Social media habits are changing as users are favoring two things: community and video.
More and more social media users are searching for “velvet rope” communities, or forums that are not public facing but offer a specific audience for collaboration, brainstorming and griping. Social media users also love to engage with and share video, making good online video content a marketer’s best hope for breaking through the latest algorithm changes.
A new report from Talkwalker and Trust Insights reveals that the most important social media platform for brands isn’t Facebook, Instagram or even TikTok. It’s YouTube.
By looking at keywords for account creation queries matched against search terms like “quit,” the report projects that YouTube stands to see growth and investment while other platforms like Instagram and even newcomer sensation TikTok will fall off.
Todd Grossman, CEO of the Americas for Talkwalker, says the report offers three big lessons for communicators.
“No. 1 is that video dominates the internet,” he says, “and YouTube dominates video, so smart marketers should be advertising there.”
His second point focuses on “velvet rope communities” or social media gatherings that are not public facing, where he says the meaningful engagement these days is taking place.
“Marketers should be aware about what communities in their various industries exist and consider ways of creating content that will be seen there,” he says, but he adds that you don’t need a brand presence in these forums.
“It could be done without access to the community, as long as you have an advocate who can place themselves in there,” Grossman says.
His third takeaway centers on blended listening. “More data sources are always better,” he says, “and limiting yourself to social media is fine, but if you can break out of that, then you should, because your organization is probably collecting data from emails, phone calls and website analytics.”
He suggests creating a list of the five most frequent terms that show up in a sales call or in a sales meeting, which can then be layered over other stats from your web traffic and social media analytics.
The private life
One key fact the study reveals is users’ gravitation toward private communities or forums over public places like a Facebook News Feed. The study calculates this by searching for keywords that indicate a user is looking to leave a platform.
For networks like Facebook and Instagram, account quit searches indicate a decline in membership for 2020, while products like Slack and Discord project an upswing.
Ambassadors over influencers
One point the study makes is how most organizations will have to turn to employees to reach now private online communities.
Influencers will become less influential as communities become more confined and closed to outside input, but a well-placed brand “ambassador” could help a company reach this audience where they live. In many cases, the best person for this job is an employee who happens to be a subject-matter expert.
“Companies and vendors have diluted the meaning of employee advocacy, especially with regard to social media, to be little more than unpaid advertising on employees’ personal social media accounts,” the report states. “This tactic is often ineffective and even personally objectionable to employees.”
Instead, the report suggests embracing your SMEs as partners and helping them become brand ambassadors—and giving them time off to develop these relationships.
“Next-level employee advocacy is about sending employees who have subject matter expertise to join private communities (where appropriate) to participate in conversations, offer their expertise, and build brand on behalf of the company within the velvet rope communities in your industry,” the report concludes.
One public-facing platform that looks to do well in 2020 is YouTube.
“YouTube is 16 years old now, and it remains an effective ad platform due to the proliferation of video and the lack of competitors,” says Grossman.
How can brand managers and content creators ride the wave? “Basically, you go to YouTube for searching to learn to do something,” says Grossman. “You don’t go on Netflix really to learn how to do something. Basically, you could see YouTube as the Google for learning how to do something in a video format.”
That means educational content is a surefire winner for YouTube channels. Grossman also says that just taking advantage of YouTube’s advertising options is not enough for savvy brand managers. “I think having your own YouTube channel is … going to increase,” he says.
Video is hot on multiple platforms. “Social media users love video,” Grossman says. “They easily engage with it. …They want to share what they love.”
The numbers support a heavy investment in video for any organization. “We’ve measured the impact of videos and found that videos have 10 times more shares than text and image content combined,” says Grossman.
If you want social media users to share your message, put it in a video.
“Nine out of 10 people who engage with mobile videos share them with other people,” says Grossman, adding: “Never has sharing potential been so terrific in any form of content.”
With the dominance of video, it’s crucial that organizations are using their social listening tools to monitor more than just text.
“It’s very important for companies that are incorporating video or images to do social visual listening,” says Grossman, “listening that includes image and video recognition, because basically what’s happening is that 80% to 85% of posts that have a company logo in it don’t mention the company by name in the post. “
That’s a problem when 80% of all online content will be video by 2021.
“Video should be considered evergreen and informative,” says Grossman. “There’s no magic formula. The one thing is that you shouldn’t force it.”
For marketers and communicators looking to get an edge, it’s crucial to develop your own private communities and start sharing video content with the audience that it develops.