Social media revolutionized life as we knew it. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter magnified the celebrity spotlight, gave rise to new influencers, encouraged the flow of information, and became the go-to marketing and customer engagement tool for brands the world over.
The only problem is, some studies and digital marketing thought leaders are finding that social media is losing its mojo. To delve deeper into this issue we got in touch with a range of marketers to gauge their views on the health of social media marketing going into 2020.
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Diagnosing Social Media
First, let’s look at some numbers. Buffer’s study of 43 million Facebook posts found that Facebook engagement between 2017 and 2018 dropped dramatically, with the average engagement per image dropping from 9,370 per post in Q1 2017 to just 3,454 per post in Q2 2018, while the average engagement per video fell from 5,486 to 2,867.
Twitter has its own problems, the sheer number of tweets published daily (500 million per day, in case you were wondering), essentially makes it a noise machine, which impacts engagement and clicks. On an episode of his podcast, “Marketing School,” Neil Patel also declared Twitter “dead,” sharing that roughly only 2% of his 233,000 followers turn into website traffic each month.
Social media is a broad term, and there are a myriad of factors contributing to falling engagement and click-through rates. Some marketers however, point the finger to the culture of social media, rather than the algorithmic changes we see creep in from time to time. “I don't think social media marketing is dying, but I do feel it is evolving. First, it's becoming more democratized. Everyone is doing it. [However], that same ubiquity is the reason why [social media] is having its effectiveness minimized. It's everywhere!” explained Richard Williamson, VP of marketing at HealthLynked.
“The problem with much of the social media traffic is that it's too often political commentary, vicious personal attacks, or shameless (or shameful, depending on your point of view) self-promotion. All that makes it hard to pull meaningful messaging out of the background chatter,” Williamson said.
Others, such as Leah Tombling, social media executive at Colewood Internet, lament the issues surrounding privacy and the impact this has had on end user trust in social media. “Privacy. If anything has changed in the last 3 years, it always involves that word. [We’ve all] heard of Cambridge Analytica, where data was [illegally collected and] used for various political advertising purposes. Facebook suffered [as a result of the scandal]. Their stock price fell dramatically. It has since recovered, but it hasn’t reached the same heights as it was before the scandal hit,” Tombling said.
"Too many people on too many soapboxes have made social media too noisy.” - Richard Williamson
Evolution, Not Extinction
The majority of marketers we spoke with had a positive outlook towards social media marketing. "I don't believe that social media marketing is dying — I do believe it is maturing and changing from what it used to be five years ago,” said Drew Beechler, director of marketing at High Alpha. However, Beechler conceded that the "hype around social media has died off and has made it harder for marketers to use social media in a creative and strategic way to drive results.”
“I think that the new opportunities in social media marketing revolve more around utilizing your own internal employees and their personal brands to help amplify and promote marketing messaging and campaigns. In B2B marketing, LinkedIn has been an incredible channel to build internal thought leaders and utilize in this way. I've seen posts from individuals see up to 10x as many impressions as the same content posted from a company account on LinkedIn,” Beechler continued.
Ciara Hautau, lead digital marketing strategist at Fueled, concurred. “I do not believe that social media marketing is dying. Actually, I think we've only scratched the surface and social media marketing is going to expand even further over time,” Hautau said. “Where Google ads, for example, limits you to search queries, social media allows you to advertise via the demographics of your audience (think: commuter, interests, job title, related profiles that you follow, etc.), which allows you to show your ads to the audience that will most likely convert.”
Hautau went on to detail a three-step plan that marketers can follow to side-step the woes of social media marketing:
- Customize, customize, customize: “Have a brainstorm of every single type of audience you could think of that would be interested in your product or service. Define their personalities and then identify these as different audiences. Using these audiences get creative and personal with your ads. Be sure you're customizing the ad to fit these audiences needs and truly demonstrate the value of your company.”
- Show don't tell: “We're always shortening our attention spans. You have to grab your audience visually, and you have to do it quick. I recommend using videos when able to demonstrate the value of your product. Instead of telling your audience why this product or service is so great, show it. Let your audience see in real time what your company can do for them and help them to visualize the impact it can make.”
- Run experiments: “Run experiments and then scale up! There are hundreds of routes you can take when customizing campaigns and targeting audiences. Don't throw all your budget away, but rather set a smaller budget upfront, test your idea, reiterate based on the results, and then scale the budget up once you find your campaign catching success.”
Finally, Williamson added that, “in 2020, I think social media marketers will have to trend away from jumping on every hashtag bandwagon and work to make content more meaningful to individuals. We need to think of social media as a dialogue with one person rather than a shout out to a crowd. Too many people on too many soapboxes have made social media too noisy.”