If you’ve flipped to the technology or digital life section of most newspapers or their respective websites lately, you might have seen that there has been murmurs that Facebook is losing its hold over a growing number of people (largely teens) while other sites such as reddit, twitter and apps like snapchat are attracting more and more users.
All of this is just speculation for now and Facebook is still undoubtedly the leader in its field, it however has caused some anxiety about what flow on effects could eventuate for companies and organisations that utilise the social media juggernaut to advertise and manage their brands in order to convince users to give them their patronage and ultimately hand over their cash.
Advertisers and other stakeholders have every right to be worried, the capital worth of teen and youth purchases is set to top $819 billion globally with youths and teens in Australia alone set to spend around $2.2 billion (Mastercard Insight, 2012).
That is big money in anybody’s books and at the moment companies and other advertisers enjoy being able to influence this sector of the market through Facebook almost at will. Considering that big name brands such as Sportsgirl (217,702 likes), Jay Jay’s (524,915 likes) and numerous other brands have tens to hundreds of thousands of Facebook subscribers, it is a scary thought for them that they could lose direct access to a large chunk of their target markets.
Social media strategists who are in charge of crafting social media strategies for these companies would be in a tough spot now. Do they branch out to stretch and increase their advertising budgets to try and market to their target audiences on these other sites or do they stay their guns and focus on the golden goose that is Facebook? Many undoubtedly fear backing the wrong site or start-up and doing their dough while others are still happy enough to play catch-up even while risking being left behind. At the back of everyone’s mind undoubtedly is the MySpace debacle in which the then social media site behemoth went from being a thriving site to dust bowl overnight as users outgrew and become bored of the platform. No one wants to back a loser.
But what about the other sites and applications that are chipping away at the golden goose? A large number of them are websites or apps that are hard to monetize or utilise without ostracising their audiences. Snapchat (an app that allows you to send a picture or video that deletes itself after being viewed) and other apps like it are designed around user privacy and if advertisers or companies tried the same social media strategies that they use on Facebook, the app would be dead in days. For a number of these apps, any intrusive advertising or data mining of user information would ruin the user and experience and drive away the users and will prove to be hard to strike a balance if any can be struck that is.
Likewise, Reddit (a content aggregation type website) currently ranked as the 122 most visited website in the world (Alexia, 2013) does not allow advertisers any extra power over the site that other users have nor do the users generally put up with advertising beside that which helps the site in the sidebars etc. Reddit is especially finicky in that users as a collective have the power to control what is and what is not seen, with users being able to up-vote or down-vote submitted links, other content and posts. Too often I have witnessed an unwitting marketing team try and drum up praise or plant advertising material for their company, only for it explode in their face and have their posts and content down-voted out of sight quickly, often with users venting about the unscrupulous methods employed by that company which in turn doesn’t help the companies image at all.
So what does it mean? For you and me at home? Nothing really but for those that are out there planning social media strategies and paying big bucks for advertising space, I bet they’re set to have a few sleepless nights in the future. No one really knows what the future holds as in the end it comes down to user satisfaction and whether they are being satisfied with their user experience and service. Only time will tell as users vote with their mouses.