As social media platforms battle over ideas in an effort to win our engagement and make themselves more conducive to content creation and consumption, keeping track of the changes and what they mean gets more convoluted. It seems like every time you check your phone, there’s a new update for Instagram or Facebook, and you can’t hit the “Update” button fast enough. (And no one wants to be the loser with the outdated app or, worse, the out-of-touch marketer still struggling to connect with her audience using old tactics.)
As social media updates continue, I often find myself wondering what they mean for marketers and how they’ll affect what we do. Sure, we can adapt our content distribution principles, but to do so effectively, we can’t overlook the reasons for these changes. What’s driving these changes? Is there really a method to this madness?
Let’s dive into a few of the newest platform updates and explore how some of them are changing the way we take in content:
The phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems especially applicable to Snapchat and its advertising revenue model (which positions the company as a gatekeeper, allowing it to host brand advertisements like TV networks currently do).
This isn’t necessarily groundbreaking in the advertisement world, especially because TV is considered the grandfather of advertising (with print being the great-grandfather). But Snapchat is allowing brands to tap into their engaged user base and provide them with media-rich, easy-to-consume content.
There is a pitfall to this, however. Unlike TV, where commercials are paired with engaging programming, Snapchat advertisements essentially have to be sought out; it’s still up to users to decide whether they want to consume the content, as most can simply bypass or choose not to engage. Is this a risk brands are willing to take? Time will tell.
By expanding from its original intent — to allow users to interact with friends, followers, or connections — and focusing on creating a place where people can consume different types of media from different sources (brands, publishers, personal connections, etc.), Facebook has woven content into our everyday lives. You can reconnect with an old friend, RSVP to a party next weekend, and read an article, all without ever leaving the platform (which is a relief for mobile users).
Facebook seems to really understand its audience and consumers, and it’s continued to use that insight to inform upcoming changes such as:
As Facebook is positioned as a content platform for brands, Pages — slowly becoming a hub for content management — seems to be the most identifiable feature to represent this change.
According to an October press release, not only can Pages be used by admins to churn out content, but it can also work very much like a microsite. Admins can book appointments, sell tickets, or provide quotes through the platform, and as mobile usage continues to surpass desktop usage, Pages allows admins to change layouts to accommodate the device a user is on.
This is huge. Before, you needed a developer or an understanding of code to create a high-performing website. Today, you just need to understand how to use Facebook, which most people — including my grandma — can do.
I sort of chalk this up to Facebook’s unrelenting FOMO regarding what other platforms are doing that it isn’t. Regardless of where Facebook got the idea (*coughs* Snapchat *coughs*), the brand noticed another content publishing opportunity to add to its list.
By cutting out the middleman, Facebook Instant Articles allows brands to publish directly to the site, granting them access to Facebook’s engaged audience in a way that’s similar to Snapchat. It also presents articles in a more interactive, user-friendly way than the alternative — directing users to the site itself and away from Facebook — which makes content more enticing to consumers.
As content creators and consumers, we’re constantly searching articles online. With Google AMP, you can scroll through content and jump to related articles from different sites quickly without leaving your search query on Google, taking content discovery and consumption to a whole new level.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the next big thing. It hasn’t been perfected yet (having received mixed reviews thus far), but once more sites format their content with it in mind, it can mean quicker content consumption for mobile users.
I alluded to this above, but let me break down what this all means for you:
You have to marry the social media experience to your content and plan accordingly. Adopt the mentality that your content strategy is your distribution strategy — even though you might not be publishing content directly to social media yet, it’s looking like that’s the future.
This should be a given by now, but some people are still realizing this. Mobile is the future (the present, even!) — pretty soon, all (yes, all) of our content will be consumed on a mobile device. Own it. Love it. Embrace it.
Start planning for this by optimizing forms for mobile. Make sure your blog navigation promotes content discovery via smartphone, and use Schema to optimize your content for AMP. Think about how your emails look on mobile; if they make you wince, make some changes.
If video wasn’t an amazing way to interact and connect with your audience, why else would Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook have ways to utilize it built into their platforms? Think outside the box with this. Consider repurposing blog posts into quick, silent video snippets on Facebook and Instagram, or use Snapchat Discover’s model to create an interactive experience on your site that mirrors it. All’s fair in video content.
Something tells me there will be even more updates for us to discuss very soon, and when the time comes, you’ll need to be ready. Most changes are built on the ones that came before them, so acting on today’s changes means you’ll be better prepared for tomorrow’s.