Four new rules for the social playing field in 2018

Jo Bromilow

06 Oct 2017

Over the course of the last year, there has, once again, been huge shifts in the social media landscape. From new tools and platforms, to the growing dominance of video, the landscape is barely recognisable. For many social media managers, this means going back to the drawing board on social strategy. And with so much out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to the four new rules you need to know about to ensure you get the most out of your social media strategy in 2018.

Business casual

As the social platform landscape settles down from a turbulent sea of change into a millpond of consistency – at least in terms of the big players – it’s less about waiting for the next big thing, and more about choosing which of the current big things work for you. And that means the boundaries between business-led and consumer-led social media channels are beginning to blur. That doesn’t mean that every brand under the sun needs a Snapchat strategy, or that every fashion brand is going to get suited and booted on LinkedIn. But each platform serves a purpose that can be useful for the vast majority of businesses. Brands need to look at their existing platform mix to make sure it remains fit for the wider business purpose.

Tell me a Story

And speaking of stories, they were the big, er, story from last month’s Social Media Week, with Instagram and Snapchat’s expiring ‘Stores’ stepping up to accompany pre-existing live video offerings from Facebook and Twitter. As non-permanent, in-the-moment visuals (and video) become mainstream for social media brand comms, brands must relinquish some of the control that comes with a pre-planned content calendar. The concept of social media immediacy is nothing new for those au fait with live tweeting, but introducing visuals – and brand visual consistency - presents a new challenge. There are two ways by which to address this: over-prepare or embrace the under-preparedness. The first one will likely be easier for brands to get on board with, as they can be approached in much the same way as ‘forever’ content, approvals and all. The second one, however, will likely require more work upfront to find a way to incorporate the relaxed and in-the-moment potential of Stories into brand comms.

Video killed the radio star

Yes, it’s old news – video is big news. But with news that even LinkedIn is pushing a video strategy for individuals (with brands sure to follow), it now clearly needs to become an essential part of every business-led brand’s arsenal. Like Stories, video may not be as obvious a tool for business brands as written social, and it will take time before the majority tap its real potential. But as the big social networks continue to tweak their algorithms in favour of brand content that lives and thrives in-feed (aka native image and video), brands will need to play by these new rules. And speaking of radio (no, this wasn’t just an excuse for a good pun); audio content isn’t going away any time soon either. It’s just evolving, as a new form of media – podcasting – continues to move from the niche to the mainstream. Off the back of the hugely successful true crime series Serial, the podcast industry exploded, with its own clutch of favourite episodes and famous hosts becoming what the YouTube influencers were in their early days. With new platforms for hosting - each boasting their own attractive advertising and analytics options – emerging, this is very much a booming content style.   And as podcasts are often driven by ensemble groups instead of individuals, there is real potential here for brands to create shows and make celebrities out of their executives.

The challenge of ROI

As all social media professionals know, ROI is a huge challenge. The platforms are undergoing constant algorithmic shifts as they refine their products and adapt to answer governmental and legal challenges. When people talk about this though, it is often followed up with the fact that brands shouldn’t be too concerned with ROI, because it is just too hard. Now, I can understand why they are making that statement. And I agree with it…to an extent. No-one anywhere buys something without some concept of what they’re buying, and investing time and effort in social media is no exception. But I would pivot that bold initial statement to this: we should be prepared for the way we measure that ROI to become outdated in mere months, depending on what the platforms choose to do. Now is the time to take a good hard look at your social media strategy and assign valuable ROIs based on what it does specifically for your business, by platform. It’s a challenge that will extend across the whole digital and marketing teams within your business but will live far beyond the ongoing fluctuations of the platform algorithms. # We will undoubtedly have further rules to add to this before the month is out, let alone the year, but for social media managers looking to plan for the year ahead, these are the tips to take on board to get ahead. For more insights like this, sign up to our Friday Five newsletter here. Photocredit: Lorenzo Cafaro, via Pexels