Dear Snapchat, It didn’t have to go down like this

Things are not good in Snapchat land. On Thursday, Snap announced that it had gained a mere 7M daily active users in the past 3 months- up from 166M in May. “So?”, you might say, “that’s still growth- at least they aren’t loosing users”. Well…. The problem is that during the previous 3 month period, they had gained 8M daily active users. Healthy social networks mean exponential user growth and that’s what investors expect to see.

But that’s really been the problem all along for Snapchat- it never invested in the user experience to become a social network. For me, that’s really the unforgivable part of this whole saga. It could have been great. But they decided not to listen to the voices along the way who have been clamoring for features such as robust native analytics (still MIA), links (added July 2017), group chat (added December 2016) long before Facebook ever got into their turf. The lack of those key features kept many individuals and, importantly, brand strategists from adopting Snapchap as a core network. Instead we used it for the tech, not for the relationship outcomes. That’s why Facebook was able to swoop in and undermine it so quickly with Instagram.

Successful social networks have technology and community. That’s why Facebook was able to survive Google+ but Snapchat is becoming entirely undermined by Facebook.

Google+ went after Facebook HARD. People, including myself, loved the Google+ interface. Recall that this was around the time that Facebook was facing uproar from their original users about privacy, the algorithm and ad-creep. We were looking for an alternative to the social network whose founder said that privacy was no longer a social norm.  The hope was that Google, with their motto at the time of “Don’t be evil” could provide that. Moreover, Google+ had better tech as well- from higher resolution photos to native video integration with YouTube and Hangouts (light years before Facebook would introduce video)- they outpaced them. And yet they could not, for the life of them, build a user base.

Fast forward to the present where Snapchat is in the battle of its life because, wait for it, Facebook is copying features. Yes it’s true that Snapchat can still hold onto the “cool” factor amount teens. But that same 2016 report spelled doom for monetization-showing that teens hate ads or, even worse, simply ignore them. Also let’s be honest once those teens mature out of their anti-establishment phase, there is a very strong chance that they will migrate over to the platforms that their sorority sisters, frat brothers, universities, and yes (gasp) even parents are on (college kids get homesick).

In his article “Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all of your friends” Owen Williams summed it up well:

I think, after years of being an active Snapchat user and fan, I’ve decided to move on. The service was fun, but I’ve realized recently that it doesn’t offer anything unique, and even if Facebook was copying the company in the first place, it’s done a better job than Snapchat ever could.

The majority of my friends have moved across, and those who initially relented seem to have started getting their feet wet with Instagram too. Facebook, be it accidentally or on purpose, has created an Instagram renaissance that has us more addicted than ever before because we get to see beautiful photos in the feed, then the raw, real life stuff in stories.

Google+ was pretty much doomed from the start but Snapchat didn’t have to be. They had several years of unsullied market share that Facebook tried and failed to land grab. But instead of thinking through ways to strategically strengthen their signal, build out platform stickiness and monetization opportunities, their boy kings decided that they were too good for such things. They were Snapchat.

Well. Good luck with that is all I can say.

 

Our Shared Rainbow Moment

Only a few days in my life can compare to the feelings of pure joy and solidarity that I felt on June 26, 2015. It’s one of those markers that I believe is going to go down in history as collective memory- a “what were you doing when you heard” moment in time that we share with each other in years to come. Events such as those make us want to come together as humans- introverts and extraverts alike- to be with each other. Sharing those moments with others is a major part of the experience and we see spontaneous congregation in city centers to be with each other. Everyone wants to be a part of it.

On June 26th we saw the way that Facebook and Twitter in particular have become virtual city centers. Within minutes of the announcement profile photos across the social space were redone in various shades of rainbow. Tons of Brands joined in with, in my opinion, no real visible marketing strategy, rather they seemed to be motivated feeling that they should be a part of this momentous occasion. (A H2H moment!) And while Facebook didn’t change their logo they launched the “Celebrate Pride Tool” to create a rainbow filter of your profile picture. By the end of the day my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of rainbows. A visual testament to our unity at a momentous time in history.

What does this mean? Probably not much in the long run. A bitter election campaign is right around the corner. Our profiles and feeds will be full of various opinions and divisions. Statistically unfollowing and de friending WILL occur. But let’s remember this moment. The field of rainbows- each an individual decision to create. Each representing a moment when we made a very human decision- to stand up and be counted and unite our voices together in celebration of equality.

