The State of Social Media Today

The State of Social Media Today

I want to spend a little time talking about the state of social media today. When I say “the state of social media” (as a number of marketing gurus have pointed out) is really the state of the modern internet. We’re not talking about a “MySpace” or “Facebook” anymore, someplace where people connect on the web. What we’re really talking about is the way we consume the internet.

We don’t consume the internet via any other method than social media now. We’re no longer starting our internet experience from an internet portal (like MSN) or a search (like Bing) anymore. I understand that there are some of us that still do, but we’re not really searching for the news or information from a search engine anymore. For the most part, we go straight to our Facebook feed. In fact, most of the world outside of our day-to-day is spent on social media.

The commonplace of cellphone consumption.

I watched an interesting interview recently, and a key point was made about the state of social media. When we look at the internet today, especially looking at the devices we consume it through, we’re seeing the first major medium shift since the world went from radio to television. What’s happening right now is that our devices, specifically our phones, are beginning to replace our televisions. We’re no longer flipping on the TV for our news or for half of our entertainment. We’re going through our social media channels, or directly to the social media presence of entertainment providers – via our phones – to consume our media.

In fact, there has become a whole new category of web show found on the internet through Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. The popularity has grown to such an extreme that the television broadcasters have begun to take action against Netflix for its movie production and show series production. The entertainment being produced there has, in many cases, become more highly rated than what’s on the television.

We’re consuming the majority of our media on the internet. Most of it is through our mobile devices. And we’re really reducing our television consumption. Even our radio is now coming through the internet via our phones. We use Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, and other streaming services in our cars to enjoy uninterrupted, commercial-free music in the genre or censorship level of our choice, on our commutes. As long as there is a signal, there is entertainment.

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At this point, you’ve got two choices. If the medium is shifting from television to mobile devices, you can either ignore it as a fad, or you can prepare to be visible there. That’s going to be the trick. If you’re not on social media – as a business – you have lost, and if you’re not active, you’re losing. But that goes even a step further because if you’re not all-in on social media at this point, you’re not being seen anyway. And that’s really the state of social media today.

However, let’s try to quantify that a little bit. Are the people that you’re talking to in an attempt to get them to buy your product going to go find you on social media to make sure you exist? Yes. So if you have an up-to-date social media page at all, you’ll be found and be credible. What amazes me is that a social media page does more for your credibility than a physical location. That’s insane to me because anyone can build a social media page for free. What’s even crazier is that, with as easy as it is to get one, there are tons of businesses that don’t take that tiny step to build credibility. There are tons that don’t even have a website!

Just existing on the social channels isn’t enough, though. You’ve got to direct all of your marketing towards your social presence. Television ads, print media, and even your physical location should all aim back at your social media pages. That’s what it looks like to be all-in. Everything revolves around the social space because, again, if you’re not there, you don’t exist.

If you're not on the web, you're not real.

You’ve got to be aware that our world exists more in our phones and devices than it does face-to-face in the real world. If you can’t accept that, do yourself a favor. Log every bit of social media use. Markdown what time you started to use your social media, and what time you stopped. Add up all the time at the end of the week and see just how much time you actually spend. Don’t change the habits you already have, just add another one. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at the results.

There is power in being aware of the fact that life exists on your phone. If you know and understand that, you can organize your marketing to meet people there. I’ve been saying this for quite some time now, and I wasn’t the first to notice it. All of your marketing needs to lead back to meeting your clients on their devices. Now, to be clear, marketing isn’t sales. Marketing is the process of turning your target market into qualified leads. It’s not making the sale but earning the opportunity to make the sale.

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All of your marketing efforts need to give your target demographic a reason to interact with your social media. Their interaction equals greater attention, and that’s where the leads come from. If you don’t have people paying attention, you have no leads and you have no sales. Social media is a state of attention.

So how do you get the attention?

Take a look at the way the social networks you use present your content to the public. For example, Facebook has an algorithmic feed. When someone “likes” your page, they’ll see your posts – for a while. But over time, the number of posts they see will change based on how much of the content they interact with and in what ways they interact. Facebook even recently added “reaction” buttons. These buttons tell Facebook exactly how you feel about the content they’re delivering into your feed. As they learn the ways we use the reaction buttons, they’re silently turning them into a rating system of sorts. “Love” will be stronger than “like”, and “angry” will be similar to saying “I don’t like this”.

