The social media ‘trend predictions’ season is in full swing. Wearable technology, multi-screen strategies, digital storytelling, augmented reality... the list goes on.
What’s interesting is that whilst (some of) these trends are indicative of changing user behaviour, we continue to debate the tool/platform/technologies emerging rather than the implications of this behaviour change itself. What are the implications on digital communications? What do we need to be prepared for? How should we adapt? Things have changed, and are changing fast and it’s the user who’s in the driving seat.
The role of the mouse and keyboard
Back in October this year GOV.UK celebrated its 2nd birthday, and along with that shared some usage data that showed how users were accessing the platform. On average 36% were using mobile devices to access government services and information (vs 20% in 2012). On 3 August, mobile access to GOV.UK superseded that of desktop. More people were accessing GOV.UK using a mobile device than a desktop. That’s pretty staggering.
Take a glance at the data from the big social media players and you start to question the role of the humble mouse and keyboard in not just information gathering but how users interact with others.
24 million of the 27 million UK users of Facebook are doing so via a mobile device (14 times a day), and on Twitter, it’s 80% of their user base. Just last week, Instagram announced that it hit a record 300 million users worldwide – surpassing Twitter’s 271 million. This all within the context of 12 months worth of significant acquisitions that clearly mark the ambitions and direction the tech and social media giants are moving in.
Social media behaviour is changing
The question is, will there be a need for a web-based social network in future, especially when mobile devices are such fantastic social tools? Well if you look at how teens and even Millennials are using social media you could argue no.
The culture of ‘networking online’ has changed to being ‘always on’; getting instant gratification from always being connected to knowing everything, about everyone, any time you want. The newsfeed, no matter on what platform, is now the centre of the universe. This says a lot about how we now define ourselves in social media. It’s no longer about lovingly crafted profile pages but about what we share, in that moment.
A changing interaction model: social media in campaign planning
The space for engaging is therefore getting smaller and more transient. We still need to get our messages out there but how we do it needs to be more adaptive and, well, smart. Plus the role of social advertising is only going to get bigger. That is, if you want to guarantee a prime spot in ‘the feed’. So instead of trends for 2015, here are eight considerations to take with you into the New Year…
1. Make sure you know your users – I mean, really know them. Online monitoring yes but actually going and speaking to them. Only from doing this can you build credible, authentic conversations.
2. Think about your content and why users would share it. This includes any action you want to encourage, be it a click or an interaction – what would motivate them to do so? Are you:
- Educating - tell me something I don’t know/that will make me feel smart
- Reinforcing – this is who I am and what I’m about
- Enhancing – this is who I aspire to be/this is who I’d like you to think I am
- Incentivising – give me something in return
3. Consider content as creating a series of attention grabbing ‘micro-messages’, whether that is text, photos, imagery or video. Regardless of what social media platform content is posted on, the way the user consumes it is still the same (ie: swiping through it in a newsfeed).
4. Think about how your content will look on a mobile handset/screen, plus consider whether users will really want to be taken away from the feed (clicking away to a web-based service). The motivation in doing so will be driven by my checklist in point 2.
5. Social media is not the answer. You need to do more. If it’s harder to engage at little to no cost what other mechanics should you be introducing to make your content fly? For example, harder working PR, blogger engagement, co-creation of content with influencers, SEO.
6. Forget about Facebook as a communications channel. It is an advertising platform first and foremost. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it; Facebook dominates when it comes to reach and user data, but it does mean that if you really want content to work, you’re going to have to pay for it.
7. Get to know how social advertising works, if you don’t know already. Whilst it's fine to leave it up to the media agency to do the hard work in trafficking and optimisation, you need to be part of that planning process in understanding how you are going to engage, particularly when you are doing so in such an open space.
8. Don’t ignore the trends that are emerging amongst teens. So they may not be your target audience but they are driving the future of how technology will be consumed. They are also having a huge impact on how the big social media players are structuring their offerings (ie: Facebook, What’s App and a whopping $19 billion deal, Snapchat’s introduction of Snapcash).
Follow Georgina on Twitter: @GeorgieC