Social media has had a whirlwind of a year. Elon Musk acquired Twitter, Meta recorded its largest loss ever in the neighborhood of $3.6 billion in Q3, and there’s talk about banning TikTok in the U.S. It’s already been banned on government devices and some university VPNs.
In the wake of all this change, new social media platforms are planting roots.
Almost as soon as Musk purchased Twitter, hundreds of thousands of users fled in protest. In late December, rising social platform Mastodon (which had around 300,000 users in October) reached 2.5million users by introducing a clever feature called ‘movetodon,’ which allowed Twitter users to easily find their friends on the new platform so they wouldn’t have to ‘start from scratch.’ Since then, the platform peaked and dipped, losing about 30% of its new traffic in a matter of weeks according to The Guardian.
This is just one of many companies duking it out. Polywork is looking to steal Linkedin’s professional crowd, while BeReal, Poparazzi (billed as the ‘anti-Instagram) and Discord (particularly popular with gamers and developers) are leading the new generation of social apps vying for major market share. (Check out our Freelancer X community on Discord.)
Of course, the emergence of new platforms is nothing new: Vine came and went, as did Peach and Google+, and Clubhouse’s growth has stalled. What has changed is that for the first time, there’s a growing perception that Facebook and Instagram might actually get dethroned.
So, what’s a social media marketer to do?
“With social media, everything changes so quickly that most brands don't make decisions until stuff actually happens,” says Lirut Nave, Wix’s head of social media. That’s a mistake; not only is stuff happening right now, but brands should stay proactive so they never get caught by surprise. “We see features getting dropped every day, different promotional abilities getting paused, and the popularity of the platforms themselves is subject to change every few months.”
Therefore, Nave recommends having your overall strategy in place but staying adaptable by making necessary changes, shifting budgets and reprioritizing based on what works. “You always want to know where your audience is going,” she says. “If they're going to leave TikTok or if Twitter's gone tomorrow, which new platform will you use to grab that audience segment’s attention?” Start with your audience, she says, not the platform, and work your way back. “Try to get as clear as you can about where clients spend their time and what they’d like to see from you.”
Here are some more best practices as you navigate this new world.
Don’t ignore the big players
The rise of these new platforms marks a departure from previous ways of framing digital interactions (think: likes, comments, shares and saves), focusing more on authentic online exchanges such as having actual conversations, building community and capturing unedited moments of your life.
Yet, despite reporting record losses last year, it’s still the big fish’s pond. Facebook maintains the most monthly active users (2.9 billion users), and Linkedin remains the biggest social media for professionals. Expect the ‘legacy’ players to pivot their strategies to reflect market changes, perhaps even mimicking certain features like when Instagram copied stories from Snapchat, or how Alphabet rolled out YouTube Shorts in response to Instagram Reels and TikTok’s success.
For now, we’re likely to continue seeing the Metas and Twitters of the world playing ‘feature catchup,’ but don’t let changes in consumer preferences catch you by surprise.
You should keep your eye on emerging platforms, but Nave says there's no point in making massive overhauls. “Social media is quick. It’s more about spontaneity and keeping up with where your target audience is moving.”
Educate AND entertain your audience
“Edutainment” is the future of content, and it's exactly what it sounds like: entertaining someone while teaching them something new. Think: thought leadership content that’s equal parts thought-provoking and attention-grabbing.
A perfect example of edutainment is After Skool’s YouTube whiteboard explainer videos, as well as @rishfits’ mobility training Instagram and Emily the Recruiter on Tiktok. Notice how the content tends to be quick, snappy and sometimes lighthearted depending on the brand’s tone of voice. This is true across all channels.
Develop your video capabilities
If ever there was a time to expand into video, it’s now. YouTube Shorts are growing 135% year over year according to Rootnote.co, and the average American now spends 80 minutes on TikTok per day, says The Washington Post.
“There's no question that short form video content will continue to dominate because it's the easiest format to consume,” as Susan Kaplow, Wix’s head of content and design, said in What agency work will look like in 2023. “Marketing is no longer about whitepapers or long articles anymore, rather it's creating content that’s approachable, real, honest and to-the-point.”
That goes double for video. Help the rest of the leadership team understand the risks that come with failing to bring in these capabilities asap, then paint a specific vision for what will be possible with these additional resources.
To that end, it helps if leaders share more online and offer a window into the business. “People are craving realness. They want to be seen, heard, and entertained—not sold to. Thought leadership will still resonate, but only if the leader is approachable” Kaplow adds.
Stay true to each channel
With increasing uncertainty as to which platforms will dominate in the mid to long-term, Nave recommends doubling down on the social media that's proven to work for your business.
“Don’t try to do everything at once - you’ll end up producing content that’s only 50% of the way there,” she says. “Do what you can do well, whatever is closer to that 100% quality bar.” That means your agency probably isn’t on every channel but does a great job tailoring content to one to three platforms instead.
“If your strategy is to create general content and post it across all platforms, you probably won’t get the same performance across each of them,” Nave says. “That said, there’s value in working on one platform that’s more visual, say Instagram, one that’s more video-based (maybe TikTok) and one with a more professional network such as Twitter or LinkedIn.”
That’s not to say that repurposing your work isn’t an effective strategy, but a large part of that entails making necessary tweaks to stay true to each platform. That includes tactical changes, like reformatting the dimensions of a post or captioning videos, as well as strategic changes, such as the goal of the content on that specific platform.
Use your resources wisely
Just because an emerging platform is generating buzz doesn’t mean you should dive in headfirst.
“If you have minimal resources, it just means you have to prioritize better,” Nave says. “You always want to create great content, so never sacrifice quality, even if that means taking longer to post.”
Before pulling resources from one department to reinvest them in new social platforms, start by determining whether the platform is worth your time to begin with. That might still take some time and effort to identify, but it shouldn’t take all of your time and effort.
“If you're a small agency, you don't necessarily want to put your resources into exploring something you still can't figure out unless you feel like it's a perfect fit for your offering and you can really go deep with it. Big brands have this advantage, of course, where they can test out their budget and let the people decide, but if you're a smaller agency, my advice would still be to put your resources where they're most valuable.”
Use the Pareto principle to allocate resources effectively - that is, spend 20% of your time creating experimental content to test, and 80% of it doubling down on what’s already proven to work.
As it always has been, the true value of social media lies in, well, your social network. That’s why Linkedin continues to be a mainstay for B2B clients, and why Twitter’s declining popularity has many marketers on their toes.
While the social media landscape continues to be rife with uncertainty, the best advice is simply to make great content for your audience wherever they are, and stay nimble so you can move with them if they migrate.
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