Albert Qian
April 15, 2014

The State of Social Media: – What B2B Marketers Need to Know

It’s been a very active spring this year in the social media industry as well as for businesses. The winter that gripped the nation for the while it did has finally come to a close, and here we are: Mid-April. With the exception of a few rainstorms and snow flurries around the country, things are finally warming up!

The last few months have been telling for the industry landscape. Whether you’re a marketer, analyst, investor, end-user, or enthusiast of social media, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Let’s look at some of the highlights for the year so far:

Messaging Gone Mad: In March, Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $16 billion dollars in cash, making everyone wonder what on earth happened to the industry and whether there was a speculative bubble. This wasn’t the only thing that happened in messaging however, as Viber was also snatched up for a cool $900 million by Japanese-based Rakuten. At the end of the day this means that messaging is hotter than ever and is a critical component of the social media experience. For those of us who chatted with others on AOL Instant Messenger back in the day, this seems like a logical next step. Nearly $16 billion dollar’s worth of next steps? That’s still to be debated.

  • Why This Matters for Your Business: Messaging is an important part of your connection with your clients. Text messaging especially is key for getting customer attention since they are opened by more people than anything else. Consider looking into a text messaging based service to stay in touch with customers, or have your customers get in touch with you for your newsletter or otherwise by texting a number.

Social Media is No Longer Free If You’re a Brand: Facebook brand reach has been falling for awhile. This time around however, Facebook brand reach has fallen to a literal 1-2% for brands, and in order to get greater reach one must purchase advertising to cover the difference. It’s not how it should be, as many of my industry colleagues will argue with you, but at the end of the day, the user is the product and the platform must sustain itself somehow. In today’s ads-first, buy-second economy, this seems logical. 

  • Why This Matters for Your Business: Social media not being free means that your marketing now costs a whole lot more. For small businesses this is already a tough sell because the margins are so thin. For more midmarket companies this means a bigger marketing budget. As a whole, consider an integrated marketing strategy that fits around social media — not focuses on it solely.

Facebook is Becoming a Media Conglomerate: On the heels of its purchase of Whatsapp, Facebook also acquired Oculus VR, a virtual reality simulation software company. On the surface this makes absolutely no sense but when examined closer, the social networking giant is merely following the Google model. Google as you remember started out as a search engine company and eventually evolved, entering the email, location review, self-driving car, and venture capital arenas, to name just a few. 

  • Why This Matters to Your Business: Facebook’s acquisitions aren’t necessarily a game changer for businesses per say, but are a call for folks to pay attention where they are going. Much as Google has become a cocktail of services, Facebook is going down that direction too. There is always going to be a worry for quality of product and service. Look to what matters to you as you pursue business growth on social, and decide if the costs outweigh the benefits long term.

The Convergence of Social Networks: Twitter saw recent changes as it gave users bigger cover photos, which was a nod to what Facebook had done since making a debut with new cover photos over a year ago. As the networks compete for active users, much of that goes towards the user experience. As we move forward in this industry, expect there to be a greater focus on networks that copy each other. With Facebook also debuting a timeline with larger text and a greater focus on photos, look for social to become already even more visual than it is. 

  • Why this Matters for Your Business: As social networks play the look-alike game, the user is the one that bears the brunt of these changes. This is by no means any reason to abandon a network because it doesn’t play differently, but rather something to pay attention to long term. As for content which is a key driver in today’s market, photos continue to be king in driving views. Stay the course with an image-based content strategy.

The Youth and Niche Movement is Coming: As the older generation joins Facebook, youth are fleeing for niche social networks and alternative networks like Snapchat (which Facebook also tried to purchase in late 2013). Even with purchases such as Instagram and Oculus VR, luring this demographic back is no sure bet. From my perspective, social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter will continue to remain large, but will be buffered by new, more niche networks with a focus on specific topics where audiences will find a more focused interest. Even with Facebook groups, hashtags, and all of its money, that may still not enough to sustain its audience. 

  • Why This Matters for Your Business: If your demographics cater towards an older crowd it’s not time to worry — yet. However, with that said if your crowd skews younger, pay attention to where they are going and follow along. Not many brands use Snapchat for customer facing engagement, but that’s an arena to begin exploring. How the youth market consumes media for the foreseeable future is key for how social networks evolve over time. Also consider focused customer communities, or attach yourself to one for greater reach.

The Twitter Transition (and Weibo): The final thing to keep an eye on as we head towards spring is the transition of Twitter as it tries to start making money. Everything from a more visual profile to even considerations towards eliminating hashtags and the “@” symbol altogether suggest that there’s quite a bit of brainstorming going on in their San Francisco Headquarters. Twitter’s Chinese equivalent Weibo may shed some light on what’s to come however, with its anticipated $500 million dollar IPO on United States soil forthcoming. Stay tuned! 

  • Why This Matters for Your Business: As it says at the end of the previous paragraph, Twitter’s changes are one to pay attention to over time. Weibo’s IPO signals a potential continued boom in microblogging, but Twitter’s changes — especially on major areas such as the @-tag and hashtags should signal worry on a definitive changing marketing landscape. Stay tuned and be ready to pivot your Twitter strategy as you see appropriate.

The Curatti Takeaway
The takeaway is as always, this industry is changing every single week. There’s a ton to watch out for. Are you using social media differently this quarter than last? Share with us in the comments below.