With 2020 we stepped into a new decade and also a new era of Social Media is awaiting us.
When thinking of the future of Social Media, most people imagine holograms popping up from a phone screen or maybe even the transmission of smells via text messages.
While these predictions are fun to contemplate, they are only that: Predictions.
Much more important, however, is the approach to Social Media Marketing that will be necessary to further reach and satisfy prospects on Social Media.
Social Media at present
Social Media started as an attempt to connect people with each other – even if they can’t be with each other.
As can be seen in the graph above, users that generally refer to themselves as “sad” spend significantly more time on Social Media apps than those that consider themselves as “happy”.
In reverse, it is easy to deduce that spending more time on Social Media does harm to general happiness.
This, in turn, can be traced back to the following reasons:
(Wrong) Advertising in floods
Social Networks were originally invented to connect you with other people no matter where you are and to stay in touch with friends.
But with the rise of social media platforms also companies followed by the platform itself started to notice the power of it and this lead to companies using ads to gain traction and more sales.
While Social Networks know they need to be user-centric to keep their audience and influence, they also need to allow advertising to be able to provide that service for the user.
As a result, we now have a Social Media landscape that not only includes advertising but unfortunately also is home to a lot of dishonest or straight-up bad ads.
These, in turn, led to platform users not feeling comfortable anymore and rather craving a more personal, social experience again.
What was once intended to connect with individual people, is now a tool to spread messages to the masses.
When writing the copy for a new Social Media post, the writer often has all the crowds of people in mind that will read through this post once its published. This has one major problem:
Today, people on Social Media are not talking to people directly. They are talking to an audience when sharing a post.
However, the occasions when we sit in front of a screen and read a post as a group are quite rare.
Company > Human?
Opening up Instagram, Facebook or any other Social Network, it is quite likely that the first few posts you see do not come from an individual person. They come from brands, companies and organizations.
Of course, that is not wrong in the least. The real problem here is the approach: Often, the human-to-human aspect is lost, as a company as such is not a single human.
More so, it feels like an organization taking over.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, a lot of platforms experienced a significant downfall in their original authenticity.
Social Media makes it incredibly easy to compare yourself to others. However, as most people like to share the best snippets of their day, omitting bad experiences.
While it is fun, it is also far from being realistic and also makes it easy to feel discontent when ones is on the bumpy side at the moment.
Social Media in the Future
In the previous paragraphs, we have settled 3 crucial points:
- Social Media, as it is as the present, is burning people out
- Paid content is on its way to out rule organic content
- One-on-One conversations between humans are scarce goods
Over the past years, we have created a Social Media environment that’s not as social anymore as it was once meant to be because of the misunderstanding of companies and people on how to use networks.
Much rather, it is like a big theatre where one tries to get their message across while being drowned in the noise of the masses screaming for attention.
Now, we are slowly starting to backpedal.
A lot of people have realized that what is missing in the Social Media landscape of today is a sense of real interaction and a feeling of belonging somewhere.
We crave talking to real people and peer groups – not polished brands we aren’t emotionally attached to.
This leads us to the only valid approach to Social Media for the future:
After years, and even decades if you consider offline communication as well, of being bombarded with unsegmented mass-communication messages, people will start to focus on the word “social” in Social Media again.
As a counter-development to mass-communication, Social Media will move to be all about building personalized connections, real relationships, and bridges from one human to another.
Instead of building big, undifferentiated communities, a much more personal approach will be necessary to build a sustainable presence in the Social Media world of the future.
So if you are still checking indicators like reach or follower count, then you are looking in the wrong direction.
Once more the quality of your followers and Return On Investment (ROI) is much more important, than the number of likes or followers you have gained, no matter if you are an established global brand or a rising star.
The Future of Social Media Platforms
The lifecycle of any social network
Quite similar to the infamous product life cycle, historical data from the last decades of Social Media have shown that there is even a Social Media Life Cycle!
Instead of popping up and being all the rage virtually overnight, a new Social Media platform usually goes through different phases from infancy to death.
We created this chart to help you understand this phenomenon:
These are the 5 stages most Social Media platform (will) go through:
- Introduction: The platform is introduced to the users and they slowly start to register its existence. Users invite other friends and use it as a communication tool.
- Growth: The platform now begins to accelerate, adding new features. registration numbers increase, but they do not compare to the amount of added features. Early adopters gain influence on the platform and companies start to notice it’s potential (without fully knowing how to use it yet).
- Hype: The Growth-Speed has really taken up by now. At this stage, there is such a buzz around the network, that more businesses and marketers take note. The network is used for commercial purposes.
- Maturity: The network is on top of its game. However, this also means that there is almost no room left. Growth-Speed starts to decline, some people already stop using the service or start leaving the platform.
- Decline: More people are leaving the network rather than joining it. A popular example would be MySpace.
