A recent Forrester study confirmed what many marketers suspected: consumers don't engage often with brands' social content. On six of the seven social networks studied, brands achieved an engagement rate of less than 0.1 percent. Except on Instagram. It blew the others-including Facebook and Twitter-away with an engagement rate of 4.21 percent. Now, data from GlobalWebIndex is revealing a similar story as it relates to active users. Over the past six months, Facebook has seen the largest decrease in active users (down 8 percent), while Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest have seen increases of 25, 22 and 7 percent, respectively.
What does this mean?
Let's start with what this doesn't mean. This doesn't mean that Facebook is going away. The social networking giant is ubiquitous. Eighty-two percent of internet users worldwide have a Facebook account (excluding China), so its share of our social media usage isn't in grave danger.
But what this data does signify is that the era of the Facebook monopoly may be coming to an end. Consumers have more and more social networks to choose from, many of which capitalize on specific behaviors (photo-sharing and Instagram), interests (WAYN for travel enthusiasts) and life stages (teens and Snapchat).
It also means that Facebook has irrevocably (dare I say it?!) changed how people consume and share information. So much so that it has created new social norms. In the Facebook world, it's normal to announce your engagement in the form of a Facebook post that includes a pic of the bling and the words "I said yes!" It's normal to live-post your child's birth. It's normal to reconnect with a grade school friend you haven't spoken with since eighth grade. It's normal to join chats with the POTUS and Hollywood celebs.
Facebook warmed us up to the idea of real-time sharing (and in some cases, oversharing) and discovery. And many of us liked it so much so that we now seek out new channels that enable us to share and discover content in ways that resonate with our interests and lifestyles.
Ok, I get it, Facebook changed the world. Now what?
Marketers need to be ready to evolve the social presence of their brands. In general, evolution isn't a new concept. But what is new is the speed at which new networks are popping up and the rate at which fans are trying them.
So here are three ways to ensure you're ready.
1. Know where your fans are. In the good ol' days, you could post on Facebook and reach a good chunk of your fans. Today, your fanbase may be large, but due to declining organic reach and an uptick in inactive users, your posts don't carry the same weight. Rather than wait for the next shiny object to grab your fans' attention, get in front of it.
You can do this by mining your existing communities for information. Poll your fans about the social channels they use. Include a survey question about social media usage in your next enewsletter. Talk to your customers at the point of purchase. Ask influencers to participate in an online focus group. These cost-effective tactics can yield big insights about where your brand should be on social media.
2. Get fist-hand experience. It's our job to know what's trending in social media. But often, we get consumed by what's happening on the social channels we currently use and don't spend enough time scouting new ones. Change this by dedicating time at routine intervals to trying new social networks. Not your brand, but you (and your team). Create a personal profile on Couchsurfing, start messaging coworkers on Whisper, join a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) chat. Reading about these things is great-but first-hand knowledge about how they work will translate into invaluable insight.
3. Plan to test new channels. Not long ago I would have advised my clients to take their time when thinking about creating a new social profile. Lots of time and effort would be spent identifying the opportunity, crafting a content strategy and watching how early adopters fared. But the speed of social is not slowing down and the prescribed path for launching a presence on a new social network needs a shortcut.
To do this, start by incorporating these tests into your social strategy. If the team agrees upfront that this is a critical activity to increase reach and engagement among your target, then you can take action more quickly when an opportunity arises. And, if you're doing steps 1 and 2 above, you should have plenty of intel to guide how and where to conduct these tests.