When Facebook was launched, it introduced the world to the concept of social networking. At last, people had a way to keep in touch with college buddies and distant friends, largely via status updates that featured photos. Flash forward 10 years, and Facebook isn’t like that anymore. Today, it is the world’s most popular news and entertainment curator. In fact, in 2015, the Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media reported that nearly two-thirds of Facebook users cited the social networking site as the primary place they get their news.
Facebook is hardly alone. The legions of social networking sites that have appeared in Facebook’s wake have followed suit, clarifying and redefining their purpose until some platforms now say they’re not social networking sites at all. For the small business owner, it’s vital to understand both the nature of this shift, and how it impacts your digital marketing strategy.
Understanding how customers use various social sites is key
It is the way that users engage with a social platform that ultimately defines that sites’ purpose. For example, despite Twitter’s efforts to position itself as a social network, users have found it most valuable for sharing breaking news and links to headlines. Twitter acknowledged this by moving to the News section of the App store in April. Similarly, Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann characterizes his site as a planning tool, noting people pin images for their own reference or enjoyment rather than in an effort to connect with others.
People go to Facebook to be entertained, informed, or, increasingly, to shop, while those personal networking-oriented conversations are taking place in more private venues, such as Snapchat or WhatsApp. The multiplicity of sites means users can accomplish the same goal—say, discovering new products—through a variety of avenues, each with its own distinct appeal. The same engagement ring that shows up in a YouTube video that tugs at the heartstrings can show up in a beautiful artistic Instagram photo or a funny Tumblr gif.
Social sites have their own agenda
The longer a user stays engaged with a social media site, the easier it becomes for that site to make money via advertising sales. Facebook’s recent launch of Instant Articles, as well as Live, which enables real time video broadcasting, are both efforts to keep users on Facebook, rather than clicking through to a website or leveraging a separate platform. Almost every major social media site now uses a content algorithm, which prioritizes which posts are seen first in a users’ feed; promoted and sponsored posts enjoy exponentially greater reach than regular posts.
Customized content is vital
Small business owners need to know how their customers use a social media site and what type of content performs best on that platform. The days of creating a single piece of content and simply sharing it across all sites are over; each platform requires its own presentation. This type of customization does take time and energy, but it’s worth it. Users will view this tailored content as more authentic and meaningful to them—key factors in attracting and keeping customers for the long term.
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