Social media. It seems like yesterday it was just a fad, something naysayers insisted would never catch on. Now, look at it — all grown up, attracting more users than ever and worth billions of dollars. In 2013, social media evolved faster and further, turning itself into a viable platform that influences what we do and how we share.
Organic Down, Paid Up
Social advertising once seemed so surreal — to buy a following had been considered in poor taste from the beginning. But in 2013, social advertising began to pay off.
First, social media, while a free platform, needs to make money, especially considering that more and more of these companies are going public. Secondly, brands that were brave enough to jump on the social media bandwagon a few years ago have had the luxury of building an audience organically. It took time and a lot of experimenting. For brands just joining social media, growing an audience from scratch is much more challenging.
A Socialbakers report showed average post organic reach during August 10 through November 2 based on 41,051 posts made by 274 sample pages during this period.
Sites like Facebook have decided it's time to make brands pay to get the attention of their fans, while also revising the algorithm so it's harder to get into users' feeds for free. Twitter's advertising is also starting to pick up (if email volume is any indication), offering a variety of new filters and best practices. Even Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are experimenting with paid advertising. They start first with sponsored posts, and then it's only a matter of time before everything from photos to pins to blog posts can be promoted with the click of a button.
Will paid advertising have a home in social media? As long as one's social media presence continues to influence the masses, we can only imagine.
Photo Sharing is Where It's App
Thanks to Pinterest, SnapChat and Instagram, if you're not sharing photos of your food, taking selfles or photos of your pets, you're missing out. 2013 was the year the word 'selfie' -- the act of taking a photo of yourself with your phone -- was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and declared 'word of the year." Each day, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook, while more than 45 million photos are taken using Instagram every day. This year when a new Pope was selected, St. Peter's Square looked dramatically different than when the last Pope was chosen in 2005.
Thanks to the photo sharing mobile app, the world is more accessible than ever before. Which means it everything is much more public than ever before. As a result, apps like SnapChat are extremely popular. It's also why Instagram and Twitter have begun to experiment with private photo sharing. The idea that not every photo needs to be public is one that is new to social media. If it proves successful, it could revolutionize social media photo sharing.
Acquisitions and Denial
It's hard to believe that 2013 was the same year Yahoo bought Tumblr for over $1 billion dollars and SnapChat's founder turned down $4 Billion offer from Google. Of course, once Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, the acquisition of well-known social media networks became common. In 2013 Twitter also bought it's fair share of companies, including Spindle, MoPub and Trendrr, but for much less money and fanfare.
What do social media companies get when they acquire other social networks? One, they get access to their audiences and all the data that's been collected. Two, they get a platform upon which to experiment in ways they can't on their own sites. And finally, it's an opportunity to show they're still relevant.
When Yahoo bought Tumblr, Marissa Mayer promised not to ruin it, which spoke to both the popularity of the niche site and the track record of Yahoo. So far, Yahoo hasn't tampered with the Tumblr template too much, though the company hopes new social advertising options can help it generate revenue. But having Tumblr hasn't boosted Yahoo's profile all that much either, so it's unclear if it was money well spent.
As for SnapChat, it's been praised for not selling out and staying true to its ephemeral roots. Yet last I checked the invisible ink market went bust. Which isn't to say social media is all about the money. SnapChat has an opportunity to reinvent social sharing and privacy.
Social Media as Customer Service
In 2013, we discussed the value of customer service on social media. Frankly, whether or not it belongs there is beside the point, considering that's where 47 percent of social media users now engaging with companies this way. Since the customer experience has evolved across digital media, the average brand has many more touch points from which to engage with the customer. More touch points mean more opportunities for customers to ask questions, inquire about issues and yes, complain. As a result, companies are scrambling to keep up and respond accordingly.
By bringing customer service into the social sphere also means the internal communications and knowledge sharing is an even bigger priority. Customer service teams need to be connected with community and social media managers so answers can be provided in a helpful and timely manner, while relevant customer information can be managed in customer databases to be used to create marketing messaging.
More brands than ever are using social media, mostly because that's where their customers are. As a result, companies are slowly learning that customer service and social media go hand-in-hand.