Yes I’m waxing eloquent and no I don’t care. Blame it on the rainbow.

facebookphotorainbow

Here’s Why Your Facebook Strategy Is Obsolete

Facebook’s goal is to make it impossible for brands to not include paid posts in their content strategy. That’s not breaking news. You would have had to be living under a rock not to notice this trend with their two algorithm updates last year. Many strategists, including myself, have written posts on how to update strategy to combat this. In general the advice has been to increase the number of posts as well as the confusing debate over whether it’s better to post photo memes or links to photos. The overall message is to keep doing what you’ve been doing as long as you incorporate several additional tips and tricks.

No more.

According to a report released this week by Simply Measured, the top 10 Brands on Facebook are seeing their total monthly engagement fall by 40% since last year despite increasing their posts by 20.1% during the same period. This image taken from the SimplyMeasured report says it all:

credit: SimplyMeasured
credit: simplymeasured

Let’s think about what this means.

Accordingly to SimplyMeasured, these top 10 brands have a collective audience of almost 358 million. The list includes some of the social media superstar brands:

  • Disney
  • MTV*
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Starbucks
  • Harley-Davidson*
  • Intel
  • BMW
  • Ferrari
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Audi USA

All of these brands have dedicated social media teams and spend millions of dollars in campaigns.

Moreover, all have received accolades at various times for their work in social media. In March of this year, Mercedes-Benz received the AM 2014 award for Best Social Media Campaign. Starbucks and Disney are consistently touted as cutting edge in social media adoption and Intel, as always, leads the way on employee advocacy via social. MTV and Harley-Davidson are outliers in these results as their level of engagement increased over the past year. Although when the report focused on per-post engagement MTV joined the rest of the brands with a significant drop (38.05%) For such  social media juggernaut that’s a huge number.

The fact that the results are so uniform (with the exception of Harley-Davidson) tells us that this is more than a blip. Something on the foundational level has shifted and we need to call every one of our assumptions about Facebook Strategy into question.

In many ways this shouldn’t be too surprising. Facebook strategy has always been simpler to craft than Twitter and it’s been around far longer than Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine. So a lot of the discussion out there centers on best practices such as when to post rather than an underlying discussion of the nature of the social network. The focus has been on content rather than interaction. The prettier the better. That’s one reason 4 of the 10 brands are automotive companies.

But thanks to the algorithm changes no matter how pretty your content brand page reach for unprompted posts is now often under 3% according to a report last December by Ignite Social Media Agency.

It’s time for a reboot. We need to start thinking about Facebook in terms of a social network as opposed to a broadcasting platform.

Facebook was built around individual interaction and as much as they punish brands for posting content, when an individual posts or shares a page’s content the game changes. According to a Stanford Study published last year, on average 35% of your Facebook Friends see your posts. Of course debate immediately ensued over these results and I have no desire to open it here. Simply consider this- the number of people who see posts when they come from an individual is dramatically higher than when a Brand’s Page posts it.

There are additional benefits to tapping into the social network side of Facebook. A recent report from Kentico found that “69% of the consumers surveyed say a company’s educational information is more credible when discovered through a friend or family member”. So by building relationships with customers and encouraging them to share content from your Facebook Page a brand not only gains exponential increase in reach, it also knows that that content has a higher degree of credibility.

Bottomline: The changes to Facebook’s algorithm necessitates a fundamental reboot of Brand Page Strategy. As strategists we must move strategy away from using Pages to broadcast content and instead use them to build relationships with the audience, encouraging them to share and interact with the content.

How to Craft A Facebook Strategy that Works

Building a social strategy for Facebook is getting more and more difficult thanks to their “quality control” features. Ignite Social Media estimates that with the latest rollout of changes on average 3% of your fan base will see unprompted posts. That’s it. To make it worse, there’s little information as to how that 3% is decided. Of course you can pay to promote posts which is some companies are now saying is essential to do. I was at the Brand Innovators Social Summit this past February at which Addie Connor, Chief Innovation Officer at SocialCode gave a keynote. Her basic point was that there is no reason to have a Facebook Page if you aren’t promoting your posts.

