Eight years ago I began my career as a social media marketer. To give this time frame some context, the year was 2007. Myspace was king, as was Digg, both of which are totally obscure today. Facebook was on the rise, Twitter was virtually unknown and Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine didn't exist.
It's also important to note that when I say I'm a "social media marketer," it's important to emphasize that I began my career working with a credible and reputable agency, which is a far-cry from the fly-by-night so-called 'social media guru's' who run around the Internet these days prophesying about things they have no experience in.
In the 8 years since I've started my career, I've seen social media marketing change quite a bit, but I have yet to see any of the big changes that will take place this year.
In 2015, social media marketing will change in a major way.
Here's how you will need to adjust your strategy to stay ahead of the game:
1. Forget the Following:
For the past eight years, businesses have been enticed by social media sites to build their audiences on their platforms. Facebook was the first to roll out an ad platform that allowed page admins to advertise their pages to attract more fans. On a more organic level, many businesses, blogs and personal brands have built their followings through years of shareable content and consistent posting. This all sounds like a perfect recipe for success right? In the end you reap the reward of thousands or millions of fans you can leverage to share and spread your content for free. Here's the problem... This no longer works and hasn't worked for years, yet marketers, agencies and businesses are continuing down this terrible bridge to nowhere. It no longer works because social media feeds are crowded more now than ever before. More users have joined as well as businesses, so your ability to compete for attention is now at an all-time low. That being said, don't waste your time building your following anymore. While it's still important, keep these efforts in the back of your mind because you're not going to get the organic reach you once did years ago.
2. Pay to Play:
Once upon a time, I fell in love with the fantasy that social media was free like everybody else, until I realized that it wasn't. In 2015, you will need to embrace advertising. I've talked a lot about Facebook, and I'm about to do it again. Facebook and YouTube have fantastic ad platforms. Give them a try. The thing about advertising that I want to very heavily emphasize is that success in social media in 2015 and beyond will weigh heavily on brand's being able to develop shareable content and disseminate it quickly. Brands will also need to control the velocity at which content spreads and stays alive in the social space. This is why advertising is so critical. It gives brands the ability to toss out several pieces of content, advertise them, see which ones perform the best and then fire on all cylinders with a larger ad spend to keep things moving. As you consistently pump out content in 2015 that increases in engagement, your following will grow organically and because your content is being engaged with more heavily, it will have a higher organic reach.
3. Post Better Content:
For the past few years Facebook has intentionally dropped the organic reach of business pages to "enhance user experience." I must admit that from a user's perspective I appreciate this and commend Facebook. From a business's perspective it feels like Facebook is screwing the companies and individuals who have spent thousands of dollars building their followings only to have Facebook diminish their reach. Some businesses even think this is Facebook's way of forcing businesses to use their Boosted Post feature. There's some truth to that. However, most businesses post boring, ad-blatant content on their pages. This results in low engagement. So instead of forcing user's to see this garbage, Facebook has chosen to severely limit the reach of this type of crappy content. That being said, post better content. This is a great segway into the next two points.
4. Leverage Content Creators:
Agencies are generally terrible at creating content so stop paying them to do it. Most agencies dish out beautiful creative, then they slap a cutesy quote or some non-catchy phrase no one cares about accompanied by a company logo. No one's going to share this so stop doing it! If creating content isn't your thing and if your agency isn't delivering content that's getting shared, hire a content creator that has a large following on YouTube, Vine, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. These people know what they're doing and it's proven by their large social following. I will warn you that these people aren't cheap, but neither is your agency, so fire them and hire a content creator.
5. When in Doubt, Steal:
If your agency sucks and you can't dish out the funds to hire a social media maven, then steal other people/businesses content ideas. See what's working for others and replicate what they've done. "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso.
6. Be a Laggard:
In the business community I keep hearing chatter that "Facebook's dead" or "Snapchat and Vine is the future." The truth is, this is all a bunch of nonsense from industry novices who have no idea what they're talking about. Facebook is far from dead and Snapchat and Vine are far from alive. Snapchat and Vine aren't proven marketing platforms for businesses and there's barely more than a handful of successful case studies. In 2015, your best bet is to play it safe and stick to what you know. It's also important to note that many of the emerging social media platforms such as Instagram and Vine are driven by creative content creators. These aren't platforms that suit businesses well at all, unless you have a highly creative product, team and company culture. If that doesn't describe your company, your best bet is to hire an Instagram photographer to shoot content for you and promote it through their account. Same goes for Vine.
7. Use Platforms Natively:
Last but not least, use platforms natively. In other words, pay attention to the content style of each social media platform and create content that matches those platforms' intended purpose. As a marketer I'm so sick and tired of seeing brands mis-using and abusing social media. It's not a traditional ad platform, and as such you can't A.) re-purpose content on one platform for another or B.) take an ad from one of your traditional media outlets and re-purpose it for social media. This doesn't work. Stop doing it! Examples of native social media content is as follows: Facebook is great for social posters (quotes, phrases, funny idioms) and even video (coming soon). Instagram is great for lifestyle imagery. YouTube is great for lifestyle cinema. Pinterest is great for creative arts and curation. I think you get the point.
Do these things and you'll be well on your way to staying ahead of the social media game in 2015.
Michael Price is an entrepreneur, digital media marketer and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, endorsed by Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank.