How Social Networks Cater to Influencers and Creators

When Vine was shuttered last year, a large portion of the blame was assigned to the company’s inability or unwillingness to listen to the community of creators and foster their loyalty. Stories surfaced soon after it was shut down that a number of the top creators on the app reached out to Twitter to talk about what it could do to keep them active on the platform, including opening up a payment system to help them produce content that would continue attracting an audience of loyal fans.

It might seem odd that a bunch “nobodies” would essentially hold out their hands and ask for money in addition to preferential treatment from a large company in order to remain loyal. You might think they need the platform more than the platform needs any individual user, or even a handful of popular people.

That’s not the situation social networks find themselves in in 2017, though. The dynamic is instead one that favors the individual influencer and puts the power in their hands, meaning the companies that control these social distribution platforms are dependent on a small number of “influencers” to maintain whatever status they have as being hip and popular or help them reach that level.

It’s this situation that is at least in part behind the news that Snap, which just reported some troubling numbers about growth in the Snapchat user base, is not only considering a substantial redesign of the app to ease onboarding but also paying top creators to keep using it. Snapchat does not want to follow Vine into the great beyond and is willing to write checks to keep people happy.

Influencer Marketing in 2017

According to a study released in December of 2016 by content agency Linqia, 86% of marketers were already engaged in some sort of influencer marketing effort and 48% reported plans to expand those budgets in 2017, the latest in a series of spending increases.

So why is influencer marketing so hot right now?

According to a MediaKix study last year, people are spending almost two hours a day on social media. And social media is increasingly being split into two feeds: 1) The organic feed of updates from friends and family and 2) The paid ads from media companies and other brands that interrupt the stream of updates from the first category.

The reasons for brand updates being given less preferential treatment in the various algorithm-based feeds are many, but the result is that the content marketing programs companies spent years building up aren’t seeing the return on investment they did, say, five years ago. That combined with the rise of ad blockers online and on mobile and it’s clear that people don’t want to be marketed to and the distribution platforms currently dominating the media world wants you to pay to reach people.

That’s coincided to a large extent with the rise of the social media influencer, an individual who attracts a large following on a social platform through unique, original and (usually) wholly creative content. It can be beauty tips, it can be video game reviews, it can be technology updates. It can be on literally any topic.

So, in order to have their marketing messages seen by a highly influential audience, brand marketers turn to those influencers. There are no end of niche agencies that manage databases of influences of all kinds and are more than happy to do the research for a brand and then make the connection, for a substantial fee. The ROI may still be questionable, but the reach is impressive. Ad agencies are even adding influencers to their teams to try and tap into their insights about the audience and what attracts them.

Buying Platform Loyalty

One of the big issues with influencer marketing is that the ground always seems to be shifting. Because these influencers make a living on their image of being hip and cool, they want to be on the platforms that are seen as hip and cool. What those platforms are, though, changes over time. Platforms jockey for position, often by working to attract talent away from other platforms, including by paying them to make that switch.

Here’s how some of today’s top social platforms are offering money and features to influencers to keep them happy and creative and away from other apps and networks.

youtube app iconYouTube doesn’t pay creators directly but it has revamped its Creators Site after it acquired FameBit, a creator/brand connection company. It also added functionality to the Studio app to make creation and publishing videos easier. That being said, it hasn’t been transparent about changes to content and advertising policies, leaving many creators concerned over sudden drops in revenue.

Instagram_Logo1Instagram does not pay top users to keep using it, but it may not need to. It was identified last year as one of the top two platforms for influencers and one of the two, including YouTube, influencers said they were most likely to leave Snapchat to focus on, an exodus powered by the ease of making money on Instagram. Influencers posting branded content have tools available that allow them to easily disclose those paid relationships.

facebook logo 2Facebook is the only platform more popular than Instagram among influencers, Facebook has worked hard to keep influencers happy as well as the brands that pay them, and pay Facebook. This past March it expanded the availability of branded content to more Pages and Profiles. So influencers who post paid content can tag that company as a form of disclosure. It also added a feature that allows brands to pay to boost an influencer’s post directly, without the brand page having to share it in its own post first.