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You’re teaching them how to better deliver your content in your feed. Their goal is to keep your attention on Facebook, and they use our likes, reactions, comments, and shares to determine what you want to see so they can give you more of it. It’s your job, and mine, to learn how these algorithms present your content to people. But, to be clear, Facebook isn’t doing this as a public service. They do that so they can turn around and sell that attention to businesses – especially to marketers like me – for advertising purposes. If you want your customers to see your stuff, you need to keep them reacting positively to it.

Constantly on social media.

So how do you get them to react to it and see you? Produce content that they want to see.

When you turn on your favorite television show (for those of you who still watch network TV), you want to watch the show. If you have a DVR, do you sit through the commercials? The answer is no, and the reason is simple. Nobody gives a shit about the commercials. We know they’re trying to sell us shit, and we don’t want to be sold. What if your favorite show was 90 percent commercials? Would you ever come back to watch it? My guess is you wouldn’t because at that point it sucks. Who wants to watch nothing but commercials?

So tell me why you would do that with your social media. Nobody wants to see that. And, if we’re being honest and you’re in the same state as most small business owners who do their own social media, all you’re doing is producing advertisement after advertisement ad nauseum. Nobody wants it, and they ignore it. Or, in the worst-case scenario, they “hide” or unfollow it. They don’t like it, share it, comment it, click it, or interact with it in any way. So what are you left with? A whole bunch of people that like your page and never see your content.

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How would you like to be on a marketing platform that serves over one billion active users, making up one-seventh of the world, and have nobody see your content? That’s potentially one-seventh of your state, one-seventh of your county, and one-seventh of your city. Chances are the numbers are bigger, but even at one-seventh of my city, that’s still 11,000 people who could be seeing my content.

Even look at the number of followers your page has. An average local small business has between 200 and 1000 followers. Imagine having a captive audience – people who volunteered to see your content – of 1000 people, and your content is so boring that Facebook doesn’t deliver it to them. Even worse yet, you have access to that market for free but can’t get their attention because you deliver 90%-100% content that asks them to buy your shit. But that’s the state of most small businesses social media.

What a waste.

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Doesn’t it make more sense to have the captive audience of your page and your city and get your content to most of them, or at least a decent percentage of them? If you do it right, you’ll have upwards of 10 people seeing your content for every single follower your page has. Imagine that! It can happen, and with relative ease, as long as you’re making good content. Going back to the DVR reference, you want your content to be so engaging that your audience doesn’t want to fast forward through the commercials for fear of missing something important. That way when you post an ad (which you need to learn to make ads that are equally engaging), they’re willing to pay attention to it. They’d rather see an ad to avoid missing the content you produce.

So, what you’re trying to do is get people, in practice, to stop scrolling. That’s the DVR state of social media. They’re either going to scroll past or stop and look. If they stop and look, they’ve consumed your content. If they’ve consumed your content, there’s a chance they’ll like it, react to it, share it, and comment on it. And if they do any of those, they’ll offer one or more of their friends to do the same. But if they don’t stop scrolling, you’ve lost an opportunity.

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Make sure you're making good content.

So you go all in.

You dump your entire marketing budget on social. Stop wasting money on anything that doesn’t boost your social media visibility. Post content that’s interesting to your target market. No, not just interesting. Post content that connects to your target market. Post content that makes them feel. And the deeper it makes them feel, the better it is. The fact is, if it doesn’t make them feel, they’re not going to share it. It won’t spread. You have to get the emotion or you won’t get the attention.

Your content is the key to your social, and your social is the key to your future. It’s time to create content that gives value to the consumer, and to do it without expecting any money in return. It’s time to solve problems for your clients – via your content – and never expect them to pay you. That’s the same reason I create my content. I’m telling you how to do my job instead of hiring me because I know that not every one of you will be my client. I’d rather you be successful without me than not be successful at all. I’d rather work myself out of business than hold this information captive.

So what is the state of social media today? Everyone is there. Everyone is paying attention to it. Your job is to find the place where your demographic is and meet them there. Let’s face it; if you don’t, you’re done. Do the work to figure it out. Go all in.

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The State of Social Media Today

by Michael McNew Read in 9 min