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Takeaways from Last Week’s Social Growth Spurt

Takeaways from Last Week’s Social Growth Spurt

Davitha Ghiassi

Davitha Ghiassi

May 8, 2019

Havas PR’s Davitha Ghiassi reports back from SMW NY and Facebook’s F8 and explores social media’s “teenage years.”

"The divide in regard to depth of social savvy among those working in this dynamic space is greater now than ever."

The world of social media moves at a speedy pace on any given day, but last week was a particular biggie, with both Social Media Week New York 2019 and Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference coinciding.

As I walked away on Friday from three days at SMW, my head was buzzing with thought-provoking statements, new perspectives on existing principles, interesting tools, and actionable tactics for our teams. My primary takeaway from the conference, however, was: the divide in regard to depth of social savvy among those working in this dynamic space is greater now than ever.

While conferences like Social Media Week attract broad audiences among which many are at the start of, or bang smack in the midst of, their social media learning curve and career development, isn’t it interesting to note that if social were a person, it would be in its teenage years right now?

And if social were indeed a teenager, it would be struggling with the same complex issues we humans experience during those formative years of intense rebellion, expression, self-doubt, and discovery.

Since about 2004, we have seen social rise from an intimate community network, to a newsfeed-powered two-way engagement channel, to a mass media platform that is now set to generate as much as half of TV ad spending ($69.17 billion) in the US alone across 2019—of which, according to eMarketer, 84 percent is projected to be spent within the Facebook family of apps, despite the company’s recent reputational trials and tribulations.

So, when you consider the data breaches, brand-safety scandals, monetization madness, mental health impact, fake-news frenzy, and hate-speech hell we’ve seen dominate the headlines over the recent year or so, it’s no stretch to say that social media channels and unruly teenagers aren’t all that different.

This is why last week’s conference clash presented a fascinating contrast for us social media marketers—on one hand, we have Social Media Week, which focuses on getting emerging social media marketers across the channel’s best practice fundamentals and existing trends. And on the other hand, we have Facebook’s F8 developer conference, which teaches those at the very forefront of tech the next big changes ahead.

"The need for depth in social knowledge is now greater than ever, yet the number of marketers able to confidently navigate this rapidly growing, ever-evolving, highly technical yet human-led landscape is relatively scarce."

And as Mark Zuckerberg formally announced Facebook’s new “The Future Is Private” vision at last week’s developer conference, it signaled a strong turning social tide of “Living Room vs. Townhall”-type interactions, placing focus on intimate engagement methods such as Messaging, Groups, Events, and Dating—the “community” element of this platform we first got to know back in 2004 is set to take center stage once again.

This major shift begs the question: Have we come full social circle?

Today’s reality for agencies and brands indeed is that demand for depth of expertise in social now spans a wide spectrum of skills ranging from strategy to creative, production, community, crisis, influencer, paid, and SEO, just to reel off a few.

The need for depth in social knowledge is now greater than ever, yet the number of marketers able to confidently navigate this rapidly growing, ever-evolving, highly technical yet human-led landscape is relatively scarce. Due to social’s constant growth spurts only a small pool of people have come to know the channel full circle, with many others still desperately trying to get a grip on the crucial fundamentals, such as how to craft content for the mobile screen, which metrics matter, what types of influencers exist, and that pay-to-play is now a cross channel reality.

Our industry and society are growing up, as well as catching up, right alongside the platforms.

Yet meanwhile, as Social Media continues to mature and new methods move forward at the speed of light across emerging areas such as messaging, E-commerce, AR, visual intelligence, and voice, the depth in technical skills required to stay on top requires a base level of knowledge well beyond the current average.

That’s why a conference like Social Media Week plays such a crucial role in highlighting the areas of imbalance and helping close the general knowledge gap, while gatherings like F8 continue to help guide our focus toward the new and unknown.

But most importantly, these types of conferences open up the floor for the questions surrounding social media that many of us have but do not always ask daily—and, ironically, they do so by bringing peers together to connect and network in person.

"The number of stories shared and interacted with on Instagram has now officially overtaken the number shared and engaged within Instagram’s feed"

That streamlined collective learning is exactly what we need, because in today’s social world the meaning of experience and expertise isn’t measured in years, but rather in technical know-how, and that requires staying on top of a ball that truly never lies still.