twitter app iconTwitter has a multi-faceted relationship with influencers and creators. While it certainly dropped the ball when it came to Vine, it has made other moves that show it gets how important a good relationship with that community is. It has touted the effectiveness of influencer marketing on the network and owns Niche, an agency that facilitates connections between brands and those influencers, so it has a vested interest in this category growing. Late last year it opened up revenue sharing for video creators and has been experimenting with ways for fans to pay top Periscope creators through engagement.

musically app, just sold to a Chinese tech company last week for a reported $800 million, quite the price tag for an app that didn’t exist three years ago. Like Periscope, fans can “gift” creators actual payments. Brands have been working with top creators on that platform for a while now and is said to be exploring other monetization efforts that would benefit both the company and the influencers eager to reach its teen audience.

pinterest app iconPinterest was identified as one of the top apps for female influencers, who were finding more success there due to the demographics of that network. Recognizing that it had a group of talented “pinners” who could help brands create engaging content it brought those creators into the Pin Collective it launched in October of 2016. That system allows marketers to work directly with influencers, who are paid for their efforts.

medium app iconMedium has pivoted its business model more times than you can count in the last few years, most recently introducing the Partner Program – first to just a few and recently to everyone – that lets users put select posts behind a membership paywall. Unlike a previous incarnation, that membership is not publication specific but for the whole site, with publishers getting a cut based on the engagement of each post they restrict access to.

Brands Pay Multiple Times

The cost of actually working with an influencer goes beyond what that individual may charge to reach his or her audience. Roughly 70% of brands say they repurpose influencer content and 36% report doing so via paid ads. So the actual cost of influencer campaigns includes some combination of the following:

  • In-house cycles spent developing the creative brief
  • Paying a relationship agencies to find the “right” influencer for a campaign
  • Paying the influencer’s core branded content fee
  • Paying for repurposing that content in ads either on social networks or in other media

It obviously remains to be seen whether or not Snapchat can change its trajectory. Since it IPOd earlier this year the stakes are higher than ever for it to succeed, but it needs to not only get past the “I don’t get it” problem that has many delete the app shortly after trying it out and to increase its attractiveness among influential creators. Snapchat Discover allows select media brands to not only create unique content but to sell ads against that content, with the revenue split with Snap. It seems the company could be pondering something similar for influencers.

Money only buys loyalty for as long 1) The spigot keeps flowing and 2) Someone else doesn’t offer a better deal. That means there’s a very small window for Snap to get in on this game and leverage its position to achieve any sort of success.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Demand For Longer Content Should Fuel On-Domain Publishing

Nieman Lab summarizes two different studies that come to roughly the same conclusion: People want longer, weightier content.

In particular, a study from has found roughly half of website visitors stick around for between one and five minutes. Though much of the rest of the traffic lasts less than a minute, it excludes the quick exits that often result from inadvertent clicks. Only a handful of visits last more than five minutes. Over 40% of visitors are what are termed “long stays,” lasting more than 60 seconds.

That’s 60 seconds you have to make your case to the visitor. A whole minute is an eternity in internet time and should encourage any company or publisher who’s been pivoting to a distributed content strategy – one that doesn’t include an owned “hub” – to reconsider their tactics.

A minute gives you the opportunity to make the case for further reading.

A minute gives you the opportunity to make a convincing sales pitch.

A minute gives you the opportunity to develop some brand loyalty.

Yes, there are also opportunities to get people to sign up for an email newsletter or otherwise opt-in for some additional and repeated messaging. It’s just those opportunities should not be seized at the expense of the user experience. Don’t interrupt what the *visitor* wants to do now with what *you* want them to do.

That’s a minute they’re not spending elsewhere. If you have adopted a wholly-distributed content model, publishing and engaging on all sorts of other platforms and networks, you’re missing out on the opportunities that present themselves on owned websites. There’s the potential to do so much more and own more of the visitor experience as opposed to being part of a larger stream of updates and information flow that it’s seen as disposable.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

It’s Essential To Find Brand Voice

Here’s the key graf in this story (via FashionRedef) about how fashion brands have begun addressing their customers as peers instead of experts or cold, soulless corporations.

