Brands are supplementing their content marketing efforts with social media, causing social media to emerge as a publishing platform.
Question is, can social media replace the existing publishing networks.
Content publishing platforms
Publishing platforms are of two categories – digital and nondigital. A digital publishing platform can be a website, an app, a hosting network or a social channel. Non-digital platforms are print media and news channels.
Websites and social media
Websites are not at loggerheads with social media. Brands are clever enough to leverage social media to bring traffic to their sites. This dependency is one-sided. Websites have nothing to add to the popularity of social networks.
Why are brands not dumping websites and turning to their social media brand pages then?
Because they cannot build landing pages on social media or checkout pages to integrate payment gateways. They need websites for that. Besides, publishing content on websites comes with fulfilling payoffs. Google and other search engines adore sites with insightful and informative content.
Apps and social media
Unlike websites, apps don’t need social media. I know app developers use social media for promotion and third-party developers use social APIs, but apps don’t need social media for traffic.
App marketing is different. The top 25-50 apps get 80-90% traffic. Aside from that, users don’t search and find apps, they click directly on the app icon. Some apps have functionality that is hard for social media to emulate.
Gaming and GPS apps fall into this category. Gaming apps require HTML5 for UX development, Java for programming and 2D and 3D animation software for character development.
GPS apps are based on global positioning mapping software, which conventional social networks don’t need. Social networking apps bridge the gulf between the two. Foursquare and Player.me are social networking apps, with capabilities of both.
What we see here is app content can be different from social content. Social media cannot replace apps, but can form a nexus with them.
Television, newspapers, and magazines make up the non-digital realm. And yes, social media can replace them. Information go viral on social media. News agencies know that and use social networks for collecting information.
Some even claim that news outlets reinvent themselves through social media. News aggregating social platforms eliminate the need to buy a newspaper.
Television may be an independent platform, but social media affects TV viewing. See the infographic below:
Researchers have noticed broadcast level correlation between social shares and comments, and television content. See the next infographic:
Netflix-esque social networks are reducing the gap between social and TV. They can eventually replace television. I know what you are thinking. Netflix is an online streaming platform, not a social network, right?
Well, Netflix may not be a social network in the true sense, but it is winning social media. Similar networks may spring up in the future, with social networking capabilities. Those networks will be like Beamly (erstwhile Zeebox), the social TV app.
Migration from television to social offers brand benefits too. For example, top brands can cut down on their TV ad budget and invest in social media instead.
Multi-screen publishing bottlenecks
We live in a multi-screen world and select a device driven by the context. The infographic below sums it up:
The device-specific approach is at the core of multi-screen marketing. Challenges arise from this approach, which normal websites face but social media doesn’t.
Here are the challenges
Mobile CMS: Almost all the top CMSs offer plugins to add custom mobile experience (WordPress has WPtouch and Drupal has Themekey. JoomlaShine is Joomla mobile plugin). But because these CMSs are open source, bugs disrupt the user-experience.
Responsive design: If one dumps CMSs and builds a website from scratch, he needs to make it responsive, or else, it wouldn’t load on all devices. Responsive design could slow the site down.
Adaptive design: Alongside responsive design, he also needs to make the site adaptive, so that the web server makes the layout decisions. This could increase the site development life-cycle and add to his expenses.
Social networks are not built on CMSs and come as separate apps for the handheld platform. Hence, social media doesn’t face multi-screen challenges.
Of course, e-commerce stores cannot move to social media as 67% people sequentially use multiple devices for online shopping, but content-based sites can exhaust social channels to survive the multi-screen blitzkrieg.
Here’s a simple example:
Your site will load slowly if you add too many images to it. But no matter how many images you add to your virtual pinboard, the loading time will remain the same. And no matter which device you use to log on to Pinterest, the display won’t change.
Hence, it makes more sense to use Pinterest for visual branding than a website.
Ad publishing platform
Ads are featured on the same platforms where organic content is published.
Social media, as ad publishing platform, can replace websites and apps. Here’s how:
Static banner ads are dead. Brands now rely on paid search, rich media ads, and in-network promotional formats. Social media accommodates all these ad types way better than any other platform does.
#Rich media ads: Webpage ads with streaming video and downloadable applets can make normal websites extremely slow. But social sites have a lot of space for them.
#paid search: Facebook has its own PPC ad system, which has some similarities with Adwords. There are various ways to integrate paid search with social media.
#In-network promotion: Pinterest features Buyable Pins, allowing logged in users to purchase directly from the site. LinkedIn self-service ads help B2Bs move up the ladder.
When you run an ad campaign on social media, you have filters for custom targeting. The analytics figures can be supplied by the social channel you are using. If you use a marketing automation solution, you can have access to plenty of demographic details. You can also tailor your message to create a meaningful connection.
It follows from the discussion above that social media is far better than other platforms, when it comes to publishing paid content. And it is eclipsing the non-digital publishing networks.
Social media is slightly ahead of content-based websites and apps in the multi-screen environment. However, if apps and websites extend their functionality, then the playing field would be leveled.