And speaking of ever-changing—a lot of big changes are currently taking place in social, so here are my three key takeaways:

Mobile video is still getting bigger—but also simpler.

With 5.11 billion unique mobile users as of today and 80 percent of internet traffic set to be made up of video content by 2021, it’s no secret that mobile video is revolutionizing the way we share content, which is largely driven by social.

Yet in a space where consumption primarily occurs through a pocket-size vertical screen and the average attention span on mobile is a mere 1.7 seconds, when it comes to social video too many marketers are still stuck in their TV or desktop ways and not seeing anywhere near the ROI they could.

One of my favorite SMW talks was by Co-founder & Chief Video Officer Jason Hsiao of Animoto, a “DYI video maker” company. Animoto is a certified Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter partner cleverly positioned as the “Canvas of Video”—putting the power to create social-by-design video in the hands of the many marketers balling on a budget, with subscriptions starting at $5 per month.

And speaking of the demand for “everyday” mobile video, it’s no secret that the Stories format has become social’s darling after Instagram overtook Snapchat, with over 500 million daily active users on Instagram alone. But what isn’t yet common knowledge is that much like what mobile did to desktop back in the day, the number of stories shared and interacted with on Instagram has now officially overtaken the number shared and engaged within Instagram’s feed—and this trend is set to continue, which means a total change in how brands should shape and share their social stories.

Due to the rapid rise of mobile video, which is being dominated by vertical formats such as Stories, as well as new up-and-comers such as IGTV, tools like Animoto are rapidly disrupting a content format that used to be Spielberg-inspired and considered “high value” by default, making room for a new type of storyteller: the social (and mobile) kind. 

S-commerce isn’t on the rise—it has arrived.

Still somewhat foreign in many marketers’ minds, conversion-driven paid social tactics, as well as content and ad formats, are spaces well worth getting immersed in.

A new survey by Episerver found that of the nearly two-thirds (63%) of online shoppers that have clicked on a social media ad, 33 percent made a direct purchase.

Over the recent year or so, we’ve seen “shopping” posts and “in-app” purchase experiences arrive on social platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. They both play a major role not just in product discovery but also sales, whether directly or indirectly on the path-to-purchase.

While a whole lot of data has not been released on the performance of shoppable posts, Facebook has previously announced that over 90 million people tap to reveal tags in shopping posts every month, which was enough proof for the app to launch Shopping Stories and in-app checkouts at the end of last year.

Taking the shopping theme a step further, Facebook at F8 last week announced the launch of “Shoppable Influencers,” which will begin testing with 20 brands who will pay Instagram a “checkout fee” and enable a series of Instagram “Creators” or “Influencers” to tag items featured in their posts as shoppable so that consumers can purchase them directly.

In addition, Facebook also revealed the launch of the Instagram “Donate” sticker that is currently cause-related, but could take all kinds of turns in the future. The button allows users to encourage their followers to donate to a cause of their choosing by selecting it in the sticker section and then sharing the cause via Stories.

These are all clear signs that social conversions are becoming an in-app mechanic and thereby the options for social platform and content commercialization are endless.

Rachel Tipograph, whose company MikMak specializes in S-commerce, said it best by calling social the “ultimate shopfront” for your business.

Visual and Voice are reshaping the ways we share—and listen.

Another trend that also featured at SMW is the major impact visual- and voice-led engagement and content have on the ways we share brand stories, and also pick up on the ones shared or told about our brand by others.

For instance, did you know that 95 percent of videos that feature a brand visually don’t directly mention it in the accompanying post copy? So, if as a brand, you’re only listening to the things consumers are saying about you, you’re missing a big part of the picture.

There are numerous tools that can help marketers tackle this problem and Talkwalker is a leading one. CEO Todd Grossman’s talk at SMW outlined the importance of leveraging AI to modernize listening mechanics in line with today’s consumers’ visual sharing behaviors.

Also making a major impact on the way we listen to consumers is voice search, a format that is growing at an incredible speed and will comprise up to 50 percent of all searches by 2020 according to ComScore.

SEO professionals have long been considering the impact of voice on organic search, but with voice assistants like Alexa able to read people their Twitter feed and also likely to take over the posting of their content or comments at scale, optimizing social content for voice search is key as part of a future-proof strategy.