For sustainable direct-to-consumer brand Reformation, “hyper-growth” was also kick-started with a pithy newsletter in March 2013, says the company’s founder, Yael Aflalo. “We wrote about Coachella and the caption was: ‘It’s not that important but it kinda is.’ All my friends rung me to say how cute it was.” It wasn’t just cute; it was instantly profitable. Sales jumped from $18,000 in February (pre-newsletter) to $175,000 in March. Millennial-friendly Instagram captions and product descriptions (Aflalo describes the tone as a SoCal-esque “urgh, but yeah”) are part of Reformation’s USP. “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2”, puns their Instagram bio, where the brand has 818,00 followers.

What the story shows is how vitally important it is for brands to find a voice that truly connects with its customers. The “BFF Marketing” label that’s affixed to these particular examples shows that sort of tone and connection that has worked with these companies and indicates the role that worked for them. In this case they adopted the persona of the “BFF” of the women they were trying to reach and spoke to them in that language, with that cadence and using that sort of terminology.

Shown here are the results of adjustments to that voice that have worked out well for the brands mentioned. Unseen is the rigor that often goes into making those adjustments.

Brand “voice” is something that is vitally important and not just changed on a whim, at least not in most cases. Usually it takes a massive amounts of rigor and research before all the various stakeholders will sign off on adjustments to the approach taken with marketing copy.

I’ve gone through this process a few times in my career. Here are some of the factors I had to include when making the case to change what had been dry marketing copy into something more interesting and engaging for the audience.

Analyze the Audience

If you want to fit in with the audience, you have to know how they’re talking, both about you specifically and the general topics in your industry. What sorts of conversations are they having? Are they having fun or are they more serious? Don’t limit your research to civilians and individuals, but also take a look at how industry trade pubs and other news sites are sharing updates. See if you can find what’s working well for them and pick out the elements you can incorporate and which will work for you.

Define the Action

What I’ve found is that most marketing copy that doesn’t result from a defined style guide has almost no purpose. There’s no clearly defined call to action. The assumption seems to be that sharing the update, whatever it is, is sufficient and should light the world on fire. We know that’s not true, so make sure that adjustments in voice are made that include clear next steps for the audience to take. Interestingly, I’ve found these CTAs are easier to include in loose, informal copy than in the stiff marketing copy I’ve often inherited from other managers.

Set Boundaries

When I was working on a client project to redefine the social media voice for the brand, my counterpart in-house told me to present my recommendations in three ways: Minor adjustment, full-throated changes and ZOMG. Or something like that, but you get the point. He wanted to see what a small tweak looked like, what a moderate but still noticeable change would be and then what happened if I really cut loose. In this case we wound up going not quite all the way to 11 but definitely a 9.5. Knowing where the guardrail was helped us formalize that in the style guide and kept everyone honest, as well as giving him the supporting material he needed to show others what “too far” really looked like.

Remember the Big Picture

My colleague Dave Coustan introduced me to the following phrase: “Voice is cumulative.” What that means is that you’re never going to get the entirety of your voice attributes in one tweet, one blog post or any other single example. Instead, that picture only becomes clear when you step back and view several updates. Or even a whole month of them. If you have eight key elements to your brand voice, each individual one is probably only going to include three or four of them. Update A has Elements 2,4,5 and 8. Update B might have 2,3,7. Update C has 1,3,4 and 7. Taken as a whole, people will get the message.

It Helps To Have a Native

I’ve been lucky enough to be interested in the industries and products some of my clients have operated in and sold. That’s helped me write in the voice of the fan, because I am one. In other cases, I’ve done the research necessary to know how that audience and fanbase speaks and what they’re interested in to present an authentic message (not faking this is a whole other topic). It can be hard for companies to do this as they may not have this kind of genuine enthusiasm internally and it can’t be found in their agency partners. If there’s a case for working with freelance copywriters it’s here, as doing so allows companies to cast a broader net and find someone who brings that sense of excitement to the copy they’re creating.