Really? I’m not so sure. A key with all social media platforms is to start with understanding how your target customer interacts with them. Where do they go? How do they get their information? What makes them “like” or “share” a post? We’ve become so obsessed with getting “likes” on Facebook Pages that we’ve forgotten the central mechanism behind Facebook use. An underlying assumption behind this doom and gloom view of Facebook Page posts is that people consume Facebook primarily through their home feed. It’s true that Facebook is pushing this model as much as possible. But the fact of the matter is that Facebook is not Twitter. It’s about community. For this reason no matter how much Zuckerberg & co. attempt to modify it, the reason we use Facebook will never be the same as the reason we use Twitter.

For Twitter it would be absolutely disastrous if only 3% of your followers saw your posts. This is because on Twitter our chief way of consuming posts is through our timelines as opposed to visiting an individual’s Twitter page. We might do targeted listening via hashtags but as long as you know which hashtag to include to reach your targeted community that’s easily included in a social strategy.

Contrast this with how you approach Facebook. In particular think of how you see Page posts. Page posts hardly ever pop up on my home feed. And to be honest when they do I tend to ignore them. My reason for consuming Facebook is to keep in touch with my friends and family. I want to see what they post and share. So when they share something from a Facebook Page THAT’S when I pay attention.

See the difference? This is a different metric at play. Now of course there is also a percentage used to calculate whether I’ll see my friend’s post share on my home feed assuming I’m not tagged or they don’t share it to my wall. But that’s something that we can work with as social strategists. We know how to harness influencers and advocates. We know how to organize communities and create content that gets shared.

1. Harness Power Users
Facebook revolves around the social network. Pew and others have identified the prevalence of “power users” on Facebook who make up the vast majority of content that gets shared. These are the people who you want to engage on your Facebook Page. You want them to share your content with their friends. You want your page to be the one that they check out for the latest on “x”. A great way to get them to return to your page is to engage them in conversation. Did they make a humorous comment on a post? Respond in kind.

2. Mobilize internal Influencers
We do this on Twitter and LinkedIn but not Facebook. Who are the thought-leaders in your organization? Get them to interact with your Facebook Posts. You might even think of sending you an email to alert your thought-leaders to an interesting thread on the Page that they should enter into. Encourage them to share your content.

3. Engage with like-minded Pages
Every Page is looking for engagement. So set up a mutually beneficial relationship. If a Page has an audience that you would like to reach or that is similar to yours getting them to share a link to your Page is a great way to increase your content views. Facebook is a concrete social network. The power of sharing means that your post can very easily go viral and THAT is the way that Facebook Pages become useful.

Here’s a practical example: Craft-beers have very loyal followings and some have done a great job building a social media presence but they are always looking to get converts. Pubs and bars have a community presence but are always looking to get more customers in, particularly on weekdays. They also tend to have a weaker social media presence. But by supporting each other through their Facebook Pages each can exponentially increase their fan base. Also, going a step further, there is a high probability that at the intersection between the Craft Beer Community and Pub Community you’ll find some strong advocates.

Bottom-line? 

Changes to the Facebook algorithm do not herald the end of brand presence on Facebook. Rather they signal the need (which has been long in the making) of moving away from a broadcast model to a social network model of social marketing. Pulling out of Facebook is the absolute LAST thing brands should do. Rather, they should renew their focus on their Facebook campaign via the creation of a targeted social strategy.

Why Facebook Is Losing Millennials

On December 27th, the Guardian proclaimed Facebook to be dead, citing a growing perception among teens that it’s for their parents and therefore not a place they want to be. This came out just in time for the end of the year survey articles of 2013 and 2014 forecasts and therefore got huge play. More recently, TIME magazine published a study saying that between 2015 and 2017 Facebook will lose 80% of its users.

A lot of attention has been giving to this emergent trend that Facebook is “uncool”. Indeed Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook doesn’t care about being cool anymore. Well, bully for him. The fact, however, is that it really was never about the cool factor for millennials. Rather it was all about keeping in touch with your offline community. It filled a need for us and that’s why Zuckerberg actually created it.

