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Social media is evolving quickly, and your business needs to also

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read Shana’s past columns.

As someone who has been working in social media for over a decade, I have seen a lot of changes. (Insert my rant about how, “Back in my day, we had to walk uphill just to get a signal for our first-generation iPhones.”)

But seriously, when I started in social media marketing, there were only a few platforms, and they were all straightforward to use.

Social media professionals need to keep pace with all the various new trends and features across multiple networks. It seems like every day there is a new trend or feature introduced somewhere in cyberspace.

The Mad Men era of marketing

Social media has changed the way businesses operate. Since the early days of social media (2008) brands realized they could connect with people through Twitter and Facebook, and they have used these tools to reach a wider audience —at little to no cost.

The last two years have shaken the marketing world up even more, and as more people stayed home, social media became the lifeblood of online connections with peers (and occasionally favorite brands).

Because of the pandemic, many digital marketing trends that had already been changing before were now accelerating through their changes — and that hasn’t stopped.

As we navigate both online and in-person again, here are six things that have changed in social media over the past year and some tips for managing them.

Change 1: Businesses are mini-media organizations that have to generate a lot of content

Videos remain one of the most engaging forms of content. According to a Cisco study, by 2022, 82% of all online content will be video content. Utilizing video is essential to staying relevant in the social media domain.

Roze Abernethy, owner of Reel Social, is a content creator who specializes in authentic and entertaining Instagram Reels, both on her own page and for clients.

Since doubling down on Instagram Reels for one of her downtown Napa restaurant clients, the account has reached over 155,000 organic potential customers each quarter.

Using video to engage potential customers is one of the best ways to reach them, especially in the hospitality industry.

"Being able to organically find new customers looking to travel to Napa right now speaks volumes of the impact social media marketing can have,” Roze says. “When the content is fueled with the creativity of a video/reels format, the reach can be far greater than a static post."

Change 2: Social media trends come and go at an alarming rate

What was popular last week may be completely forgotten next week, and this makes it difficult for businesses to keep up with the latest trends and ensure that their content is relevant.

Follow influencers and thought leaders in your industry and see what they are sharing. This can give insight into what the trends are and how to leverage them for your business.

You don’t have to follow trends. But it’s still good to have a basic understanding of social media culture so you aren’t cringe. (That’s how the kids say it these days.)

Change 3: Increased use of social media has led to shorter attention spans

Users are bombarded with content from various sources, and as a result, they have become more selective about the content they consume. This presents a challenge for businesses: you need to create compelling content that captures attention long enough for viewers to take action.

Create content that is easy to consume. Keep the message short, and use language that can be understood by a wide audience. Simple copy, images and videos should be designed to be viewed in a matter of seconds and leave viewers wanting more.

Change 4: Businesses need to stop trying to do it all

This is especially true for small businesses that may not have the in-house resources to produce content on their own. As a result, they have to be very strategic about the social media platforms they choose to invest their time and energy into.

The most important thing for businesses to keep in mind is that they need to be where their target audience is spending the majority of their time online.

For example, if you are trying to reach millennial women, Instagram would be a more effective platform than LinkedIn. If you are trying to reach business professionals, LinkedIn would be a better bet than Facebook.

Change 5: E-commerce and social media features expand

Though online shopping has been around for quite some time, social media shopping is still in its infancy and growing rapidly. Social media platforms are making it easier for users to shop directly on their site or app.

The pandemic changed everything for how brick-and-mortar businesses look at the internet.

Natalia Jaramillo González, owner of Lemonstrike Creative Studios, agrees.

“Clients who had never thought about taking their businesses online or leveraging their existing websites for online sales were asking us what they could do,” she says.

Her longtime client, Moonlight Brewing in Santa Rosa, only canned around four of their beers for distribution before the pandemic.

“Through successful collaboration, we designed new labels to can all of their beers and expand their informational website into a full e-commerce site for online ordering of both their beer and branded merchandise,” says Natalia. This change resulted in an almost 300% increase in Moonlight Brewing’s digital sales.

Change 6: Social media influences purchasing decisions

A study by Influenster found that 71% of millennials have been influenced by a friend’s social media posts when it comes to making a purchase decision.

This figure is only expected to grow as social media usage increases and platforms become more integrated with e-commerce websites and apps. If you’re not already incorporating social commerce into your marketing strategy, now is a great time to connect with designers like Natalia to help you get started.

Keeping up with all of these changes can be daunting, but it's necessary if you want to be successful in this field. I have always joked that it’s why I have maintained my career as a marketing educator for 14-plus years — just to help marketers keep track of the new developments.

Social media marketing is always evolving, so let’s evolve with it.

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read Shana’s past columns.

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