Establish Measurement

So you’re starting at 3. Cool. You know that. But are you prepared to measure the impact of the voice experimentation you’re about to engage in? What’s the start date for the change? What metrics are you using to gauge success or failure? All of these are essential to know whether what you’re doing is working. The BoF story above shares some stories about increased engagement, a spike in sales and more. There’s no universal right answer here, just know what you’re hoping to get out of this work and be prepared to see if that actually happens.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

It’s About More Than Just Podcasts

Record labels, according to this story at Billboard, have discovered that podcasts are an effective way to market and promote the artists they’ve signed. Those labels have realized they have access to scads of talent and don’t have to worry about copyright claims over music usage and so are hoping to tap into the substantial podcast audience to raise interest and revenue. They join independent artists and other enthusiasts in working to become tastemakers, only with a more clearly intentional financial interest in doing so.

That’s interesting and cool, to be sure. While the focus is narrowly on podcasts, there’s a bigger picture to place this within.

Podcasts are part of content marketing.

A universal definition of content marketing is hard to come by. They usually vary based on what the person offering the definition is trying to sell or specialize in. In general, though, it involves creating content to inform and engage the audience, mostly through unpaid channels to bypass the traditional advertising structure.

That’s what this is. The labels have simply added “podcast creation” to the content marketing tactics being utilized and executed. It joins Twitter, Facebook and whatever other channels each label has been using to bypass the media gatekeepers and take their message straight to fans.

Last year I wrote about how I was continually shocked movie studios haven’t latched on to podcasting as an effective way to promote their films. Many of the issues I raised there are exactly what record labels seem to have embraced, realizing that they enjoy access not just anyone with a microphone and an RSS feed has.

It’s not that I believe every company needs to do everything they possibly can. Every company in any industry needs to evaluate tactics and do what makes the most sense for them. It’s why some are so active on Twitter while ignoring Facebook. Or why others have let Snapchat go after a few months of experimentation didn’t pan out.

What’s important in that evaluation is assessing what particular elements can be offered to the audience. What can you do better than anyone else? What’s the unique value proposition being presented?

That’s the question at least some record labels seem to have answered as they add podcasting to their organic content marketing mix.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

What Issues About the Content Marketing Job Concern Me?

(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)

There are issues with the content marketing industry, many of which I’ve discussed openly here or elsewhere previously and so won’t reiterate or otherwise list. You work in any field for any significant length of time and you’re going to have some strong opinions about certain aspects of it and certain people who are a part of it. This is still a fun and interesting area and I don’t want to bad-mouth it or anything. Constructive criticism is useful and welcome though, right?

There is one thing that continues to concern me that doesn’t seem to be going away and it’s this: There are no time limits.

Over the last 10 years I’ve spent countless nights up and working on editorial calendars and blog posts and everything else well past when I should have turned in. But because social media and blog posts can be published 24 hours a day, people think you’re going to be available to answer their questions 24 hours a day. Or that you’ll be available to make changes.

If there’s one advantage to freelancing it’s that at least the billing is more accurate now. In agency life, because we billed most clients on a retainer and not for actual hours burned, a lot of those late-night hours went unbilled. While I still got paid (which was great) it looked bad when I was only billing 80 hours a month but reporting that I actually spent 130 on work for a client. Now if I work it, I’m billing it.

Plus, I’m more able to draw some boundaries around my availability now. I’m not beholden to a reporting hierarchy and can set some expectations with clients about when I am or am not on-call. That may not be hard and fast but it’s better than the “we’re paying you, you better respond within 20 minutes even if it’s 11 pm.” attitude that’s all-too pervasive in the agency environment.

Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat that don’t allow for scheduled posting have only made this problem worse. I can queue up Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and blog posts, but those other two are still very immediate. And everyone knows this. The agency world is so cutthroat, with everyone competing on service and price, that saying “No” or daring to sleep can cause a client to question their current situation. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of those phone calls, you know how unpleasant they can be.

There’s no easy solution here. It will take a systemic pushback against unreasonable expectations to affect any real change to this this issue. And for every one person that does there will be three ready to pounce and promise 24-hour coverage, no problem. It is a problem, though, one that needs to be addressed.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Report: Facebook Engagement Keeps Dropping

A new study by Buzzsumo reports that Facebook engagement for brands and publishers continues to decline, dropping 20% so far this year. The usual reasons are cited as reasons contributing to this continued trend, including the fact that there are more posts vying for attention and changes to the News Feed algorithm.

