Social Media Trends | Overview

2018 was an interesting year. All of the New Mexico Nomad platforms grew, though growth slowed compared to 2016 and 2017. Fortunately, the engagement and reach of the platforms accelerated despite algorithm changes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. My theory is the lack of political content makes New Mexico Nomad a pleasant, chill, neutral zone online. There’s a friendly, community vibe and love for New Mexico seems to be something that most people agree on.

One reason for the slower growth was a shift in focus on my behalf. Rather than emphasizing Facebook and leveraging “like” campaigns or post boosts, I focused on growing the Instagram and Twitter audiences. The only post boosts in 2018 were associated with active campaigns. This change is in response to uncertainty about how the social media companies, and users, will respond to legal issues and privacy concerns.

Facebook isn’t alone. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google…all of them are coming under scrutiny. The algorithms and data harvesting are at the root of micro-targeting. My hunch is the Wild West days of social media are coming to an end, but I don’t know what that means for small businesses using the platforms for marketing. However, I believe in being proactive when my Spidey senses start tingling. If your company uses a marketing agency and they aren’t discussing these issues with you as they plan strategies for 2019 and 2020, they should.

Diversifying the Social Media Mix

Facebook currently generates most of the website traffic and it is the largest social media audience at 104,000. I focused on diversifying the audience in 2018 and will continue that process in 2019. Twitter should be closing in on 100,000 by the end of the year. Pinterest is the next priority due to the ability to generate sales. The overall goal is to grow the cumulative audience to over 300,000 by the end of the year. Based on growth over the last three years, that seems like a conservative goal and it highlights the difference between traditional media and social media. Few traditional outlets are adding 70,000 viewers, readers, or listeners in a 12-month cycle. In fact, the impact of plummeting ad revenue is evident in the recent media layoffs nationwide.

Facebook

Facebook had a very, very bad year. They lost an enormous amount of their stock value and their problems have just begun. They are under intense scrutiny in Europe due to their involvement with Cambridge Analytica and influence on European elections. Lawsuits and Parliamentary investigations are ongoing. They are coming into 2019 under a microscope, but, so far, the news in the United States is background noise due to the focus on politics. I’m in a holding pattern in terms of investing in marketing efforts, because I don’t currently have an educated guess about where this is headed or how it will impact social media influencers and small businesses using social media for marketing.

Facebook is very much a “pay to play” platform for businesses, even more so than other social media channels. Organic reach for Facebook Pages has dropped over the years, currently reaching an estimated 2% of those connected with a business page. This forces businesses to boost posts to their existing audience. Whereas I understand that Facebook needs to make money, and their targeted marketing tools are fantastic, the shift coincides with a sea change for Facebook in the form of legal issues and PR challenges that will likely intensify in the coming months. It seems inevitable that more users will reject the platform when the privacy violations and the extent of manipulation becomes common knowledge. The question is how many?

Facebook Response

Thus far, Facebook has a poor track record of addressing issues effectively. My opinion is this is Zuckerberg’s 3 am call and he has no idea how to respond other than to throw a deluge of lawyers and PR folks at the problem. He is making excuses rather than taking accountability. For example, there was an additional data breach in September, 2018, but there isn’t much information in the public sphere about the impact on users and what kinds of data was exposed.

I don’t know what will happen to Facebook in the next year or two, but I anticipate major shifts in their business model and a diminished user base. I assume they will look to Ad Manager to recapture revenue.

Twitter

Twitter says 1.6 billion unique visitors per month see tweets on third-party properties, which corresponds to 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. The format is about information, conversation, and customer service, delivered on a fast feed, which allows for posting content more frequently without it becoming stale.

Twitter isn’t a popular platform in New Mexico, but it is an incredible tool to tap into the rest of the country and the world. Travel is an active, well-developed niche. Unlike Facebook, Twitter has written a fairly in-depth guide about the tech behind how the algorithm works. One key highlight is that it works on a scoring system. They score all of the Tweets from people you follow to determine what’s going to be the most relevant or interesting to you.

