Last week, Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes wrote an outstanding piece about how the rules of social media marketing have changed.
Namely, how we’ve gone from “Town Square” to “Family room” (read the full post for his explanation).
While Holmes talked about how we’re in the midst of transitioning to a post-social-media landscape, I envision another stark trend: The comeback of community.
As Holmes states, years ago the frequent ask from brands and clients was: “We want this to go viral.” And, even if that wasn’t the ask, it was implied. Essentially, we want to create and share content that spreads across the internet. And, truth be told, it’s still an ask today–just in a different way (with reach, as the primary goal).
But, recently, I’ve noticed a shift. Fewer people are talking about virality and shares, and more people are talking about community.
There are a few different factors at play.
First, go back to 2010. Your brand was just getting started on Facebook. You were starting to gain fans. You were building a community. It got bigger. Bigger still. And you were engaging this community with interesting content (OK, maybe it wasn’t always interesting, but bear with me!).
Then, a few years later, Facebook changed everything. They started promoting ad products more, and organic engagement and reach rates plummeted. Suddenly, brands were paying to reach their audience. And, more to the point, brands were paying to reach their target audience OUTSIDE the community they had built.
In many ways, the original community they built was now essentially useless since organic engagement and reach rates were so low. You could post a piece of content and less than 1% of your community would see it. That’s still the reality today.
Second, despite all the negativity around social right now, brands still have two big reasons to use it: customer service and innovation.
Both of those issues can be partially solved by building strong online communities.
I mean, just ask Microsoft. This is what they’ve essentially done on Reddit. Build and facilitate a community of Xbox users who will answer customer questions for them!
And, I’m betting more brands will go down this route in the months ahead. Vendors like Lithium are counting on it with their community products that are being used by brands like Cisco and Sony.
Yep, community is primed for a comeback.
Even Facebook is taking notice. Its recent announcement to put more emphasis on Groups in its app wasn’t made haphazardly. They can see what’s happening. People are craving community.
One example: One of my clients is a large dental organization. In some research I conducted for them a couple years ago, we discovered one of the primary places dentists were spending their time online was Facebook Groups. One of those groups, Dental Hacks Nation, is extremely active. 20-30 posts a day. Many posts have upwards of 50+ comments! It’s a THRIVING community. This is what’s next folks. And the social media platforms know it.
Now the big question is: What do we, as communicators of brands, do about it?
That’s a different post for a different day.
Yesterday, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) issued a four-sentence press release that officially booted the University of St. Thomas out of the conference.
And just like that a founding member of the conference was history.
Communicated with a 94-word press release. And no further comment from anyone at any of the other MIAC universities.
Predictably, backlash around the decision has been fast and furious on social media–especially amongst UST grads and supporters.
I hope St. Thomas beats the Oles, Pipers, and Auggie Tech by 200 points each.
— John Sharkman (@JohnSharkman) May 22, 2019
And, UST itself has not shied away from commenting on the situation. In fact, St Thomas president, Julie Sullivan issued a statement just hours after the MIAC’s decision. Understandably, she and the St. Thomas community were disappointed.
Throughout this “discussion”, it’s been interesting to me that St. Thomas has been the only one talking. Yesterday was no different with Sullivan’s statement.
St. Thomas is attempting (successfully) to control the narrative. Meanwhile, the rest of the MIAC seems perfectly fine burying their heads in the sand and hoping things go away quickly (which they will–this is not life or death, after all).
But, who is counseling these MIAC presidents to stay silent? No communications leader worth their salt would be counseling these leaders to stay quiet while the conference issues a four-sentence news release kicking one of the most storied programs in Minnesota history out of the conference.
Yet, according to the Star Tribune, multiple university presidents have refused comment (so far) and directly people back to the news release (which was, most likely, the agreed course of action).
So, no matter how you feel about this decision, you have to believe more people are going to ultimately sympathize with St. Thomas. Why? Because they’re the only ones talking!
If the MIAC had come out and justified their position and talked about why they came to this difficult decision, the backlash most likely wouldn’t have been nearly as harsh.
But, as we know, silence creates a vacuum. And St. Thomas has been filling that silence the MIAC has provided with their story, on their terms. And, I find it pretty compelling (personally, I’m with UST on this one–I find it ridiculous the MIAC is kicking a university out of its conference for being TOO successful! Wonderful message for today’s youth!).