The one kind of post that continues to perform better than others is video, a format Facebook has encouraged more brands and publishers to embrace in the last couple years and which has been given preferential treatment in the News Feed. It’s a big part of the “pivot to video” trend many publishers have joined in the last year or so.

What should be disconcerting to content marketing professionals about this decline is that it comes at a time when promotional ad budgets on Facebook meant to increase reach and combat organic News Feed suppression are still rising. So publishers are spending more money on ads, but that’s not even stopping the organic bleeding, just slowing it somewhat. Now they’ll bleed out in 12 months, not seven, which isn’t much of an improvement.

Also keep in mind that those publishers who are spending money on Facebook ads to increase reach are doing so in the hopes that people will click through to the site/story, which will help their own ad revenue. That means publishers are in the following situation:

  • Brands are advertising on Facebook instead of on media sites because the reach is better.
  • Facebook has suppressed the organic reach of publishers, resulting in less engagement and fewer click-throughs.
  • Publishers are spending their own advertising budgets on Facebook ads to increase reach and counter that suppression.
  • Publishers are still seeing engagement and reach drop.

The only winner here is Facebook, who gets advertising money from both brands and publishers.

It can’t be sustainable for publishers to keep spending money on Facebook ads when the ROI of those ads continues to fall. Then again, with News Feed throttling resulting in less organic exposure, it would seem to be unsustainable to keep using Facebook as a distribution platform at all.

At some point there’s going to be a reckoning. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I’m fairly certain it won’t be pretty. Either publishers will stand up to Facebook in a meaningful way, painting the company as not only a threat to the press but to a thriving democracy or Facebook will succeed in killing independent media companies and become the de facto version of the internet it’s long wanted to be.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

I’m Cool Being The Bass Player

For whatever reason I’ve been listening to a bunch of Fleetwood Mac recently. It started when I got the song “Temporary One” that the band played during their 1997 reunion shows stuck in my head the other day. That lead to a YouTube search for the video of that performance, which lead to other YouTube videos which lead to a Spotfiy binge, which lead to a deep-dive into the solo works of Stevie Nicks, a catalog I wasn’t super-familiar with.

As I was watching the video of the band playing “Go Your Own Way” (which I think opened The Dance), I saw Nicks and Lyndsey Buckingham playing the flashy, emotional front of the band. I saw Christine McVie playing the watchful parent of her emotional kids. I saw Mick Fleetwood, wide-eyed behind his kit doing what he could to add theatrics to some of the most solid drum parts in rock.

All that was going on while bassist John McVie did his best to blend into the furniture, even while providing some of the most musical and integral rhythm support rock and roll has ever known. He stays there, just feet from his partner Fleetwood, laying down the foundation on which Buckingham’s virtuosic guitar parts are able to soar, Nicks’ vocals are able to contrast and McVie’s piano parts are able to glide.

McVie isn’t the showiest guy in the band. He’s even less showy than other rock bass players, who often do what they can to make themselves both seen and heard. In fact, he seems to eschew the spotlight and just wants to play the music, letting that speak for him while everyone else on stage draws the audience’s attention.

While I only ever played the drums (and not all that well) in my life, I was always drawn to bass parts, perhaps by virtue of singing that part in the various school choirs I was in over the years. The combination of those two things has me particularly attuned to the rhythm section in music.

It’s also likely a symptom of my general state of mind, which is happy to let someone else be the flashy frontman while I’m happy back here doing the work and laying the foundation. That mindset is also probably why I was so good at managing core content programs, doing the everyday work that may not get tons of attention but which is essential to building a good content marketing program. I’ll defer to the experts when it comes to premium content executions and other campaigns, but it’s my core program that is providing the audience for those campaigns.

Of course, that tendency to just want to be in the background has also likely impeded my career at various times as I haven’t taken credit for one thing or another, preferring to feel that the client’s success was mine, even if that wasn’t publicly acknowledged.