They hone in on three main variables:

  • The Tweet itself: Recency, media cards (image or video), and total engagement (number of Retweets, likes and comments).
  • The Tweet’s author: What type of past interactions you’ve had with them, the strength of your connection and the origin of the relationship.
  • You: What type of Tweets you found engaging in the past, and how often or how much you use Twitter.

Twitter Audience

The Twitter audience is different than the Facebook audience. It skews younger, with more of a national and international footprint than a local following. Based on feedback from people following on Twitter, it seems like Twitter is the passive customer or new customer. Whereas many people following don’t know about New Mexico, they become interested over time and ask questions, often messaging me when they are headed this way for tips and suggestions. In contrast, most of the Facebook followers are New Mexico fanboys and fangirls. They are already sold on the place and they enjoy having New Mexico in their news feed. They add to the discussion, help answer questions, respond with their photos/videos and comments.

A key variable on Twitter, which may explain the concierge vs. community tone, is Twitter is real time interaction, like a worldwide chat room. Whereas I use scheduling tools for posts, I also invest a lot of time interacting with people . For businesses with a significant customer base from outside of the state, Twitter is an invaluable tool.

That said, Twitter is also under scrutiny for disseminating false information and refusing to enforce terms of service. Like Facebook, Twitter isn’t being honest with shareholders and users and seems deaf to the legitimate criticism of their shortcomings. This is worrisome. However, thus far, Twitter has been considerably more responsive than Facebook in terms of trying to eliminate bots and malicious users.

Instagram and Added Value

Facebook owns Instagram and they have plans to fuse it with WhatsApp and Messenger. For example, a WhatsApp user would be able to start a chat with an Instagram user, breaking down barriers between Facebook’s social platforms. This represents a strategic shift in Facebook operations, because Instagram and WhatsApp were developed independently of Facebook. Additionally, conflict over the change in direction and Zuckerberg exerting control over the platforms resulted in the Instagram cofounders departing in 2018.

The report says some employees at Instagram and WhatsApp are uncomfortable with Facebook’s change of direction. WhatsApp employees are particularly annoyed, because privacy and encryption is a core tenet of WhatsApp. Currently users can maintain anonymity on Instagram and WhatsApp, unlike Facebook. The merger poses a challenge for the linking of services. It’s not clear how the integration will be implemented without compromising the values of WhatsApp and Instagram and, again, Zuckerberg does not have a good track record in terms of gaming out company strategy based on protecting users or the brand. His focus is on protecting the accumulated data of billions of people worldwide who use the service as proprietary property.

Furthermore, Instagram, like Twitter, has a harassment problem that they have been slow to address. Fortunately, that doesn’t impact New Mexico Nomad due to the nature of the content (apolitical) and, thus far, Instagram doesn’t appear to be in as much trouble as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.

New Mexico Nomad on Instagram

Instagram is not automatically included in the existing Nomad marketing campaigns due to concerns about alienating the user base with ads and low impact imagery. However, I do promote my partners on Instagram. Furthermore, I plan to leverage Instagram stories and live streaming on behalf of several local businesses and organizations in the upcoming year.

Summary

This overview doesn’t include issues related to YouTube, Google, and other social media platforms; however, the entire eco-system is implicated in data breaches and impropriety in one way or several. It isn’t my intention to alarm anyone, but I spend a lot of time on social media and the impending changes will likely have an impact on many of the local businesses leveraging social media as a marketing tool, as well as having an impact on what I am trying to accomplish on behalf of New Mexico.

Most of the social media giants have ongoing lawsuits that remain unresolved and it is hard to predict where the chips will fall, though the fall is inevitable in my opinion. Furthermore, users should assume that they have no privacy online, including when using encrypted apps, on the dark web, or in the realm of bitcoin. Covering the full spectrum of issues would require writing a novel or two.

I follow several tech accounts online to try to stay ahead of the curve. Please let me know if you have questions, would like additional resources, or more information.

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