First, there were Snapchat Stories. Those fun, whimsical little snapshots into our days broadcast for 24 hours on the (previously) hot social app.
Then, last August, Instagram introduced its own version of “Stories” to the world. And people flocked. According to Bloomberg, in the 25 weeks since launch, Instagram Stories has reached 150 million daily users. That’s the same number of users that Snapchat’s whole app reportedly hit around June 2016. Snapchat’s CEO recently said there’s been an average decline in Snapchat Stories views of 20 to 30 percent from August until mid-January. And anecdotally, I noticed a TON of my friends using Instagram Stories over the last few months.
Then, a couple weeks ago, Facebook introduced IT’S version of Stories. However, this version has been met with less than the expected enthusiasm from the Facebook brass. In fact, in case you haven’t noticed, Facebook is “ghosting” your friends to guilt them into using the new tool.
But, the bigger picture here is clear: “Stories” as a social device, is now everywhere.
And, while users have globbed onto the “Stories” feature in a big way–first on Snapchat, and now on Instagram–it appears we may be reaching a saturation point.
The initial Facebook results highlight just that. Very few people are using Stories on Facebook. And why would they? Most of the people who would actually use the “Stories” feature are already using it over on Snapchat and Instagram.
And that really shouldn’t be that surprising. Stories is a feature tailor-made to a younger audience. This is why it started on Snapchat. This is why it’s resonating on Instagram. Younger people are the ones who have time in their day and the propensity to capture all these “micro-moments” that make up their days.
The (trending) older crowd on Facebook has no such appetite. Those folks are lurkers. They’re information seekers. Not creators. Therefore, it’s really no surprise “Stories” isn’t taking off so far on Facebook. It’s the wrong place for the right tool.
What does all this mean for brands?
For most, I think the answer is pretty simple. If I were a social media manager, I’d be investing more time and money in Instagram Stories than anywhere else. It’s got a huge built-in audience. New ad products are most likely on the way. And, it continues to siphon users away from Snapchat, which had originally popularized the feature. I see a lot more opportunity with Instagram Stories.
But, we may be seeing a tipping point for Stories, overall. A few reasons why:
1–Market saturation. People can’t possibly create “Stories” on three different platforms. They’re going to have to pick one. And again, from where I sit, I think it’s going to be Instagram, for the reasons mentioned above.
2–Too narrow of a market. Again–who are the “Stories” power users? Young people. And, there are plenty of them. But, there’s also a big piece of the population that isn’t using “Stories” at all. As with much of social media right now, it’s all about targeting.
3–Social media overload. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from more than a few people lately that they’re on social media overload. They’ve had enough and they need a break. Some of that could be a product of the political environment. Some of that could be a product of the fact that we’re not 10+ years into this Facebook thing and people may just start to burn out. Time will tell, but I sense a little tipping point here, too.
Go ahead. Google the phrase “Social media training Minneapolis.”
What comes up?
A couple academic institutions attempting to pull it off.
A handful of agencies.
And an Eventbrite list.
In a nutshell, that describes my experience with social media training programs (or a lack thereof) in the Twin Cities.
Where are they? Why isn’t anyone doing this? Especially when there is a clear gap in the market?
Because, let’s be honest, there is a gap. When it comes to social media education, I see a clear gap in the following areas:
- Strategy–despite the fact that almost everyone that works in the social media realm lists this competency on their resume.
- Content development–see above.
- Social media advertising–potentially the biggest need of them all right now. A fairly complicated process and set of tools with little to no support (outside of the platforms themselves).
- Social analytics–another huge hole, especially when you have PR people filling it who, to a large extent, have been trained more to use the other side of their brain.
- Social video–in other words, how to I plan, capture and edit video on and from my phone. Would probably include training on some kind of video editing program as well (i.e. GarageBand).
- Podcasting–growing need here. Again, seems like an area and skill that VERY few people have, but I would think many would be interested in acquiring.
I know the professional organizations touch on these topics with their programming from time to time, and I think that’s great (in fact, there’s a couple really great ones coming up this summer/fall–just can’t talk about them yet!). But, I’m talking and thinking about something much deeper than a one-time event. I’m talking about real training programs designed to get very much in the weeds on the topics above. You can’t do that in an hour-long session, folks.
I’m thinking about something like Brainco. You’ve heard of Brainco, right? It’s a shorter, more condensed training program for creatives. It includes classes on copywriting, computer graphics and WordPress development. The idea seems to be to give students a well-rounded education in the creative field and prepare you for a job in advertising, design or brand work.
Exactly what we need for social media and/or digital.
