What are people thinking? What were they thinking? Who’s doing the thinking? Why are they thinking that? In 2007 when I joined Twitter, those were not front of mind questions for those of us using the social network for the first time. In 2019? That’s exactly why we go to Twitter. It’s a pulse check.
In 2007, when I joined Facebook, it was all about the one degree of separation between you, and who you knew. Now it’s about so many “other” things besides you and yet, in 2019, it still comes back to you, particularly when we have to synthesize the latest batch of Facebook data privacy breaches. Clearly, this is not your mother’s Facebook.
As most marketers know by now, we are pretty far removed from “the what” and “the why” these platforms were built for in the first place. The way social networks are utilized now both from a marketing standpoint and a UX standpoint, has undergone an almost 360 degree change since those early years. They are nearly unrecognizable. Those that were there in the early days, will be the first to admit that indeed, the times have changed for Twitter. Couple that with how Linkedin is now being used on an every-day basis, the evolution of Instagram, and the rapid adoption of Snap, and the choices and the ways that consumers want to communicate, have never been as diverse and complex.
In my opinion as soon as marketers came to the social media party en masse, the dynamics changed forever. People often say that it’s the users who determine how a social network is used, and that might be true, but it’s the marketers who determine how a social network is consumed. Here’s the best way I can put it and this isn’t far off either. Let’s say you and some friends go to this awesome club in a perfect location, it has unreal musical performances, cool people abound, chill atmosphere, great unique food that works, real comfortable seating, never crowded, killer beer list, etc etc. OK, you get the picture. Now let’s say a promoter takes over, or marketing steps up and in. The word is out on the street. If the marketers were any good, the place is overrun with new people. Lot’s of people. Lot’s of different people with different tastes, opinions, needs and wants. The club now has a choice. Does it want to stay that cool hip joint that only the cool hip people know about? Or does is want to grow, expand and thrive? It has to adapt or die, embrace change or lose relevancy, right?
The club will never be the same for the early adopters. In name, it’s still the club, but the old guard will always gripe about the way it used to be, and the new guard just drowns them out because this is the way it is now. Sound like a familiar story?
The new club fits the needs and demands of its most ardent and current users. It is still relevant today because of its location. So as things around it evolve, it too must evolve. As such, those that go there, change, adapt and or move on.
That’s the current state of social networks. they’ve changed not only for those that built them but also for those that were there in the very beginning and fell in love with the naked conversations that were plentiful. Has it changed for marketers and advertisers? Absolutely. Is it just as valuable to marketers now as it was then? Absolutely. Just different, more diverse and more complex. Data notwithstanding, today’s social media user is a lot more hip and comfortable on the platforms in which they hang.
Through their maturity, or immaturity, depending on how you want to look at the current list of dominant social networks, it’s become fairly evident that each channel has evolved into what they are and what they are going to be. The challenge for the user, whether they are a marketer or not, is to really understand the nuances of what is happening on each network. Step back and really look at how they are used. There is a rhythm to each, and in order to assimilate or merge into this non-stop, virtual stream of oncoming traffic, the tactics that are used to thrive and survive, have to be different.
That’s what is changing from network to network. How you post, what you post, what you say and how you say it, it’s different and it has to be different. This includes the paid game. Social networks have evolved and or devolved depending on how you use them. For millennials, the levels of transparency can sometimes be frightening to Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomers. For them, it’s akin to using snow tires in the summer or deciding to pop and lock in the middle of an upscale restaurant. They wouldn’t do it but for marketers the game is all about impressions, reach, engagement and conversions. So everything is considered. The bar has been raised to ridiculous heights in 2019 and the goal is to grab attention and or “get noticed” or “go viral,” if so, go for it, but know this, it’s not sustainable.
The complexity of our world and our society dictate that we become more flexible. This extends to how we use social networks. For marketers to thrive, they have to quit assuming that just because they know your name, that that allows them to cop a feel anytime they want. This is where analytics can only get you so far. To thrive in 2019 in social media, marketers have to possess equal amount of understanding networks, people, data, empathy, systems and what the end game is or should be.
In closing, I’ll use this last analogy. Picture social networks as the events at a track meet. A sprinter cannot run the distance races. The pole vaulter isn’t going to throw the shot put. Each race is different and requires different types of people. Each race requires a unique set of tactics, speed, strength, and or endurance. The ultimate goal though is to win but you have to train. Though you might win, coming in second or third isn’t so bad. You are measured, you are benchmarked and then you try again. By season’s end, you should be at your peak and be ready to compete, challenge and hopefully win. Better tools, better coaches, better conditions, equipment, they all factor in. But sometimes, someone comes out of nowhere and can shock the world. It can happen. It has happened. We’ll just have to see. Until then, embrace the change and stay relevant in 2019 by keeping your eyes and ears open and knowing that your ability to pivot will serve you and your org well.