Social media has evolved in the past decade immensely. What was once seen as a communications channel between friends is now comprised of multi-billion dollar platforms that have incredible influence on people's lives.
As we’ve seen the Facebook newsfeed go from a place consisting of college students innocently sharing their travels and adventures to almost fifteen years later where post IPO their advertising platform and media capabilities have transformed our global landscape, it’s important to think about where social media is heading and the trends that are defining this next generation of users.
Before looking towards the future, let’s take a moment to see what the social media landscape looks like currently. According to Pew Research:
- 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicated that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64 and to 37% among Americans 65 and older.
- Facebook and YouTube dominate the social media landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites.
- 35% of U.S. adults now say they use Instagram, an increase of seven percent from the 28% who said they did in 2016.
- Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users – and around six-in-ten Snapchat and Instagram users – visit each site daily
The data doesn’t lie; we’re all becoming addicted to our digital identities and social media usage. As the percentage of young people using social media rates the highest, it’s key to analyzing how they are using social media as that will define the future of content creation and consumption.
Video Is Front And Center
According to Adobe, 52% of marketing professionals name video as the content with the best ROI. That percentage will only increase as video becomes essential within every aspect of content and media.
As customers spend time watching video across all social media platforms whether that is an explainer video, product testimonials, behind-the-scenes content, or thought leadership interviews -- users are glued to videos to connect with brands and companies they have an affinity towards.
For companies, they can truly understand which channels optimize for their audience and create content off of those metrics. Additionally, the marketing team will need to figure out which channels those videos work best on.
The strategy that works best for teams is to create long-form content and then distribute it across the appropriate social media platforms.
Take GoPro, the company that manufactures cameras for action based lifestyles; they’ve mastered the art of branded and user-generated videos. Their YouTube channel has almost 6 million subscribers that include incredible global adventure videos in skiing, snowboarding, hiking and more all captured on their cameras. These videos can run in length from 1.5 minutes to thirty minutes alongside user-generated content, as GoPro has an emphasis on community
Aligning with their YouTube strategy, GoPro has a strong Instagram presence. With a focus on the consumer, they encourage posting user-generated Instagram Stories and tag @GoPro on accounts. Their comprehensive strategy posting quality content allows GoPro to be one of the leaders in the video content space.
As you can see it’s imperative to post content where it plays best. In doing so, companies can capitalize on this universal ‘pivot to video’ happening and create long-term relationships with their communities.
Ephemeral Content Storytelling
With 60% of Snapchat and Instagram users returning to the site each day, that’s an attractive statistic for the case for disappearing or ephemeral content storytelling.
This new form of storytelling has been embraced by users, influencers, and brands alike. With ephemeral content that only lasts 24 hours, this lends itself to a lot of testing and discoverability for brands to find what works for them. Consumer brands like Everlane and Away Luggage have done a fantastic job at creating consistent content on their channels to take their products around the world and showcasing them in a strategic and sophisticated way through ephemeral content storytelling.
Everlane hired millennial filmmakers to go to an ice cave in Canada to test out the new puffer jacket. The content influencers created Instagram Stories to share how they’re still warm despite being in frigid temperatures, and in doing so, were able to promote the product in a fun, compelling style that connects with consumers.
Companies that are looking to invest in ephemeral content storytelling can look at their competitors or other brands that are producing compelling content. Each industry has companies excelling in this form of storytelling.
They can learn best practices to engage their audience in making sure that customers are viewing the entire story and interacting with the content. This can include chatting with customers in the direct message/chat features of the platforms. These chats can help bring about stronger relationships through humanizing the brand and making customers want to purchase or advocate for the brand because of their ability to make customers feel that they’re part of their community.
Additionally, the form of storytelling with these platforms differs from traditional social media. The content is less curated, and some integrations make the content more engaging including Snapchat face lenses, Instagram GIFs integrations, the ability to draw and write on the material, and much more.
Stories are overtaking regular grid activity on Instagram and platforms like LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Skype and others are integrating stories into their suite, marketers will need to learn how to execute on ephemeral content.
Influencer Marketing Is Going Strong
By 2020 influencer marketing is on target to become a 10 billion dollar industry. The rise in influencers across all social networks, but especially YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat highlight how the millennial and Gen Z generations are embracing influencers wholeheartedly.
There are influencers in every industry that use social media storytelling to create communities. Because of this, brands can work with influencers to expand reach and bring about greater engagement.
Influencers are incredibly skilled in content creation and understand the platforms thoroughly; making it easier for brands to let go of the reins so that influencers can produce content for any of the brands' goals and intent.
In addition, influencers have been known to develop unboxing videos on YouTube where they show off the new product, fashion and beauty hauls where influencers try on or test new products in long-form vlogs, posting lifestyle photos on their Instagram Grid highlighting the product, and Instagram or Snapchat Stories to share a uniquely immersive experience.
With the multitude of content ideas, building relationships with influencers is vital for the future of your business and your community -- as influencer marketing is here to stay.
Content drives our daily consumption and purchasing decisions. For marketers to succeed, they will need to understand the social media climate and trends.
By knowing that video is becoming how people are digesting content to ephemeral content storytelling being the force towards more user growth on Snapchat and Instagram, and influencer marketing becoming a necessary tool for brands to engage communities and create valuable content, you’ll be able to produce and execute upon a comprehensive and valuable marketing strategy.
Kate Talbot is a freelance content marketer, author and entrepreneur, with a focus on helping brands to engage millennials. Based in San Francisco, she writes a monthly column in Forbes, and is the author of the bestselling book 'Oh Snap! You Can Use Snapchat for Business', which IBM named as their Book of the Month. She has been featured on NBC News, CNBC, Huffington Post, Newsday, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and named an Instagram Marketing Expert from Foundr Magazine and Social Media Examiner.