the future of social networking, and we can leverage these reports and information in order to keep up with what’s happening and ensure that our campaigns see the results we hope to achieve.
So where exactly are we, and what exactly can we expect to see when it comes to the future of social networking?
Teens Control the Future
In a Piper Jaffray Spring 2015 report, Taking Stock with Teens, research found that teens (aged 14-18) directly control $75 billion in discretionary spending in the United States. That’s roughly 4% of total discretionary spending in the country. Considering the fact that the definition of discretionary spending includes everything from new clothing to candy (basically, if you have clothes, are eating minimum calorie intakes and sleep with a roof over your head, any spending is discretionary) that’s a pretty big chunk of change.
Essentially, the long and short of this tells us that teens have a good deal of control over how their parents spend the money they earn. But it’s more than just the money.
The report also found that while brands are still important, the 2008 recession caused a foundational shift in how teens perceive value. Now, it is much more about the experience than the possession itself. So, if a teen feels a connection to a brand, that is the one they will choose. Brands need to be cultivating relationships, but as noted above, so many start too late.
Businesses are Behind
Not only are brands starting late, but they often find themselves in the wrong place. Facebook recently celebrated a milestone: it now has over two million registered advertisers. That’s not a major ratio of registered businesses (only about 5%) but from a volume standpoint, the network is making positive strides. That’s great! But tastemakers have already started looking elsewhere for their next thrill.
Barely two years ago, Facebook dominated the market in terms of importance to trendsetting demographics (teens and young adults). Now that level of importance has plummeted.
In terms of where these key demographics rank Facebook in terms of importance, it is less than fifty percent as important as they thought it two years ago. Snapchat is about to surpass it and it has more or less swapped places with Instagram.
And yet, the majority of investment is going into Facebook.
Now, this is by no means claiming that every business should be active on Instagram and Snapchat. After all, those networks simply don’t work for a lot of verticals considering the rich nature of the media shared. But ask yourself if you are investing in a network where popularity is declining among your key demographics. If the answer is yes, you need to look elsewhere for success.
Mobile More Important than Ever
This is nothing particularly new. On the heels of Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’, as the update has been dubbed, it has never been clearer that optimizing everything for mobile is a key (if not the key) to success. But having a responsive or mobile-friendly website is the highest point at the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re running a campaign, think mobile-first. If you’re sharing content, share something that people will be able to digest on a mobile device. The question you need to ask yourself until it becomes second nature is, “Will this work on a smartphone or tablet?” If there is even a moment of hesitation in your response, you need to rework the idea until it works on a mobile device.
Your audiences are out there. I say audiences because for every bit of content, every campaign, every new product, there is going to be a niche much more responsive what you have to say than anyone else.
The ability to hypertarget consumers has never been easier. On social media, people share more information about themselves than even the most detailed of censuses or surveys could ever collect. We, as marketers, need to start thinking about these data as segmenting criteria, and cut our audience down to the very small groups that fir a selection of characteristics. Then, we need to craft our communications strategies to appeal to the idiosyncrasies exhibited in each group.
Yes – there is more work involved. But imagine having the ability to skyrocket your conversions across hundreds of audience segments as opposed to hoping for a slightly above average conversion with your larger, semi-segmented audiences.
There is plenty more to come on the social networking front, but these trends are rapidly approaching (and, for the most part, already here). With these few tidbits in mind, we can begin to think somewhat differently about our next campaign and our overall marketing initiatives in order to keep with the upward swing of things, and avoid jumping on a bandwagon that has already been abandoned by the demographics that matter most.
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