What Has Changed And Not Changed In Social Media.

The first edition of my book Social Media Strategy was published in 2015. When I went back to update the second edition I learned that many things have changed in social media, but some things have not changed. How should your approach to social media adjust based on new developments? What is the same that you may still be missing? Below is a summary of what I discovered in analyzing social media updates over the last three years.

What has changed in social media
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

New tools, tactics and features have emerged.

One major development has been the rise of live video. Interestingly live streaming video has been around on the Internet since 2007 with services like Livestream and Ustream.

Live video came into real prominence with the launch of live streaming video mobile apps. In 2015 live video took the stage at SXSW with the launch of Meerkat. Periscope was only a couple of weeks behind. Then Blab and Facebook Live were launched. In less than two years Meerkat and Blab were gone. Periscope was bought by and integrated into Twitter. In 2016 Facebook launched Instagram Live. YouTube now has live streaming video and Twitch is the Amazon owned live streaming video app for gamers.

If you have not added live video to your social media activities start looking into it now. Brands today need to seriously consider live video for its reach, engagement and creative possibilities.

Influencer marketing has taken off.

Three years ago we talked about influencers in the context of brand evangelism. Loyal fans and employees where recruited and equipped to become brand ambassadors. Businesses developed relationships with customers and trained employees who voluntarily advocated for the brand. Marketers built their own communities of influencers with programs such as the Lego Ambassadors where super fans were rewarded with exclusives, perks, free products and trips.

Today this process has been formalized. Influencer marketing focuses more on finding people with a high level of influence and pays them for specific campaigns. Now influencer marketing agencies, networks and software like TapInfluence automates influencer discovery, payment and content creation. Micro-influencer marketing has also become a popular strategy where brands partner with people who have smaller followings but have a highly engaged audience in a relevant niche. Are you leveraging social media influencers? Influencer marketing is the fastest growing part of social media strategies.

Paid social media has gone from an experiment to a necessity.

Three years ago paid social media was called native advertising and it was a small way to support organic social media efforts and a way to reach new audiences. It was also available on only a couple social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Today paid social media is a required part of most social media strategies to reach new audiences, but also your own fans on the most crowded social networks. The need for paid social advertising has increased as organic reach, or the percentage of followers or fans that see brand posts, has decreased significantly. Most top social networks now offer paid social media options including Snapchat, Pinterest, Yelp and even Reddit.

No matter how much paid social media grows, it is important to note that paying for reach does not replace the need for creating valuable content. Paid social media may buy exposure but it does not buy engagement and action that still requires quality content. The kind of content you create for organic social media posts.

Some social platforms faded away. Others became more important.

In the update of the book I removed significant sections on social media channels such as Google+, Flickr, and Citisearch. Other social media platforms and categories have been added. Snapchat has grown up to become an important part of many social media strategies.

Other niche social channels have become important for businesses in certain categories such as TripAdvisor for travel related business and Amazon Reviews for brands with e-commerce products. The entire category of Messaging Apps have grown in use and brands are now adding a presence on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Viber and Line.

If you haven’t reviewed your brand social media accounts in a while it may be a good time to conduct a social media audit to ensure you are on the right platforms for your objectives and target market.

What has not changed is the need for a social media strategy.

You can’t succeed by chasing the latest platforms, tactics and features or simply increasing content on existing social accounts. Brands need a solid social media strategy that works for today and three years from now. This is a mistake brands make even after being in social media for years and why nearly half of marketers are unable to show the impact of their social media investments.

For marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals to succeed at social media, they must first start in a place rooted in their distinct situation and drive a strategy of choosing social platforms and creating content based on their business objectives and target audience. Integrating social with other business functions and adding the right tools and metrics will connect your social media actions to broader business goals from the beginning. Then social media will not be an end unto itself and real ROI can be found.

Because of this gap in business knowledge spending in social media has failed to meet previous expectations. The initial hype over social media is dying down and management will eventually stop paying for engagement that doesn’t lead to bottom line action. Another possible explanation is according to Buffer Social’s 2018 State of Social Report only 50% of companies have a documented social media strategy.

Social media knowledge is becoming an expectation in most marketing communication professionals jobs and social media professionals will need to expand their business knowledge to see the big picture and talk the language of management. As social media will inevitably change more tomorrow the need for a solid social media strategy will not change. What are the biggest adjustments you have made in the last couple of years?

16 Free Tools for Digital and Social Media Marketing.

Are you looking for ways to improve and practice digital and social media marketing? Below is a list of valuable free online tools you can use now to test and learn various digital and social media strategies and tactics.

1. Google Trends (trends.google.com/trends). You can use Google Trends to identify topic ideas for blogs, websites, social media posts or other online digital content. Brainstorm ideas and then use Google Trends to compare topic options and to optimize content subjects. Look for data such as interest over time, interest by region, related topics, and related queries by category and type of search (Image, Video, News, Shopping).

2. Hemingway App (hemingwayapp.com). Clear, concise, and easy to read copy is essential to effective online writing for websites, email, social media posts and content marketing. Copy and paste your writing into this tool to identify areas for improvement including sentence readability, complicated phrases and words, over use of adverbs and adjectives, and passive voice. This can be great in a draft stage, but be careful not to lose your voice by over simplifying. You don’t have to follow all the recommendations.

