Social media has always been a visual experience. From the invention of Facebook, one of the main attractions was the socialization of pictures that could be shared and viewed.
Fast-forward a decade or so and the same holds true, but visual elements are even more aggressive.
If we look at the most popular social networks, as well as those that have taken the steepest decline, we can show how visual the medium is for consumers.
The most popular networks are Facebook, YouTube and Instagram with Snapchat climbing quickly. Each medium, in its own way, provides a unique benefit to visualizing content for users.
Facebook and YouTube can easily act as a warehouse for pictures, video and curated content, while Instagram provides more creativity with a more streamlined interface.
Snapchat offers the opposite—content on a whim that encourages an “always on” mentality for users to visualize day-to-day life. Within each medium, the consistent data-point is the curation of visual content, while text has become secondary. Even within texting, the popularity of emoji could be pointed to the visualization of day-to-day communication.
Twitter, on the other hand, has been on a steep decline. Reliance on text has been an issue for Twitter and its main function has surprisingly been to share links to images and videos. Despite itself, users have found a way to visualize Twitter.
Now most of that may seem rather obvious, but if we look to the future of social, where does that take us? Every year more extreme digital natives move into the target demographic for advertisers. And each year, those kids are more extremely reliant on two things: visual content and mobile devices.
So, here’s what that means for marketers in 2017:
Align your budgets accordingly.
The monetization of Instagram is already underway with successful tests for advertisers. It’s going to be the biggest social network for advertisers in the coming years.
Snapchat is still trying to figure out their model, but they’ve already made significant progress.
YouTube and Facebook will remain stalwarts, while Twitter will see even broader declines without a change to its foundation.
Social Identity = Brand Equity
Social has always struggled to find its place in the marketing mix. It’s useful, but what’s the purpose, the goal and the outcome? It’s not all that measurable and its revenue generation is muddled.
What social does provide is brand image and identity. It’s a long-term foundation for brands to gain social and brand equity with target markets.
With the market moving towards Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook—brands will need to curate content accordingly to gain market share. Some brands are doing a good job here, but the real success has been from publishers like Refinery29, Vice and National Geographic.
Expect a new platform to rise.
What would us marketers do without something throwing a wrench in all our plans? We need something to keep us up at night.
Expect a new platform with hyper-visualization to rise in the marketplace.
As Instagram becomes mainstream, kids will look to alternative channels with different perspectives to share with their peers. The possibility of VR is also extremely intriguing but probably a couple years away from being a reality still.
The social market has always shifted rapidly, the same will hold true for 2017. This year, the trend will continue to push hyper-visual content with a steep decline in networks that don’t align to demographic behavior.