The MIAC blew it here–not so much in the decision they reached, but with the way they handled the communication of the message and the entire situation. They had an opportunity to shape the conversation, but they relinquished that chance by staying silent almost completely throughout.
I gotta believe any PR or comms professor at any of these schools would have given their own institution of higher learning an “F” on this test.
The Facebook truth for brands: It’s not going away anytime soon (but it IS worth re-evaluating your presence there)
I’m not breaking news by saying Facebook hasn’t had the best year.
A slew of negative PR hits.
And, rumors that more people are leaving Facebook every day.
As a result, many pundits in our industry are predicting the end of Facebook–some (former founders) are even calling for it to be broken apart!
So, the “feel” around Facebook right now isn’t so great.
But, two big numbers tell a completely different story:
1 – Facebook had more then 2.38 billion monthly active users (MAU) worldwide as of March 31, 2019. This is an 8 percent increase in Facebook MAUs year over year. This is compared to 2.32 billion MAUs for Q4 2018. READ: Facebook is still growing!
2 – 1.56 billion people on average log onto Facebook daily and are considered daily active users (Facebook DAU) for March 2019. This represents an 8 percent increase year over year. READ: People are still checking in on Facebook (but might be representing something completely different to friends and survey administrators).
Sure, Facebook growth numbers may be hitting a plateau for the first time. But, the platform still has the most users and the best working ad platform in social media.
For that alone, it’s still worth investing in.
And, brand ad budgets haven’t been impacted by all this negativity at all. Brands are investing more heavily in Facebook Stories, too, believe it or not.
Anecdotally, in the work I’ve done with brands this year, Facebook continues to work just fine as: 1) A driver of engagement; 2) A traffic driver; and 3) A lead generator.
HOWEVER – things do feel a little iffy with Facebook right now.
Earlier this year, in giving my annual social media trends presentation at Social Media Breakfast here in MSP, I asked the crowd “how many of you have either deleted Facebook or thought about deleting Facebook in the last six months?”
Almost every hand in the room went up.
That’s not a great sign.
So, while I don’t see investment in Facebook going anywhere anytime soon on the brand side. I do think it makes sense to step back, take a deep breath and look at your holistic approach to social media marketing.
How much time are you spending on Facebook vs. other platforms? Should that change? Should you start shifting more time to Instagram, for example, if you’re seeing big organic numbers there?
How many dollars are you investing in Facebook advertising compared to other social AND digital channels? Does Facebook represent a disproportionate amount of your spend? If so, that might be worth a closer look.
And, is all the time you’re investing in Facebook keeping you from experimenting with others channels or formats? I’m thinking specifically about Stories here, as many people I’ve talked to recently say they’re simply too busy to take on more work. What if you spent less time on your Facebook marketing to free up that time to experiment more?
Bottom line: I don’t believe Facebook is going anywhere as a key social media marketing tool. Not in 2019. Probably not in 2020. But, the environment certainly feels a whole lot different than it did a couple years ago. There’s still a lot of negative juju around Facebook right now. For that reason, I would re-evaluate. Are you spending time in the right places? Are you spending your social media ad dollars in the right spots? Do you resources line up with where you’re seeing the best results?
All questions I’d be asking myself if I were a social media marketer right now.
Note: I don’t do this often, but if you ARE interested in re-evaluating your social media program, I offer a social media audit and strategy package that has been hugely popular with clients over the last few years. If you’re interested, send me a note at email@example.com to chat.
According to a recent Freshbooks survey, I say it’s all about control.
That was the number-one factor among those who have chosen to go the solo route.
In this sense, “control” meant a few different things:
- Mostly, it meant WHEN you work. Not surprising, as we see countless companies continue (stupidly) to chain workers to desks even though technology has made it easier than ever for us in the comms/marketing field to do our jobs anywhere.
- Also: How hard you work. Lots of people in the comms world complain about the amount of work. 60-80-hour workweeks are commonplace. And people are getting tired of it.
- Also: Professional development. People want more control over what they learn and how they learn it. In other words, I want to go to go X conference to learn more about X–and my company won’t pay for it. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that over the last 20+ years.
- Finally: Where you work. Again, tech has enabled us to work when we want, and where we want. For some reason, companies still aren’t getting this. Which is why we have more people going solo now.
