September 20, 2016

The Evolution of Social Channels

By: Allison Diroll

With every passing day, the sweet sounds of dial up and “You’ve Got Mail” continue to fade in our memories. Replacing them are the dings of smartphones as notifications from Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat fill your screen. Although nostalgia tells us differently, these changes are in fact a good thing in our world, as it allows us to connect and communicate in ways instant messenger never allowed for. This communication method has turned PR pros’ dreams into realities, creating platforms that bridge the disconnect that once separated them from the public. However, since their creation, these channels have been in a constant up-hill sprint to remain relevant in an ever-changing space, making it crucial for PR pros to remain at the forefront of these shifts to take advantage of new opportunities.

Today, the evolution continues with Instagram Stories, Facebook’s newest algorithm for your Newsfeed and Trending Topics, and Snapchat’s acquisition of Vurb. Here’s what you need to know to stay ahead of this online social evolution on three key platforms:

  • Facebook: With Facebook’s recent decision to change their newsfeed algorithm to prioritize family and friends on a user’s newsfeed, PR and social media teams have to think even bigger to obtain social presence organically. (And let’s be honest, you could have an award-worthy campaign but unless you’ve got an advertising budget dedicated to it, you probably won’t get the traction you’re looking for.) To beat out these changes and make a mark on newsfeeds everywhere, it is necessary to be extremely thoughtful about what you’re putting out there, ensuring it is valuable to your followers and creates a space for dialogue and inspiration. Take time to create (and recreate!) your social content and think about what will strike interest or evoke emotion in the user as they are scrolling through their feed. If your content is meaningful and fitting, engagement is the next step in keeping up with the algorithms – it stretches your reach far beyond your followers.
  • Instagram: In 2013, Facebook made a failed attempt to acquire Snapchat. Now the Facebook family has decided to shift their Instagram platform to become competition. Recently they implemented Instagram Stories, a way for their users to engage via 10-second photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours (yes, you can see who’s viewed them). This has created a split response, as many believe that the feature is a nearly identical copy of Snapchat Stories. However, this change has proven to be extremely beneficial for companies and brands who opt-out of Snapchat, as it allows a new way for them to interact with their audience without having to build a whole new channel. Whether or not Snapchat is enhancing engagement with your followers, take advantage of Instagram Stories to beat the newsfeed algorithms and create a “real time” dialogue for your brand.
  • Snapchat: Fear not, Snapchat is not going down without a fight! Despite their hilarious filters and their fun geo-tags, they recently changed the game by purchasing the mobile search channel Vurb. By acquiring Vurb, Snapchat will continue to remain at the forefront of this app battle, as it will not only remain a go-to for it’s dog filter and quick disappearing photos, but will also deliver new exploration power to it’s users that no other channel possesses (as of right now, at least). In addition, there are recent talks of e-commerce being permanently integrated into Snapchat for in-app ticket purchasing and other features. So, don’t give up on Snapchat yet, as it still holds major currency for your business.
  • Twitter: OK, so we actually have a fourth platform to talk about. Don’t forget about Twitter! Often times you may not see as much talk about this platform, but it could very well be the most valuable channel for your brand, personality or company. Beyond it’s commitment to becoming your most valuable customer service tool (currently 80% of social media customer service requests come from this channel), Twitter has big plans for it’s future as a live video network. And did you know it now as the ability to publicly reveal how businesses interact with their customers (ex. response times)? Don’t worry, this is something that your profile has to opt-in to…for now anyways.

Although you may favor some social channels over others, when it comes to relaying your message, it’s crucial to remain as updated as possible on what each platform has to offer. Each channel has the ability to change faster than you can thumb scroll or swipe right.