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Early Maturity Stage
Instagram defines its mission as follows:
“We’re building Instagram to allow you to experience moments through pictures as they happen. Through creating an app to capture important moments, Instagram allows users to share these with each other and to be part of these moments all across the globe.”
To put it in a nutshell, Instagram wants to connect big amounts of people – well-known or not – across the globe.
As we are shifting away from a mass-approach in messaging, Instagram – being the definition of a mass-communication platform – is likely to experience a downfall in the years to come, unless they reconsider their strategy.
This development also mirrors in Instagram’s Engagement Rates:
(SocialInsider Data, 2019)
Although Instagrams User Count is still increasing, the Average Engagement Rate per Post has been in a significant decline since Winter 2018!
Incidentally, this is exactly the period of time when Ads increasingly started to be shown in the Instagram Feed, Stories and Explore.
To put this into perspective, look at this statistic about the expected revenue of Instagram Ads and how it started to grow in quarter 3 of 2018:
Here’s why this is so important: The Average Engagement Rates on Instagram start to decrease at exactly the time when Ad Sales – and, in turn, Ad Placements – start to pick up.
This means that growth in paid content over organic content seems to drive users away from a platform, showing that organic content, thus real connections with real people, is getting more and more important.
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Maturity
When thinking of Social Media, Facebook is impossible to deny its importance.
Since its launch in February 2004, Facebook has been the definition of a Social Media platform, racking up more users by the minute.
However, what was once the ladder to the sky, nowadays is flatter than ever before.
Facebooks audience is aging with the platform, resulting in ever more elderly people sitting on Facebook using it for private connections again.
In 2019, demographics have already shown the development towards an older audience:
The key question is: Are these users actually engaging with posts?
After 16 years at the top of the game, Facebook has been facing declining engagement rates while also failing to pull in younger generations.
Features such as integrated Call-To-Action-Buttons, Post Scheduling, and the powerful Insights Tool have taken from Facebook’s native character, making it seem more of a sales platform rather than a Social Medium.
This led to a turnaround.
Now, people refrain from engaging with brands as their sales-y character is generally perceived as a disturbing factor.
As a result, Facebook has changed its mission from “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.“ to “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” and is bringing one-on-one communication into focus and their Facebooks groups as prioritizing small (local) communities over mass-communication.
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Hype
Starting out as a video sharing platform transformed into a video universe: YouTube added several apps and services targeted to specific audiences and even offers to rent or buy movies online.
All while granting the ultimate future-oriented mobile-first experience.
In fact, video as a medium has a bright future ahead of itself: By the end of 2020, about 80% of the content we consume online will be moving images! (Five Minute Marketing, 2019)
YouTube has given independent creators the possibility to do their own thing and create videos to their liking.
As a result, an abundance of high-quality content is shared at all times about any topic that you can think of.
People respond to this by gradually switching from cable TV to watching YouTube videos at any given time.
Combined with the fact that YouTube is the world’s second biggest Search Engine worldwide, it bears a huge potential for virtually any company.
Therefore, YouTube has already laid down the tracks for an even more successful future.
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Growth – on the edge to Hype
Undoubtedly, LinkedIn has been very future-oriented in the past, launching feature after feature.
But what might the future of LinkedIn look like from the strategic side? Let’s have a look!
Business Strategist Ken Gosnell views the future of this global platform on a smaller scale: A presumedly prevailing feature “LinkedIn Local” will make it easier to find people in one’s surroundings to make actual human-to-human connections with. (Forbes, 2019)
This development fits ideally into the general direction of humanization we’re currently heading at.
Not only will it grant more trust and credibility when actually meeting future partners in person, but also help to create a stronger sense of community.
Here’s what our CEO Bettina thinks: “LinkedIn has done many things right over the past few years and has continued to evolve strategically within its niche without neglecting two key aspects – global networking and building 1:1 relationships.
On the one hand, the world is moving closer together, which opens up new business opportunities, on the other hand, mass communication is minimized by various restrictions and the direct exchange through private messages to first or second-degree contacts.
I personally think that many entrepreneurs from Facebook will move over to LinkedIn or want to jump on the current hype. It is now up to LinkedIn to prevent this epidemic of loud marketing and only if the platform plus our marketing and sales strategies do not turn the advantages of this network into disadvantages will we be able to benefit from this platform longer. ”
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Growth
Pinterest is the perfect platform for consuming and knowledge-thirsty community.
With a steadily increasing growth of monthly Active Users and an ever-succeeding concept of inspiration-seeking, Pinterest’s future is wide open to be discussed.
CEO Bettina says: “Pinterest is the ideal search engine for everyone, especially women who like to shop, decorate, dress and tinker. So-called boards can be created and shared, which makes it less of a social network than an ideal gathering point for information in the form of products or “how-to” contributions.
I think the number of users will increase as long as people feel a need for “more”. It is therefore an ideal source of traffic for websites, but less so to interact with people. ”
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Maturity
A long time ago, XING was all the rage. Then, XINGs small brother LinkedIn started to take a run-up and is now even more successful when taking engagement rates into account.
