Do you remember the days when social media was actually about being… social?
Long gone are the days of just writing on each other’s walls and poking friends. Content has taken over, and our feeds are dominated by professional videos, news and sponsored posts.
Quality content gets lots of engagement and is highly rewarded by social platforms, and it makes sense–this content is often a delight for users and crafted with great care. However, the popularity of content takes social networks further from their original purpose–community. As they get older, Facebook and Instagram have become more entertainment apps than social ones.
But the scales might be tipping back the other way. With growing privacy concerns, lack of brand trust and self-care movements calling for less screen time, community could be making a comeback. The evidence is all around us.
Look no further than the technology and how people are using it.
Technologies supporting community
It’s clear that Facebook is leaning towards building communities on both Instagram and Facebook. It’s hard to determine if its due to a cultural shift back towards connections, or simply a calculated move to regain trust after losing many users’ faith during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Either way, the steps are undeniable.
Facebook will soon see Groups take priority on users’ feeds, with a designated “Groups” feed where you can see all the updates from every group that you’re in. This allows users to prioritise not only friends but also spaces of belonging and interest on their timeline.
In January this year Facebook announced plans to merge Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs and WhatsApp into one messaging service. While it’s undetermined when this will launch, it is safe to assume that it will include an encrypted messaging option, and become a primary form of online communication for many people.
Late last year saw the launch of “Close Friends” on Instagram, a feature which allows users to share story updates with selected friends instead of all their followers who could include extended family, your boss, that guy you met at a party four years ago, and dozens (or millions) of strangers.
This feature is currently only available for the recently launched “Creator Account” setting on Instagram, which is still in beta-testing. It allows creators to split people into two categories of approved direct messages: General and Primary. This means that accounts with larger followings can differentiate between friends who follow and friendly followers at a glance.
The Rise of Finsta
For the uninitiated, they’re a secondary and usually private Instagram account where user only allows access to friends. It’s a clear bid to carve out a private space within an increasingly public social media world. Now that a marketing blog has written about it, “finsta” has probably been killed, but there’s no denying how popular finsta accounts are.
Thriving In A Post-Content World
All brands (but especially brands who have developed strategies based on content being king) need to point the compass needle back to community. How?
In a post-content environment, winning on social means playing by a whole new set of rules. Content will still exist and algorithms may still favour specific styles of it, but there is and will be much more to the role of a social media manager than playing the algorithm. So, what steps can you take now in order to be ahead of the incoming tsunami of community-driven social media platforms?
Community management should already be a prominent component of your social media strategy, but its importance and the effort you put in to it should only increase. You need to do more than just respond to complaints in your Facebook Inbox. Step your game up by liking and commenting on posts that you’re tagged in, or that use relevant hashtags. Respond to every comment, positive or negative. It’s also crucial that you actively engage with your community when your posts include a CTA. Be creative and engaging! Ask your audience how they convince their kids to eat veggies, then congratulate Sharon on her cheesy mash and broccoli recipe. Prompt them to leave their weekend plans in the comments section, and remember to respond to Bob even though his weekend sounds lame. If somebody shares an Instagram story where they’re trying on your store’s clothing, share it to your story (yes, even if they’re not an “influencer”). Essentially, do more than the bare minimum for above bare minimum results. If you need help elevating your community management efforts then learn more here.
This is key to learning what your audience is after. Become involved in their groups and pages. Read the comments section for your own posts, and posts by your competitors. Keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics for your sector. By understanding what your audience needs you’re in a much better position to engage with them, in addition to becoming a voice within that community instead of just another brand.
Build Trust & Authority
This shift towards community and privacy, is fundamentally a trust issue. . There is a lack of trust in brands, in corporations, in the social media platforms themselves. Marketing in this environment can be difficult if you don’t instill confidence that your brand is something worth trusting. This looks different to every brand but the key is authenticity and transparency in your actions. Audiences are smarter now, and they don’t like to feel they’re being sold to on a platform where they are seeking real connections.
Your audience isn’t on social media to see a copy of your website. Make sure that your assets are the right dimensions, and videos have a pacing designed for social. Allow your social listening to guide platform-specific content that won’t feel out of place or out of touch when people see it in their feeds. Be cautious not to regurgitate the same posts across your social networks, too. If you do, there won’t be any reason to follow more than one of your feeds, and you might end up looking cheap.
Join Their Conversations
To effectively join a community, you need to join its conversations. Reach out to influencers with similar messaging, and not just because you hope they’ll promote you after one conversation. Keep tabs on the trends in your industry so that you can provide your two cents at the right time. Don’t be afraid to tag other brands (who aren’t direct competitors, of course) in your posts. Brands such as Pura Vida and Burger King have done this with major results, but there’s nothing stopping brands of any size utilising the communities that already exist to develop and grow their messaging.
Playing an active role in the community revolution is attainable for all brands. Be authentic with your audience, truly care about their experience with your brand online, and listen just as much as, if not more than, you talk. If you need a hand with growing your online community, or anything else social media related, don’t be afraid to shoot us a DM or email. We’re always ready to help.