Fulfillment and finances were the other two big reasons for why people go the solo route. And, just 4%, surprisingly, went solo because of a previous negative work environment–I found that surprising (maybe people weren’t being completely honest?).
The control piece isn’t surprising. I’ve found that to be a chief satisfier for me, too. But, you really have to dig into the data in this survey to get at what’s really going on here, because it’s more interesting than what Freshbooks lets on.
Let’s start at the top: Control is the chief reason people are going solo–followed closely by fulfillment and finances. But, if you look at the data around the realities of today’s solo, it tells a much different story.
- 72% of solos said they expected to earn more money as a solo. The reality was only 55% said they did. That’s a huge gap and it can’t be too fulfilling to not be earning as much as solos thought at the outset.
- 64% of solos said they expected to have less stress as a solo, but only 55% said that was a reality. Truth is, solo life IS stressful–just in different ways from your previous day job. Yes, you may have marginally less stress, but you still have stressors–demanding clients, juggling competing needs and new business.
- 75% of solos said they expected to work harder as a solo. And 60% said this was the reality. That’s still a big number! And they’re right, being a solo is a lot of work! It’s not about taking 3-hour breaks in the day to go see a movie. I would argue it’s the opposite–it’s much MORE work. Think about it. In your former job, you were most likely asked to do the actual work (planning, tactics, measurement, etc.). But, as a solo, you have to do the actual work PLUS: new business, all admin work, all tech support, and a host of other smaller tasks. This is one of the hidden secrets of the solo work–it’s not less work, it’s much more.
My take on the solo trend: I really think it boils down to two things–people going solo because they want to work where and when they want; and people going solo because they want more control about the kind of work they do.
For me, it was definitely a mix of those two when I made the decision 10 years ago. I wanted to work more in social media and digital marketing. At the time, in my role at Fairview, I wasn’t afforded that opportunity. So, I made an opportunity. I also wanted more control of my schedule with a growing family. I wanted to walk my kids to school. I wanted to show up at every concert and soccer game. And, I wanted to volunteer in my kids’ schools. None of that would have been possible if I were working on the agency or corporate side.
As always, if you’re thinking about the solo route, go in eyes wide open. Yes, it is a lonely existence. Yes, it is a ton of work. Yes, it is stressful. But, you do have more control of your schedule and what you work on, and who you work with. As with all jobs, it’s all about trade-offs–which ones are you willing to make? That’s the question you really need to think about.
ICYMI, a (supposed) Starbucks coffee cup was caught on-screen at Winterfell in episode 4, season 8 of Game of Thrones last Sunday.
Predictably, Twitter went berserk.
Of course, it took Starbucks less than 24 hours to respond with a smart and uber-relevant tweet:
A day later, and people were saying Starbucks already had received 2.3 BILLION in free advertising from the situation. And, as it turns out, IT WASN’T EVEN A STARBUCKS CUP!
I’m a huge GoT fan, so this has been kinda fun to follow this week. But, as I watched this whole thing play out, I couldn’t help but think of all the brands out there that would KILL for this kind of opportunity. It was the ultimate opportunity for Starbucks to “newsjack”–and yet all they did was make a single tweet.
And man, was that smart.
Just one tweet–and, by the way, directly tied to a brand new product Starbucks is launching.
Starbucks could have really gone gang-busters with this. They could have created all sorts of content and shared across its social channels. But, they didn’t. They did three incredibly smart things in my estimation:
1 – They kept the conversation on the channel where it started. This is all about Twitter. Dual screens during GoT (or any big TV show) is not a new phenomenon. But, Starbucks kept the chatter where it was happening in big doses and not forcing it elsewhere. They even had a Facebook post on May 7 featuring the new Dragon Fruit drink, but didn’t connect it with GoT.
2 – They kept it simple. Just one tweet. Just one. But, they kept it culturally relevant (with the “TBH” reference. Smart and witty, without being TOO smart and witty.
3 – They tied it to business. The new Dragon Fruit drink is just in launch phase. What better way to promote than to tie to the biggest TV show of the season? Conspiracy theories are rampant at this point, by the way.
I think the lesson here for brands is this: when lottery tickets like this land in your lap, be smart, think strategically and resist the urge to overdo it.
With Starbucks vast resources, they could have done so much with this opportunity. Yet, the smartest thing they did was to keep it simple and minimize their involvement.
Food for thought the next time your client or brand wants to “newsjack” the next GoT-like situation.