Social media’s “tipping point”, the moment when it transformed from a niche conversation platform to a place where brands could reliably and consistently connect with audiences, is difficult to trace.
But it’s fair to say that 2009, dubbed the “Year of the Social Network” by PC World, seems as good a time as any.
So, in the spirit of the #10yearchallenge – a social media trend encouraging users to share photos comparing themselves 10 years ago to now – we offer you a look at how the world of social media has changed in the last decade.
These are the trends brands should be considering as they update their social media marketing strategies to reach audiences in 2019.
Vertical video is queen
Video on social media didn’t really exist in 2009.
People could post rough video but it didn’t have anywhere near the sophistication or reach as it does today. Most moving images were shared through a link to another platform, such as YouTube. Instead the majority of posts were text- or link-based.
Over the years that’s completely transformed. First, users received the ability to natively upload images to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Then native video started to become an option until it eventually started to be a favoured post in Facebook’s algorithm.
In 2019, it’s not just video that’s popular – it’s vertical video.
At one time many considered the vertical video format to look amateurish, the sign of a social media user who didn’t know enough to tilt their phone sideways.
Now it’s the preferred method for posting video on social media such as Instagram Stories, Facebook and Snapchat all are built for vertical video.
As a result, brands have started to embrace the format as a means of reaching audiences where they spend a good portion of their days: On their mobile phones. Vertical video is geared to mimick the vertical orientation of mobile devices, making it easier to reach users while they are on their phones.
Brands aren’t just shooting amateur video on their phones, either. Now even highly-produced video is migrating to the vertical format.
ESPN, for example, started offering a short-form, vertical video version of its show Sportscenter on Snapchat.
In 2009, brand-to-individual messaging didn’t really take place. Users would message a brand and maybe, if they had the resources to respond, hear back from a real person.
Fast forward to 2019: One-to-one messaging between brands and their audiences is commonplace on social media.
Now social media messaging platforms can be automated so that simple questions – what a company’s refund policy is, when a store is open, how they can get in touch with a sales person – can be answered without the need for a person on the brand’s end to intervene.
Take Facebook. It now allows brands to create chatbots through its “Messenger” platform.
As a result, there are now more than 100,000 bots in use on Facebook Messenger.
Social media content from 2009 lived on forever.
Even today you can go back in time and see exactly what a person was eating, watching or doing on any given night – a fact that has caused problems for everyone from professional athletes to contestants on the Bachelorette.
Now, in 2019, “ephemeral” content is elbowing its way into the mix more and more. Brands are now regularly uploading content on platforms, such as Snapchat, that prioritize short posts that are only around for a limited period of time.
But it’s not just organic content. Brands now have the ability to run ads using ephemeral platforms like Facebook and Instagram stories.
In fact, it might even be an opportunity on which many brands are missing out.
Search Engine Journal called Facebook and Instagram Story Ads a successful tactic that marketers are not using enough.
SEJ used data from Buffer’s 2019 State of Social report to show that 62 per cent of brands have yet to invest in stories ads despite 57 per cent of them believing that stories are “somewhat” or “very” effective.
Ads and data
Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram
Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition
— Kate O’Neill (@kateo) January 12, 2019
Ads, for the most part, didn’t exist on social media 10 years ago.
In 2009 social networks earned $1.43 billion in ad revenues, according to eConsultancy.
Now, in 2019, that number will grow to $50 billion.
Why? In part it’s because social media ads are rapidly overtaking more traditional advertising formats like newspapers and magazines.
But another factor is that organic social media reach isn’t what it used to be. Platforms such as Facebook have made it more difficult for brands to reach audiences – even those who follow a page – without a paid spend.
The average organic post on Facebook, for example, achieved fewer than seven per cent reach as of 2014. Then, in 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from friends and family over brands, creating further problems for brands trying to connect with audiences using organic content.
That means that, if brands want to reach their audience on social media platforms, they almost have to have a paid spend behind them.
But it’s not just reach that makes social media advertising a rewarding proposition for advertisers.
The sheer amount of data that brands can access using social media platforms ads is staggering.
Think about it: People signed up for Facebook and/or Twitter back in the 2000s or early 2010s, before new legislation aimed at protecting consumers’ data and growing awareness about data privacy issues were prevalent.
Since then, these platforms have been collecting data on us – everything from who we’ve married to the types of news with which we most engage.
Is it any wonder that, 10 years since social media exploded on the scene, advertisers are so keen to spend on social ads?
Just like our profile pictures, social media has changed a lot in the last 10 years.
By ensuring they keep up with these trends, brands can ensure they don’t fall behind in 2019.
Mark Brownlee is a digital marketing strategist in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.