At college your social experience is suddenly much different. Instead of a thousand students (max) in your year like you had a high school you have several thousand all with different majors and courses. And even if you go to a smaller college you will still have to deal with your social circle being flung to the far corners of the country. I was at one of the first Universities to be let into the network in fall 2004 and I remember impatiently waiting for other Universities to be let in so that I could connect to my friends back home. When community colleges were included that was super awesome. We could actually KIT in realtime!

When the network expanded to allow parents to join once again I was at the right time to embrace that. I live across the country from my family and it proved and still proves to be a great way to keep in touch. Of course it did lead to the creation of protected photo albums the last thing you want is your grandma seeing that outfit you wore last Friday night!  But the point is that I matured into the point at which I wanted to get in touch with them. Facebook grew as 20-something grew. We have driven the growth of Facebook. For that reason it’s us rather than teens that stockholders should be worried about. We spend the most money, and are the most socially savvy. BUT, there’s been an ongoing trend according to Pew of us “taking a break” from Facebook and for us this has nothing to do with Facebook being “not cool”. The first wave of anger over Facebook and user drop off occurred when they started screwing with their Terms of Service and Privacy Settings in 2009. That was the first time that I ever contemplated deleting my account. And I know I was not alone.

As millennials, we care about the brand as a whole. We care about transparency and honesty. We like companies that are lovable. Yet Zuckerberg’s Facebook is increasingly the antithesis of millennial values.  Facebook seems to now go out of its way to show that it really couldn’t care less about its users. And thanks to that attitude, I can safely say that as a twenty-something, I feel no loyalty to Facebook. Rather it is the network that I’m stuck with and believe me as soon as I can get away I will. That should be a sentiment far more troubling than any “cool” problem because, as a recent study predicts, each departure has a cascading effect, weakening the network.

What do you think about Facebook and Millennials? Tweet me @suzimcc with your thoughts!

Why A Social Strategist Should Be Your Next Hire

“Social (insert job title here)” has been a huge fad whose time is up. Just like “Tech” was big in the 1990s, “Social” took over in the late 2000s. In the mid-1990s, if you could set up a website for an organization you were a Big Deal- a tech guru. But by the early 2000s as webpages became easier to create and software companies began to standardize their programs, the “Tech-“ jobs began to dry up. Computer skills were assumed, and while setting up the wireless network still generates a fair amount of cursing by and large the IT person can handle it- no all knowing tech guru needed.

The same thing is happening with social media. There was a glut of positions incorporating the term “social”. Companies created social media accounts seemingly along the logic that more is always better. “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and “Hootsuite” were included on resumes where Microsoft Word and Excel has previously been.

Now in 2013, the hype over social media jobs has died down. Indeed, within many quarters, managing social media channels is the duty of the intern. A large part of this is because no one was able to figure out the ROI (Return of Investment) for a Facebook Page or Twitter account. So they downsized to an infrequently updated account with posts consisting of “We are excited to announce the rollout of [insert product here]”. And for most Twitter is just a mystery. Brands now have social channels because they know that are supposed to have them in the same way that you’re supposed to have a website. The direction is “keep things updated” in the same way that the front page of a website is updated. Investment is spent instead in integrated marketing campaigns- things that have a specific ROI tied to marketing. This is not to knock these types of campaigns- indeed they work very well. My point is that integrated marketing is just the tip of the iceberg of the potential of social media. It’s right to move away from the hyphenated job titles- the hype is over. But this does not mean that social strategy should stop.

A social strategist is empowered with the mandate to implement and execute strategy. A social strategist knows what social media can and can’t do. They are simultaneously big picture and detail oriented.

Several Brands have chosen to take the leap and invest in social strategy. By doing so they have generated a powerful network of advocates and influencers and also made a name for themselves within the social media community as innovators in their own right.

Casestudy 1: General Electric

GE wanted to communicate that they do more than create light bulbs. So they embarked upon the “innovation” campaign and included social strategy as a key component. A social media strategist knows that the power of social media comes from tapping into the pre-existing social media communities in a way that is keeping with the reason that individuals interact with these communities.
GE Facebook
GE utilizes Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr in their campaign but, and this is where the social strategy comes in, each has a specific type of content designed to maximize the outreach to the target communities in a way that will spark conversation. But all content revolves around the concept of “innovation”. Coming away from these pages that’s the word that you come away with. That’s why it matters and that’s the ROI. A social strategist will insist that you clearly define your goals and then create a strategy to match that.

