As the popularity of social media continues to grow, challenger apps and platforms emerge daily in the fight to capture consumer attention. From Tumblr, Pinterest, Musical.ly and Snapchat, these players enter as darlings, but ultimately can’t compete with the big three – Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. They then become niche platforms that cater to smaller groups and fine tune their offerings.
In the next two years, the rubber band will snap, making the smaller platforms virtually obsolete as effective ad platforms. Facebook and Google will claim a monopoly on consumer preferences, advertising opportunities and capabilities as they have Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and YouTube to offer.
This shift is imminent, as platforms continuously replicate one another and those with more established audiences prevail, as seen with Instagram versus Snapchat. Given this shift, platforms are looking at ways in which they can be one step ahead and combat this trend in order to survive as a thriving platform. We’ve seen this type of duplication before, from the news feed feature on Facebook to its replication on Instagram and vice versa, with Facebook Stories following Instagram Stories (and Snapchat’s lead). This has only become more and more prevalent now, as platforms must keep advertisers (and therefore shareholders) happy.
Here are ways that marketers can get ahead of this shift and prepare for the social snap-back:
Break out of the channel-specific approach
It’s important for marketers to get ahead of this social evolution by breaking out of a channel-specific approach and shift into a features-driven strategy.
While many brands and agencies have been successful in creating channel-specific roles tailored to individual platforms, they now need roles exclusively dedicated to the features that appear across these platforms, such as stories, live videos, filters, link ads, etc.
They also need to understand how a story comes to life in different formats versus where to place it for a more fluid cross-platform approach to storytelling. This can be done through building testing plans into campaigns and opting for longer lead activations. A focus on features over channels also helps create assets that are translatable across features, increasing production efficiency.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Focusing on features rather than channels won’t be an easy shift, but it is possible. It will require greater collaboration between creatives, media planners and strategists. This will ensure that assets are tailored to features versus platforms and that the features we concept against will be most impactful from a media perspective.
We have seen a few brands evolve toward this model. One example is a popular spirits brand who has been using the feature strategy to develop brand activations. They employ a formulaic system to determine which feature will be most efficient for activation based on audience, objective, and timing inputs. The formula delivers a list of recommended social features that Media, Strategy, and Creative can further narrow to suit the concept.
This method could easily be applied to other industries. For example, fashion/lifestyle brands are at a strong advantage that they often house ecommerce capabilities on owned sites. This allows these brands to use stronger data to determine which social feature will be most impactful for the targets. This approach mirrors existing efforts to embrace precision marketing but refines it to ensure it’s not just the right message reaching the right person, it’s also reaching them in the right way.
So, what will this mean for brands once they’ve adopted a features-driven strategy and embraced cross-department collaboration? In order to anticipate what will come next, they can keep an eye on features gaining popularity on emerging platforms and apps.
For example, HQ Trivia quickly gained popularity and viewership. As a result, we’re seeing platforms testing quiz and episodic features to compete. Another example is QR codes which didn’t take off in the U.S. when they were originally released and then skyrocketed in value and usage in Asia. With more examples of success, platforms started re-introducing QR codes into features. Keeping an eye on trends outside of social can help marketers forecast what the next copycat features will look like in order to plan in advance for them.
Preparing for the social snap-back is a key to future proofing businesses across all industries. This will prepare marketers and agencies alike to tell stories in the most compelling, holistic and fluid ways, across any platform.
Juliette Leavey is an associate director of digital strategy and Andrew Quay is a planning director. Both work at Deutsch.