That’s fine, though. I’m fine following the John McVie example of being an essential part of the equation that does his work and does it better than most other people in his field. I’d just uncomfortable in the spotlight anyway.

The Value of Professional Social Media Management

“Chris, didn’t you work in web design or something?”

“No, social media marketing.” 

“Oh cool…want to start an Instagram account?”

That was the conversation that lead to my starting a photo feed for the store I’ve been working at for the last several months. Since I fired it up I’ve tried to post regularly and put into practice everything I’ve learned over the last decade of content marketing program management, even if it is just for a single local store and not a worldwide consumer brand.

Over the last few days, though, I haven’t posted anything. That’s because I feel it would have been insensitive to do so while a huge chunk of Texas is underwater and preparing for a recovery process that could take months if not years. I’ll ramp it up again in the near future, but there’s a crisis happening and so I’m going to take a break.

My decision is based on those years of experience. It’s based on seeing one brand after another called out for continuing on with business as usual while people were suffering. The account isn’t huge, but even if no one were to take us to task to the extent that we become a cautionary tale in Adweek it’s the right thing to do.

The experience and insights that culminated in my making this decision are mine. I worked hard to accumulate those instincts. When social media management is simply one of the tasks you assign a part-time office manager, you don’t get that. But that’s who’s being given the reins if many of the job postings I come across are any indication.

They may do a fine job and the profiles will be managed without headache. If so, great. But when a crisis, either internal or external, comes along, you’re going to want someone whose experience extends beyond their own personal use of Facebook.

The Criteria for “Crisis” Has Changed

It’s been conventional wisdom for quite a while now that there are times brands should just stop Tweeting or pushing out any social updates. Usually these are during times of great national stress or in the midst of an unfolding tragedy. In my career I’ve hit the “Pause” button when news of a school shooting broke, during the hours and days following the Boston Marathon bombing and other times. The idea is that in the midst of real conversations about life-or-death topics, brands don’t need to be interrupting things with their marketing messages. Take a knee, let things calm down and then you can ramp back up.

But what happens when every damn day feels like one of great national crisis and hand-wringing?

That’s the situation we’re now in and one that lead to Twitter itself getting its hand-slapped a little bit last week. See #nationalrelaxationday wound up coinciding with the day Pres. Trump decided to double-down on not condemning the white nationalists and Nazis who were making their pasty presence known in Charlottesville, VA. Twitter posted about the hashtag holiday anyway, seemingly unaware that people were freaking out about the comments being made by our president. That was bad enough on its own but also opened the company back up to familiar (and legitimate) criticisms it wasn’t doing enough to combat just the kind of hate-filled vitriol that was on display in Charlottesville.

Should Twitter have held back on that Tweet? Was it right for any brand to be publishing in that moment? I’m not sure I agree with those saying social brand publishing should have been put on pause at that moment. That’s largely because the overall vibe of the world seems so different than it did even a year ago.

While I *do* think brands should be savvy enough to know not to publish as violent riots and protests are happening, “Trump says something outrageous” is too low a bar. There’s almost not a day that’s gone by in the last two years where that hasn’t happened, so that criteria would have shut most content marketing programs down the minute he descended on the elevator of Trump Tower and declared all Mexicans to be rapists and criminals.

We’re in a state of perpetual societal crisis, it seems. So the standard by which “appropriate for marketing to continue” is measured needs to be adjusted. Twitter was tone deaf with their #nationalrelaxationday Tweet, sure, but that’s not a massive issue, nor is any Tweet from any brand that went out that day.

If we’re going to put formal guidelines around what does or doesn’t rise to this level, it starts with needing to define what constitutes a crisis. Is it a Tweet from Trump that dog whistles to white nationalists? Is it a the high-profile loss of life? Is it any instance of notable and demonstrable social inequality? What makes the protest in Charlottesville different from the protests three years ago in Ferguson, MO, protests that didn’t seem to generate the same round of existential doubt among social media experts.