XING tried its best to stay relevant, but when two platforms with an extremely similar concept start to compete, there can only be one winner: LinkedIn.
Naturally, XING has now taken a shift and is pushing other strengths with its subsidiary company kununu focusing on employer branding among other things.
While this might be useful for niche marketing, it’s still written in the stars if it will stay considered as a social network or if the shift will be bigger.
Social Media Life Cycle Stage: Growth
TikTok bears huge marketing potential for businesses of all kinds. In fact, it has over 500 million monthly users around the world. That makes it one of the 10 most popular social networks. (Datareportal, 2019)
However, TikTok is still growing. Monthly downloads have already exceeded those of its competitors, as can be seen in the graph down below.
Although growing, TikTok still has the character of a vastly untouched platform. To this day, it is mainly used by private people, influencers and a couple of celebrities only.
This might also be due to its new approach that companies don’t know how to strategically use yet and only early adapting agencies started to test.
Further advertising is not rolled out in every country yet and advertising costs are higher than on other platforms starting from a daily budget of minimum $20 at the ad group level or $50 at the campaign level.
Don’t get fooled by that number, at this point, most successful campaigns are only for the big players on the market, having a budget of 6-figures for campaigning.
CEO Bettina says: “At the moment we see big potential with influencer campaigns in the B2C area, this and sponsored hashtag challenges currently seem to bring the greatest value for users. Hardly surprising, the platform focuses on creativity, direct communication and entertainment. I don’t see TikTok as a future platform for B2B and building authority in business organically (yet). ”
How to master the Social Media of the Future
In order to summarize all the points mentioned so far, the most important one to memorize is this:
In the future, Human-to-Human connections on Social Media will be inevitable.
This means, that we need to find a way that will build real relationships with people and focus more on the individual.
Here is how we can achieve this!
Personalization is key!
Marketing is not only a creative skill anymore. It has become a numbers game too!
The mission in 2020 is to collect the correct data that is accessible to us and even more so to learn from it and turn it into information we can use to make better decisions and also to give the user what they want and need individually.
Focus on segmentation rather than a one-for-all message.
Take a step back and think about how you established most of your friendships.
Quite likely, it was through talking to that person themselves, rather than shouting into a noisy room and hoping somebody will react.
Now, this is exactly what will be the go-to strategy in the future: Talking to audiences, sometimes as small as only one person, so as to really get a connection going.
Chatbots are an easy solution to establish 1-on-1 conversations, which can be leveraged on by a human in a later stage.
For example, a Chatbot could be used to welcome new users on a page and assist them with finding the information they are looking for.
In the next step, the conversation can be taken over by an actual human by sending individualized messages and build a real connection.
Chatbots can be fully personalized, so don’t worry about them feeling robot-y.
Small Scale (Facebook) Groups
Yes, Facebook is a global platform.
But that doesn’t mean, that you have to abide by that.
In the future, as the focus is shifting towards smaller, but in turn even stronger communities, Facebook can still be used to establish exactly these.
The solution is to stop looking to grow your Facebook Group to thousands of members and go small.
Instead of having a certain number of Group members as the goal of your Social Media strategy, rather opt for the intensity of connection you want members to feel.
- The “I joined this Group once and have never been back”-Type
- The “I’m here to watch-Type
- The “I love this Group and its Content – occasionally”-Type
- Or the “I am obsessed and I love to engage with my peer group”-Type
Surely, you would have picked Type 4. However, for most of the Group members of huge Facebook Groups, Type 1 or 2 apply.
Our advice: Be picky when it comes to Group members and ask questions before they join!
Pro tip: Ideally, you can use this request formula to ask your potential clients for their email address and offer them value as a legal form of bribing.
By already checking each requesting member and asking yourself “Is this person really interested in the content I share or are they just a low blow?” you can make sure that people that care about what you share will actually see your content – these are your real prospects.
Time and time again it has been proven that the Social Media landscape is, much like natural tectonic platters, in constant movement.
A strategy that worked yesterday might break your business today.
A new Social Media platform might emerge without warning.
However, what is clear, is that a strategy paying attention to building real, sustainable human-to-human connections which also shows that you truly care about your community will always be a winner!
Which networking are you actively using for business and which for personal use?
Where do you see Instagram, Facebook and their numerous brothers and sisters in the future?
Let us know in the comments!
When networking wizard Bettina is not working on the next big idea, then she is focusing on how to constantly improve workflows, and systemizing the “stuff that is not so much fun but needs to be done”. She believes in giving and that being kind gets you a long way.
You might spot her as a keynote speaker, a guest lecturer at universities, or a mentor at StartupLive or Greenstart by Climate and Energy Fonds Austria.
Bettina describes herself as a foodie, travel addict, and her team sees her as a true leader, who always encourages everyone she is working with.