Marketing is the science of influencing buying decisions by convincing your customers that they need what you are selling – no matter if it’s a product or a service. In this day and age, marketing is at the heart of the economy – after all, there are simply far too many products and services for the potential customers to know of them all. But it’s equally important for marketers to reach potential customers through the channels they use – in short, to be where the customers are. And this is where change is the only constant, especially with your social media audience.
The Big No-Brainer: Social Media Marketing
“Social media” is probably the first answer that pops to mind when confronted with the question of where your customers are. But social media is like an onion (or an ogre): it has many layers that you have to peel before reaching the coveted sales. A few years ago, it was enough for a company to be on Facebook to reach its customers. Today, Facebook is only effective to reach a certain demographic – businesses need to be on the other popular networks, too, if they want to maximize their outreach, and they need to use people with a large and loyal following – influencers – to get their message through. But the marketing trends are continuously changing, so marketers need to continuously adapt.
The Beginning of the End of Facebook?
Facebook was, for years (and still is, when it comes to the sheer number of its users) the single largest social network. It is, by no means, the only social network at which marketers focus (or should focus) their efforts. Younger generations of your social media audience aren’t as excited about Facebook as their parents are – even if they use it, they only use a handful of its functions (like Messenger, for example, and mostly to keep in touch with their parents). Many of them prefer the Facebook-owned Instagram, the social network that started out as a photo sharing service and has grown into so much more, others prefer networks like Snapchat, with similar basic functions but a different feature set (and this time not owned by the jolly blue giant). Facebook has also been in the middle of several major scandals lately, which also keeps many users away from it. Some went even as far as predicting the downfall of Facebook as their result – these prophecies of doom have not come true thus far but they may, sooner or later. Because, in the world of the internet, nothing is too big to fail.
Will Facebook’s Competitors Rise to the Occassion?
The question remains: where will your social media audience migrate if the unimaginable happens, and the great blue whale of social media decides to scuttle the ship and go down? Well, there is no shortage of contenders, even if none of them is big enough to even try to compete with Facebook. Twitter does have a massive user base but lacks many features that made Facebook the social network of choice for many of its users. YouTube has many social features and a big mass of users but it’s not the champion of two-way communication between users and brands/content creators. Reddit is, from a lot of points of view, just like a massive collection of Facebook groups with users gathered around a common interest but it’s way too liberal to appeal to the average Facebook user but “sanitizing” it for their needs would likely make it unappealing for its millions of current users. And the many contenders we’ve seen are simply too much like the original to count as a viable alternative. And the one tech giant that is big enough to compete with the financial power of Facebook has proven that it’s not good enough when it comes to social networks. It’s Google, of course, and its repeated (failed) attempts to create a viable alternative to the Big Blue in the past (the latest, known to some as Google+, is set to close down on April 1st this year, and no, it’s not an April Fools prank).
One of the factors to take into account in the coming years is the continuous spread of a relatively old type of device that many will start to use in more meaningful ways: smart speakers. For years, Amazon’s Echo (and Echo Dot) have been among the best-selling products on Prime Day, showing the users’ fascination with Alexa, the company’s standalone digital assistant. And the Echo is not the only smart speaker out there – today, one in every six American has a voice-activated speaker (this January, the number of active smart speakers exceeded 39 million in the US alone), no matter if it’s an Echo, a Smart Hub or any other. And, according to an estimate, they will invade the vast majority (about 75%) of American homes in the coming years. These voice-activated devices do web searches and recommend products, just like a usual search engine would. But their users don’t search on them the way they would use a keyboard – instead of enumerating keywords, they speak naturally (it’s “pizza deliver Boston” versus “Hey Alexa, where can I buy a pepperoni pizza near me?”). This will add another layer of optimization that will need to be applied to websites, place more emphasis on local searches, and favor those who use natural language as opposed to a smart placement of keywords.
While the days of the radio are gone, the rise of audio content (that will be embraced by more and more publishers) audio-only ads will return, too. There are already hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people around the world listening to podcasts – including Maximize Your Social – and using various online audio streaming services to get their daily dose of music – or wisdom. Today’s podcasts are no longer just random guys discussing various topics like they were at a time – today, everyone from famous authors to recognized specialists in their areas has joined the podcasting world, sharing their thoughts and experiences with the world. Their audiences consist of listeners truly interested in what they have to say (after all, why would you listen to a podcast about cybersecurity, for example, if you’re not at least partially concerned about staying safe online) and they represent a receptive audience for promoting products and services related to their niche. In other words, those listening to a cybersecurity podcast are more likely to at least consider buying an internet security suite presented by their trusted host.
Video (and Livestream) Marketing to Your Social Media Audience
At the same time, video will continue to shift from TV to the internet. A recent study predicted that by 2019, the internet will overtake the TV as the users’ primary channel of consuming video content, meaning that the advertising budgets spent on TV advertising will gradually decrease – and those meant for online video ads will grow, in the spirit of being where your customers are. And much of the video content consumed online – especially on mobile – will be live, more than ever before. Live streams are pretty convincing, too – a report published a few years back showed that those seeing a live stream of a band are more likely to purchase a ticket for their live (not streaming) concert when they get the occasion.
At the same time, the sheer quantity of the online-first (and, perhaps, online-only) content will also rise, especially due to the emergence of brand new actors on the online video streaming market. This year, we will see several traditional content delivery channels try to grab a slice of the pie currently dominated by Netflix: Disney, Apple, Warner, NBC, Viacom, and Discovery are reportedly planning to launch similar services in 2019. While most of these will adopt a business model similar to the already existing service providers – a subscription-based model – there will be quite a few attempts to approach the issue from a different angle: ad-supported streaming, that is. Aside from a handful of others already available, like Pluto TV and the Roku Channel, big names like Amazon and YouTube are also planning to roll out similar services. This way, advertisers will be able to reach their “price-sensitive” customers, especially in an increasingly fragmented market with great content but involving several subscriptions or some really painful decisions to be made.
Conclusion: Remembering to Be Where Your Audience Is Despite Changes in Social Media Audience
Being where your customer is might not be very easy in this day and age of transition, but it’s more important than ever. The extra effort of building a presence both online and offline, appealing to all demographics, is vital for a product or service to grow. The age of generic advertisements is gone. An advertising budget well-spent today means that it reaches the highest possible number of interested potential customers and converts the most of them from “potential” to “paying” ones. In an age when the number of channels with a measurable audience is growing continuously, it may seem easy to be where your customers are. Yet “where your customers are” is different depending on your niche, on the territory where you are active, and most importantly depending on the age group that you want to target. Mastering this aspect is the trick that means the difference between success and failure today as your social media audience continues to slowly migrate away from Facebook.
This is a post written by me on behalf of one of our many marketing partners. All opinions are 100% mine.