So, maybe we should do it. Maybe we could do this together. Maybe I’m talking myself into this right now!
What would we need? In order:
- A venue. Ideally somewhere downtown, in North Loop or South Minneapolis. Somewhere with small classrooms, but also a couple larger rooms or auditoriums to hold larger sessions/presentations.
- Professors. Might be tougher than you think. For example, social advertising. I’m not sure I know a ton of people with deep experience in this area. But, collectively, we could identify the right people. We have such a vibrant digital community here in Minneapolis–I know those professors are out there somewhere!
- Curriculum. Someone, or a team of someone’s, would need to drive our topics and subject matter. I think we could benefit by getting input from key digital leaders across our community. I think we could benefit by chatting with real professors at universities around town who are touching on this kind of stuff in the classroom (I’m looking at you, Betsy Andersen).
- Money. We’d need funding to get it up and running. Maybe we employ a BrandLab model, which seems to be based on a combo-platter of corporate and individual donors. I mean, developing social/digital talent would definitely benefit corporations and agencies around town–why wouldn’t they support something like this?
I don’t know–what do you think? Could we do this? I’m thinking it might be worth a shot. The need is clearly there. The work would benefit us all.
I like where this could be going. Who’s with me? If you’re serious, send me a note at email@example.com. I’m interested in exploring options.
I spend a lot of time in LinkedIn these days. A lot of it is for research reasons–for this blog, for my Talking Points e-newsletter, for clients, and for the Talking Points Podcast.
But, the other half of it is for client work. Helping manage corporate LinkedIn pages. And, helping executives communicate with employees, customers and other key stakeholders via LinkedIn publishing.
So, I consider myself somewhat of a LinkedIn “power user.” Not in that I know everything these is to know about LinkedIn–more in that I spend more time in the platform than the average yogi.
And, since I do spend so much time there on behalf of clients, I’ve come across a number of situations where LinkedIn functionality needs improvement.
Areas where I’d love to see LinkedIn up its game and offer new, or enhanced, functionality. Specifically, I’m talking about these five areas:
#1: Ability to review a person’s (i.e., executive’s) shares
Part of some PR folks’ jobs these days involves helping execs share information on LinkedIn. This means browsing the web, finding interesting articles to share, writing up the posts and sending to said executive. The maddening part: There’s no way to track what that exec shared without having the user/pass to the exec’s LinkedIn account. I realize that’s a big ask–but there has to be a better way to do that!
#2: Ability to respond directly to comments in threads
It’s 2017 and LinkedIn STILL doesn’t have threaded comments. What is this, a cruel, unusual joke? 🙂 Another easy fix that would make community management so much easier for those responsible for LinkedIn brand pages.
#3: Ability to tag people in comments.
You could argue you get this info via notifications, but I’d still like the opportunity to tag folks in the comment threads of brand pages. Just seems obvious.
#4: Ability to edit brand posts.
Nothing is more maddening the making a post on behalf of a client (internal or external) and then finding out the client wants to change something in the post. Because, guess what? You can’t simply edit brand LinkedIn posts–you have to delete the entire post and start over. Seems like an easy thing to fix on LinkedIn’s part.
#5: Ability to identify shares right at the bottom of each post
Another head-scratcher. These show up in analytics, but you have to dig for them. Why not list the number of shares right at the bottom of each post (with the ability to click and see who shared–just like Facebook?). Side note: Why does LinkedIn insist on using their own strange language? Why not just use likes, comments and shares like everyone else?
It’s the question I’m sure nearly every social media manager has asked themselves over the last couple years:
Why doesn’t Instagram come up with a way to post from your laptop?
I know, I know, it’s a mobile platform. But, for brand and agency folks, posting to Instagram from your own mobile device is far from ideal.
Let’s run down a few of the inherent challenges and risks in using your personal phone to post to your client’s/brand’s Instagram account:
* What if your phone gets stolen and you’re logged into your client’s/brand’s account? Whoops.
* Ever try keying in a 300-character-long Instagram post on your phone (and yeah, I know 300-character posts aren’t ideal on IG–but sometimes it’s necessary)? Not fun–and prone to errors and typos.
* Toggling between your personal account and your client’s/brand’s account. All sorts of risk here, for obvious reasons (namely, posting a #selfie of you and your dog to your client’s account!)
In addition to those big risks–it’s also just not very easy at all. Even if you are an expert typist on your phone, it’s not easy. And, it takes a task that should take about 10 seconds on your laptop and turns it into a 3-5 minute exercise. Not a huge deal, but basically a pain in the butt.