3. SEO Analyzer (neilpatel.com/seo-analyzer). Search Engine Optimization is important to draw search traffic to your online content. This tool analyzes an existing website and up to two competitors. It provides scores and recommendations in key areas such as keywords, key phrases (long tail), alt tags, heading tags, meta descriptions, speed, back links, and indexed pages.

4. Google Competitor Research (www.google.com). Search marketing is important to digital strategy. Get insight into keywords and ad copy with competitor research in Google search. First, try different keyword phrases to determine which are used when people are looking to buy (commercial intent) or to learn about a topic (informational intent). Next, get alternative keyword ideas by scrolling to the bottom to see “Searches related to …” Then, view the ad formats, copy and landing pages competitors are using. For more see Gary Victory’s post on the Kissmetrics Blog.

5. Answer The Public (answerthepublic.com). The challenge of Content Marketing and Public Relations is to know what to create. Answer the Public provides auto suggest results based on Google and Bing data. Enter a keyword and get questions people are asking based on the Five Ws of journalism and more (who, what, where, when, why, how, are, can, will). It also provides lists of related prepositions, comparisons and topics. There is a graphical interface and you can download results in a CSV file.

6. Zurmo (demo.zurmo.com/demos/stable/app/index.php/zurmo/default/login). Customer Relationship Management holds other digital efforts together. Have you wondered what it is like to work within an online CRM system if you don’t have one? Zurmo provides a live demo of their open source CRM application with social integration. Filled with test data, you can find an active customer email list, create a task for a follow up, create an opportunity, schedule a meeting, search a leads list, find opportunities, and add a note to colleagues.

7. Banner Sketch (bannersketch.eu). Display advertising can be an important way to increase sales, improve brand awareness and raise share of voice. Banner Sketch is a free web banner ad generator. Select your size and shape, choose colors and background, enter text and frame, add a border and color, and create the banner. The tool supports both moving (gif) and stationary banners with templates and allows you to upload your own photos.

8. Viral Video Chart (adage.com/section/the-viral-video-chart/674). Viral Advertising Videos can be a successful part of a digital and social media strategy. But how do you know what will go viral? While there are no guarantees you can see what has worked in the past and what is working right now. Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart tracks the weekly top viral videos by total social media views provided by Visible Measures.

9. Headline Analyzer (coschedule.com/headline-analyzer). Headlines drive traffic, shares, search results and opens. Use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to improve headlines for websites, blogs, social media posts and email subject lines. After a free sign up, analysis includes word balance of common, uncommon, emotional and power words. It also analyzes length, keywords and sentiment with suggested improvements and provides Google search and email subject line previews.

10. Likealyzer (likealyzer.com/). Do you want some insights into what works for brands on Facebook? Metlwater has created Likealyzer to analyze Facebook brand performance by front page, about, activity, response and engagement. Scores are provided for each category along with specific recommendations and similar pages for brand competitor comparison. Valuable summaries include posts per day, average post length, pages liked, number of events and number of native videos. Also see response rate, response time, people talking about this, total page likes and engagement rate.

11. Followerwonk (moz.com/followerwonk). Followerwonk is a Twitter tool created by Moz to find, analyze and optimize for social growth. With influencer marketing becoming the fastest growing part of digital and social media this tool can help identify top influencers by bios/profiles. You can also analyze influencer followers and analyze the users they follow. Logging in with your Twitter account provides insights into brand current followers, and provides tracking of new and lost followers.

12. Mobile-Friendly Test (search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly). Are you looking for a simple way to test if your web page is mobile-friendly? Try Google’s mobile-friendly test site. This tool provides a nice preview of what your website looks like on a mobile device. It also provides details on any issues found with suggestions for improvement.

13. SimilarWeb (similarweb.com). SimilarWeb provides a report on any website with estimates on total visits over time by mobile and desktop, average visit duration, pages per visit, bounce rate, and traffic by country. It also provides traffic by source from direct, referrals, search (organic and paid), social, email and display ad. Within each of these categories you get a look at each source by percentage such as websites for referrals and social media channels for social. SimilarWeb also provides audience interests, visited websites and competitor/similar websites.

14. Website Grader (website.grader.com). Website Grader is a tool created by HubSpot to analyze websites for inbound marketing across the categories of performance, SEO, mobile and security. Enter your website and email address and you are sent a customized report for factors such as page size, page requests, and page speed. It also looks at browser caching, page redirects, compression, and render blocking. SEO is analyzed by page titles, meta description, headlines, and site map.

15. Psycho-Demographic Profile (applymagicsauce.com). Personalization is an important strategy in digital and social media. This tool gathers information from your Facebook and Twitter accounts to give you a look at the digital footprints you are leaving and what marketers can predict about you from that data. Get ideas about how to target digital and social media content. But also consider the ethical ramifications of accessing and using this behavioral targeting information.

16. Native Ad Quiz (marketplace.org/2013/12/03/tech/quiz-story-ad). Native Ads have become an important part of digital advertising, content marketing and social media strategy. Test your knowledge in this quiz to determine the difference between journalism stories and advertising stories. Then determine best practices for creating native ads and ensure you follow FTC requirements for native advertising.

These are just some of the free online tools I have found to be helpful. For a more complete and updated list of over 300 free and paid tools and resources see postcontrolmarketing.com/links.