There are still clear instances where brand marketing should be put on hold out of respect for events in the real world. I continue to believe that, even if doing so entails me ignoring the double-standard social media is held to as traditional advertising still appears alongside stories about those tragedies online, on TV, on radio and elsewhere. It’s not as if all advertising is pulled, it’s just that social content marketing is expected to go silent, though the difference between seeing marketing within a Twitter timeline and auto-play video ads on the CNN story about a tragedy seems like the definition of hair-splitting.

All that means it comes down to what feels right in the moment. A program manager is the one who is responsible for making that call and is therefore accountable for whatever repercussions may result, though he/she can and should get input from others in as timely a manner as possible. So there isn’t one universal standard against which to hold people and the brands they manage. All they can do is make the best decision they can in the moment, adjusting standards to a new reality that seems lot more crisis-filled and surreal than it did just a couple years ago.

Study: Young People Leaving Facebook for Snapchat, Instagram

For the better part of the last decade the ideal for most new social media companies has been to become “the next Facebook.” That company has grown to the role of the 800 pound gorilla in the space. Over half the world’s population uses the network and that massive reach has brought with it a dominant role in the online advertising world, sucking up a gigantic portion of overall spending.

Fault lines have been appearing here and there for a couple years that have hinted at weakness in the company’s growth potential. Most of those have been anecdotal, though. Now there are some serious numbers that show we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of Facebook’s dominance.

Facebook Falling In Appeal

A new eMarketer study forecasts slow growth for Facebook in the coming years, particularly among teens and young adults. Those young, influential individuals who are prized by advertisers for their buying power and lack of entrenched brand loyalty will be increasingly, the study says, migrating to Instagram and Snapchat. Those platforms have done a better job of adapting to the different communications needs and styles of the younger demographic than Facebook and will reap the benefits of that appeal. Even worse, those kids who are just becoming old enough to join social media appear to be bypassing Facebook altogether.

That’s not all bad news for Facebook since, as the story says, it owns Instagram as well. But it opens up the possibility that within the next five years Facebook will no longer be big swinging hammer in the room. While it may still claim massive worldwide user numbers, if it can’t show that a good percentage of that group is in the demographic advertisers most desperately want then ad revenue will start to shrink.

Millennials Kill Everything Else, Why Not Facebook?

What happens then is anyone’s guess. Does Facebook undergo a massive overhaul to more closely align to the kind of communication and sharing favored by younger people? Does it introduce ad units that are increasingly annoying and intrusive in the same way mainstream media sites have done to try and stem the exodus of advertising dollars to Facebook and Google?

Any of the above scenarios will have some sort of impact on the content marketers who currently have Facebook as a central support structure in their programs. If content reach on Facebook begins to suffer not just because of suppression in the News Feed but because the habits of the remaining readers are more passive than active, things could get real grim real fast.

I and my colleagues have long warned against putting too many eggs in one basket. Specifically, we’ve advised against becoming too dependent on the site traffic that came from Facebook. “It won’t last,” we always cautioned. It was never that a competitor would spring from the ground triumphantly, as networks like Ello and others tried to do. It’s that demographics would change and habits would change along with them.

Facebook Was Never Invulnerable Or Immortal

The retail industry is feeling this right now. Sears is sliding into oblivion as shopping moves online. Even there, there’s evidence traditional retailers don’t hold as much appeal for young shoppers as the websites of the manufacturing brands themselves. They have little to no interest in antiques and formal furniture, both because they can’t afford it due to crushing student debt loads and because that just doesn’t fit with their lifestyle. And they don’t care about your brand, they’re good with generics and low-cost alternatives.

Facebook has been playing the game for the last five or six years as if it’s invincible, the social equivalent of the Roman Empire. It used that position to pretty much define media distribution in a substantial way. But it was never going to last forever, no matter how hard it tried to kill the idea of any website other than Facebook mattering. Now we’re starting to see things shift toward a future where it’s just another player.

Those other networks realize they need to adapt to certain realities, though. That’s why you’ve seen both Instagram and Snapchat make more moves recently that allow for linking and other features brand publishers and advertisers not only want but need in order to seriously consider usage.

More and more, the serious content strategist will have to put Facebook in a less central position of their proposals. It remains important, for sure. But those who have focused on establishing sustainable programs built on content types, not content platforms, are those best-positioned for future success.