But Arik, there are tools that let you schedule posts, you say? Sure, there are tools like Latergram.me–but again, they don’t allow you to share from your laptop. Mobile-only.
There are tools like Gramblr–but you look at that site/tool and tell me you’d consider using that for a Fortune 500 brand. I don’t think so.
If you look at Instagram’s Terms & Conditions, it’s clear they do not want people posting from third-party platforms or non-mobile devices. Staying true to their mobile roots. Again, I get it. But, I don’t have to like it.
For now, it seems brand/agency folks will be stuck using their phones to upload pics, videos and text to Instagram.
Not an ideal process by any means…
Lately, I’ve been reading a number of posts imploring marketers and communicators to start podcasts on behalf of their corporate clients.
The numbers make sense. Recent Edison research says podcasts “share of ear” has increased 18 percent in the last six months. Podcasts now have a total “share of ear” of 30 percent (for context, AM/FM radio is at 21 percent and streaming music is at just 12 percent).
Serial’s recent success is also a signal. Seemingly everyone tuned in.
Podcasting has literally never been more popular. The numbers add up.
But, is podcasting the right fit for you as a marketing or communications tool?
That’s an entirely different question.
Just because the numbers are there, and just because podcasting is about as hot as Meerkat at the moment (oh, wait a minute, I typed that last week; please replace “Meerkat” with “Periscope”), doesn’t mean you should jump right in.
In fact, I could make a pretty good argument most companies should NOT start a podcast.
I’m not being a Negative Nellie here. It’s more realism than negativity.
After all, I get paid by clients to produce content that could be a part of a corporate podcast.
But, sometimes the best advice you can give a client is “don’t do that–and here’s why.”
For most companies, I firmly believe this is one of those situations. Here’s five reasons your company should NOT be podcasting.
1 — You don’t have *enough* to talk about.
Have you really thought through what you’re going to talk about on your podcast? I mean, if you’re going to start a podcast you probably have to shoot for at least monthly to start. Ideally, weekly or bi-weekly. You’re probably looking at half hour to an hour’s worth of time. How are you going to fill it? What do you have to talk about? Have you mapped that out? Most companies struggle with blogging for this same reason–podcasting is the exact same when it comes to content.
2 — You don’t have the budget/time to get it done.
A podcast isn’t something you just rip off in 10 minutes. Podcasting takes time. Time to plan each show. Time to line up and coach guests (including your own corporate guests, by the way). Time to actually record the show. Time to edit and produce the show. And, of course, time to promote the show. For each show (assuming an hour long show), I’d probably budget at least five hours of time. That’s not a ton, but remember, if you’re shooting for a weekly or bi-weekly podcast, that’s 10-20 hours a month. Do you have that much free time right now?
3 — You don’t have the technical expertise.
This probably isn’t a huge deal, as you could easily outsource this piece of the production process. But, it’s a key piece nonetheless. And, many agencies might have to scramble given the request. It’s not like all PR/marketing agencies have someone on staff who’s familiar with how to put a podcast together. And, more often than not, you rarely have the talent and expertise internally.
4 — You don’t have the support you need (yet) internally.
If you’re going to produce a weekly/bi-weekly show, you definitely need internal support. Any corporate show is only as good as it’s SMEs. And to start a show, you need big-time buy-in from those folks. Are they good “on air”? Do they have anything interesting to say? Do they have the time to participate? Do they WANT to participate? All key questions to ask before you start. And, if I had to guess, all questions that are going to be met with some level of resistance initially.
5 — You don’t have the patience.
Raise your hand if you’ve started a corporate blog in the last five years. Now, keep your hand raised if that blog is still going on a weekly basis? A lot of hands went down, didn’t they? That’s because corporate blogging is hard. Really hard. It requires a lot of patience and will. And continuity of resources, by the way. Most companies just don’t have the stomach for it. Blogging is a long-play. Podcasting is the same thing. You need to have a LOT of patience. You won’t have a big listernship out of the gate. Heck, you may not have 20 listeners in the first six months. So, you have to be realistic–and extremely patient. Most companies aren’t either.
So, have I convinced you yet? Have I dished out a healthy dose of realism for you?
Again, I don’t say this to be overly negative. I say it to be the voice of reason.
Podcasting simply isn’t a great tactic for most mid-sized to large companies. It takes a decent amount of time. It need a lot of internal support. It takes an extreme amount of patience. And, the truth is, good podcasts are really hard to produce. For anyone.
Let alone corporate America.
So, I just ask that you put yourself through these paces before jumping in. Be realistic. Set expectations. And go in eyes wide open on the time required and risks.