Casestudy 2: Maesrk

Maersk decided that they wanted to be more than a shadowy shipping line. They’re a fascinating case because they are purely B2B. The average person is never going to give them money. But they recognized that in the age of faceless corporations there was considerable utility in generating a positive brand image. Other brands will want to work with you. The wisdom of this was borne out when one of their ships accidentally killed a whale. Of course the outcry occurred on social media. Since they already had defined social channels and had built up a community, they were able to genuinely respond to the situation with concern. They even created a Pinterest board in memory of the whale.
Maersk Norwich Whale Pinterest Page
Maersk specifically decided to “unmask” themselves and create a community. Every piece of content they create, every social channel that they use, works towards this goal.

If you do not have a clear strategy behind using your social channels you are missing a huge opportunity. As far as ROI is concerned, it’s best to think of it in terms of measurable projects with set goals just as you would for an ad campaign. Demanding a per-tweet or per-post ROI while the campaign is on-going is just like demanding a per-billboard ROI.

Hire a good social strategist, clearly communicate your goal, give a set budget, and watch them go. Your brand is already present on social. Even if, like Maersk, you are far removed from the B2C scene, you are only one accident or blunder away from becoming a trending hashtag.

social-media-strategist

How, After Four Years, I Finally Learned to Love LinkedIn

“(Insert Name Here) would like to add you to her network on LinkedIn. Register for an account now to connect with her” Remember that message? The one that finally got you to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon? Mine came on May 12, 2009 from my future husband of all people so I finally figured I’d see what all the fuss was about and join.

I must admit, I was fairly underwhelmed. I went around and “connected” with members of my graduating class and of course some token high school buddies. I added a basic resume to my profile and then left. I probably checked it less than 100 times between 2009 and 2013 which for a social media nut is fairly mind-boggling. I just didn’t “get” it. What was the draw? I was connected to most of these people on Facebook, why would I want to be part of their “LinkedIn network”? Looking back I now realize exactly what was wrong- to use tribal marketing terminology- my “tribe” wasn’t active on the network.

This is an issue that Google+ is now dealing with. The whole “if you build it they will come” thing is much more difficult in the era of Facebook dominance. Social media means forging online connections. On Facebook they tend to be the online manifestation of offline relationships. On Twitter it’s an opportunity to forge online relationships around common interests that can then turn into offline relationships. Social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest provide additional dimensions to these connections. The point is they all fit and make sense to our natural human state as social creatures. I already wrote a post about the steep learning curve to Twitter adoption as opposed to Facebook. But this is nothing compared with the hurdles that Google+ faces.

But I digress- the topic of this post is about LinkedIn so let’s get back to that.

As I said, the issue for me with LinkedIn is that my tribe wasn’t present- and by present I don’t mean that they weren’t users. Rather, they were not updating or active. There were no opportunities to exchange viewpoints. A social network’s value comes from building relationships through conversations so if there’s no one to talk to or if the conversation unfolds over a matter of weeks due to inconsistent usage then there’s very little utility in using it. (once again- Google+)

BUT, as I said- I’ve learned to love LinkedIn. Why? Well, I started a job as a Community Strategist and Social Media Today which plunked me into a new tribe- one that uses LinkedIn effectively and this has made all the difference. I was motivated enough to even change my profile pic. I’ve done status updates for the first time EVER! I’ve shared content and I’ve been building my network.

There’s a clear lesson here and it’s one that echoes my prior post on Twitter. The Social Network must match the user’s needs. No matter how brilliant the social strategy, it will amount to squat if it is built outside of existing social networks and communities. We must be active where our target audience is active.

I talked about this in a recent #SMTnews tweetchat. The topic was Google+ vs Facebook. The general consensus was that Google+ seems like a really cool thing but needs widespread adoption before it will be a viable social alternative to Facebook.

Now don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn isn’t at all my favorite network. But it’s become something that I find myself checking daily and I’m becoming an engaged user. So the lesson of this story? Social media users must feel that the social network offers something for them AND there must be some type of social draw back to the network day after day. Otherwise profiles may be created, groups may be joined, but the power of the network is actually rather empty.