As I said previously, it’s an exciting time in the world of social—a channel sure to keep you on your toes.

"The divide in regard to depth of social savvy among those working in this dynamic space is greater now than ever."

The world of social media moves at a speedy pace on any given day, but last week was a particular biggie, with both Social Media Week New York 2019 and Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference coinciding.

As I walked away on Friday from three days at SMW, my head was buzzing with thought-provoking statements, new perspectives on existing principles, interesting tools, and actionable tactics for our teams. My primary takeaway from the conference, however, was: the divide in regard to depth of social savvy among those working in this dynamic space is greater now than ever.

While conferences like Social Media Week attract broad audiences among which many are at the start of, or bang smack in the midst of, their social media learning curve and career development, isn’t it interesting to note that if social were a person, it would be in its teenage years right now?

And if social were indeed a teenager, it would be struggling with the same complex issues we humans experience during those formative years of intense rebellion, expression, self-doubt, and discovery.

Since about 2004, we have seen social rise from an intimate community network, to a newsfeed-powered two-way engagement channel, to a mass media platform that is now set to generate as much as half of TV ad spending ($69.17 billion) in the US alone across 2019—of which, according to eMarketer, 84 percent is projected to be spent within the Facebook family of apps, despite the company’s recent reputational trials and tribulations.

So, when you consider the data breaches, brand-safety scandals, monetization madness, mental health impact, fake-news frenzy, and hate-speech hell we’ve seen dominate the headlines over the recent year or so, it’s no stretch to say that social media channels and unruly teenagers aren’t all that different.

This is why last week’s conference clash presented a fascinating contrast for us social media marketers—on one hand, we have Social Media Week, which focuses on getting emerging social media marketers across the channel’s best practice fundamentals and existing trends. And on the other hand, we have Facebook’s F8 developer conference, which teaches those at the very forefront of tech the next big changes ahead.

"The need for depth in social knowledge is now greater than ever, yet the number of marketers able to confidently navigate this rapidly growing, ever-evolving, highly technical yet human-led landscape is relatively scarce."

And as Mark Zuckerberg formally announced Facebook’s new “The Future Is Private” vision at last week’s developer conference, it signaled a strong turning social tide of “Living Room vs. Townhall”-type interactions, placing focus on intimate engagement methods such as Messaging, Groups, Events, and Dating—the “community” element of this platform we first got to know back in 2004 is set to take center stage once again.

This major shift begs the question: Have we come full social circle?

Today’s reality for agencies and brands indeed is that demand for depth of expertise in social now spans a wide spectrum of skills ranging from strategy to creative, production, community, crisis, influencer, paid, and SEO, just to reel off a few.

The need for depth in social knowledge is now greater than ever, yet the number of marketers able to confidently navigate this rapidly growing, ever-evolving, highly technical yet human-led landscape is relatively scarce. Due to social’s constant growth spurts only a small pool of people have come to know the channel full circle, with many others still desperately trying to get a grip on the crucial fundamentals, such as how to craft content for the mobile screen, which metrics matter, what types of influencers exist, and that pay-to-play is now a cross channel reality.

Our industry and society are growing up, as well as catching up, right alongside the platforms.

Yet meanwhile, as Social Media continues to mature and new methods move forward at the speed of light across emerging areas such as messaging, E-commerce, AR, visual intelligence, and voice, the depth in technical skills required to stay on top requires a base level of knowledge well beyond the current average.

That’s why a conference like Social Media Week plays such a crucial role in highlighting the areas of imbalance and helping close the general knowledge gap, while gatherings like F8 continue to help guide our focus toward the new and unknown.

But most importantly, these types of conferences open up the floor for the questions surrounding social media that many of us have but do not always ask daily—and, ironically, they do so by bringing peers together to connect and network in person.

"The number of stories shared and interacted with on Instagram has now officially overtaken the number shared and engaged within Instagram’s feed"

That streamlined collective learning is exactly what we need, because in today’s social world the meaning of experience and expertise isn’t measured in years, but rather in technical know-how, and that requires staying on top of a ball that truly never lies still.

And speaking of ever-changing—a lot of big changes are currently taking place in social, so here are my three key takeaways:

Mobile video is still getting bigger—but also simpler.

