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4 Ways social media has evolved over the last decade

4 Ways social media has evolved over the last decade

Back in the early ‘noughties’ social media was referred to as new media, however, in just a few years, it’s become everyday media. Social is part of most people’s daily lives with 61% of people in the UK actively using social media and 79% of those do so every day. In the 12 years since Facebook (by far the largest and most famous social media channel) launched, much has changed.

social media evolution 



Many still think that only teenagers and young people are on social media. This is a myth that needs to be busted, as while it was millennials who pioneered the use of social media, they are now not the only ones using it.

According to the Office of National Statistics 44% of 55-64 year-old use social media, and in a survey conducted by Silversurfers.com 92% of online baby boomers (those aged over 50) have a Facebook account and 19% are on Twitter. If you’re still not convinced that baby boomers are online just remember Steve Jobs was a baby boomer, as is Bill Gates.

Those aged 18-25 don’t interact much with Facebook anymore, while 2.5 million of them have an account, most use messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. Out of the 200 million Snapchat users 71% of them are under 25. In June 2016, Snapchat surpassed Twitter when it came to daily use as did Facebook owned Instagram back in 2015.

Shopkins brand YouTube cartoon

Children are also actively on social media. For young children it’s all about YouTube, with 35 of the top 100 YouTube channels being aimed at children. Shopkins, the latest toy craze amongst 4-8 year olds, owes much of its success to YouTube through ‘unboxing’ videos and cartoon shorts created by the manufacture to raise awareness.  These Shopkins cartoons have yet to air on linier TV while the first episode has been viewed close to nine million times on YouTube.


Pay to play

When brands started to get on Facebook and Twitter the most important metrics were followers and likes. Now, things have changed; to be profitable these social media companies have opened up opportunities for brands to target their vast user base using paid social advertising. To capitalise on this both social media platforms have changed their algorithms making it harder to achieve any real reach organically. This means to engage with your target audience you need to pay up.

When you create content for a campaign some budget needs to be put behind it to make it successful. It does not matter how great your content is; if it does not reach your audience it cannot influence or impact them. To make social media a worthy part of your media mix you need to put some investment in.

The era of free social media for brands is over.

And last year we also saw newer channels such as Instagram open up its platform for brands to advertise, while 2016 saw the first UK Snapchat ad launched.


Video content is king

Social media is moving away from text to video based content. According to Cisco, by 2017 video will account for 69% of all consumer traffic and Nielsen claims that 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the future.  As with all social media trends this has been led by users. YouTube receives one billion unique visitors every month and the rapid growth of Instagram and Snapchat shows that users want to consume more of this content. 


Social as a customer service channel

Lead by customers, social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, has become a customer service channel for some brands. This has been especially true for transport companies. Twitter has become the medium of choice for those complaining about rail services. In 2014 1.7 million messages were sent to the UK’s 14 rail providers, most of which now have their own Twitter teams fielding these messages. These tweets don’t just fall into the ether, as they can be seen by anyone; some go viral and can be picked up by the national press. In 2015, National Express received a serious complaint on Facebook that went viral and became headline news. Brands need to have a strategy on how to deal with complaints on social media; posts should not be ignored and abuse should not go unchallenged.


So what next?

Social media is only going to become more integrated into everyday life and a higher percentage of the content we consume will be through these channels. The generation coming up behind millennials have grown up with social media and are shunning traditional outlets such as broadcast and print – brands ignore social at their peril. While brands don’t need to be on every social channel all the time, you do need to find the ones that your target audience's needs and craft content that fits those channels and engages with your audience.

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