With 5.11 billion unique mobile users as of today and 80 percent of internet traffic set to be made up of video content by 2021, it’s no secret that mobile video is revolutionizing the way we share content, which is largely driven by social.

Yet in a space where consumption primarily occurs through a pocket-size vertical screen and the average attention span on mobile is a mere 1.7 seconds, when it comes to social video too many marketers are still stuck in their TV or desktop ways and not seeing anywhere near the ROI they could.

One of my favorite SMW talks was by Co-founder & Chief Video Officer Jason Hsiao of Animoto, a “DYI video maker” company. Animoto is a certified Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter partner cleverly positioned as the “Canvas of Video”—putting the power to create social-by-design video in the hands of the many marketers balling on a budget, with subscriptions starting at $5 per month.

And speaking of the demand for “everyday” mobile video, it’s no secret that the Stories format has become social’s darling after Instagram overtook Snapchat, with over 500 million daily active users on Instagram alone. But what isn’t yet common knowledge is that much like what mobile did to desktop back in the day, the number of stories shared and interacted with on Instagram has now officially overtaken the number shared and engaged within Instagram’s feed—and this trend is set to continue, which means a total change in how brands should shape and share their social stories.

Due to the rapid rise of mobile video, which is being dominated by vertical formats such as Stories, as well as new up-and-comers such as IGTV, tools like Animoto are rapidly disrupting a content format that used to be Spielberg-inspired and considered “high value” by default, making room for a new type of storyteller: the social (and mobile) kind. 

S-commerce isn’t on the rise—it has arrived.

Still somewhat foreign in many marketers’ minds, conversion-driven paid social tactics, as well as content and ad formats, are spaces well worth getting immersed in.

A new survey by Episerver found that of the nearly two-thirds (63%) of online shoppers that have clicked on a social media ad, 33 percent made a direct purchase.

Over the recent year or so, we’ve seen “shopping” posts and “in-app” purchase experiences arrive on social platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. They both play a major role not just in product discovery but also sales, whether directly or indirectly on the path-to-purchase.

While a whole lot of data has not been released on the performance of shoppable posts, Facebook has previously announced that over 90 million people tap to reveal tags in shopping posts every month, which was enough proof for the app to launch Shopping Stories and in-app checkouts at the end of last year.

Taking the shopping theme a step further, Facebook at F8 last week announced the launch of “Shoppable Influencers,” which will begin testing with 20 brands who will pay Instagram a “checkout fee” and enable a series of Instagram “Creators” or “Influencers” to tag items featured in their posts as shoppable so that consumers can purchase them directly.

In addition, Facebook also revealed the launch of the Instagram “Donate” sticker that is currently cause-related, but could take all kinds of turns in the future. The button allows users to encourage their followers to donate to a cause of their choosing by selecting it in the sticker section and then sharing the cause via Stories.

These are all clear signs that social conversions are becoming an in-app mechanic and thereby the options for social platform and content commercialization are endless.

Rachel Tipograph, whose company MikMak specializes in S-commerce, said it best by calling social the “ultimate shopfront” for your business.

Visual and Voice are reshaping the ways we share—and listen.

Another trend that also featured at SMW is the major impact visual- and voice-led engagement and content have on the ways we share brand stories, and also pick up on the ones shared or told about our brand by others.

For instance, did you know that 95 percent of videos that feature a brand visually don’t directly mention it in the accompanying post copy? So, if as a brand, you’re only listening to the things consumers are saying about you, you’re missing a big part of the picture.

There are numerous tools that can help marketers tackle this problem and Talkwalker is a leading one. CEO Todd Grossman’s talk at SMW outlined the importance of leveraging AI to modernize listening mechanics in line with today’s consumers’ visual sharing behaviors.

Also making a major impact on the way we listen to consumers is voice search, a format that is growing at an incredible speed and will comprise up to 50 percent of all searches by 2020 according to ComScore.

SEO professionals have long been considering the impact of voice on organic search, but with voice assistants like Alexa able to read people their Twitter feed and also likely to take over the posting of their content or comments at scale, optimizing social content for voice search is key as part of a future-proof strategy.

As I said previously, it’s an exciting time in the world of social—a channel sure to keep you on your toes.

Davitha is a strategic and energetic leader who's immersed herself in all things social media since the channel's first years of emergence.

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