Have you noticed that people are posting less on social media these days? I’m not talking brands here, but actual individuals. So are we just all out of the smart/funny/interesting stuff, or is the way we’re using social media on a personal level going through massive changes?

The stats stack up. According to this study by Similarweb, it’s true that in almost all countries time spent by users on the four leading Social Media apps – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – is down, despite a number of nifty functional updates and reinventions to ensure they don’t go the same way as MySpace and Bebo. Remember them?

Think about it, we are the first social media generation, so who really knows how it’s going to pan out in the long term? Do people want to get caught up in new functionality – which basically means more ways to watch other people living their lives – or are we leaning back towards offline social networking… like going to the pub?

Younger users are now more aware of their digital footprint then ever before – the fact nothing ever really disappears is a real concern to many a millennial. In fact, nearly half of young people are worried about a social media post embarrassing them in the future according to independent research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Education and Skills Group. And if you search ‘social media detox’ on Google, you’ll find stacks of articles on how to cut social networking out of your daily routine for a week, the summer – or forever!

So what does this mean for brands? The beginning of the end – or the start of an exciting new era?

We say the future for brands on social is rosy. The frenzy and chaos are subsiding as users become more discerning about the benefits each platform can bring them. They may be posting less, but they are cleverly tailoring usage to their needs. Here’s how we see it:

Twitter…

This is the platform that most people are struggling to stay in love with. I spoke to a few techy and communications contacts about this and it seems they are simply becoming fatigued with the platform and are looking elsewhere for stimuli.

However, the folk who are enjoying it are using it to communicate on a common interest – professionally or personally, and have amassed a likeminded following who have tuned into their theme. So they don’t need to Tweet everyday or even every week, just when they feel the need.

 

Interestingly, Twitter has now changed its download category from social network to ‘news platform’. From a brand point of view, this demonstrates it’s all right to use the platform to share and ‘broadcast’ your company’s news & views – as long as it’s interesting to the people who follow you.

Instagram…

The platform experienced super rapid growth from launch and subsequently overtook Twitter in terms of active users in 2015. People just loved its interface… the pressure to be good with words was off and who doesn’t appreciate a great picture? At first it was fun, but then came the backlash. It was described as unrealistic, with users becoming unhealthily obsessed. They turned to Snapchat for a bit of reality, warts and all, and Instagram retaliated with Instagram Stories.

There have been mixed reactions, but brands have lapped it up. Instagram Stories has allowed us to show the full picture, literally. Fewer people may be using it, but those who enjoy the inside scoop on their favourite brands, and as a platform, it still commands some of the biggest active daily user figures.

Facebook…

We’ve all know someone who has ‘had enough’ and deactivated their Facebook account. The demographic has experienced a shift to an older audience and many Generation Zs are now completely bypassing it. So it’s not necessarily one to target the millennials, but Facebook is not just about satisfying your followers. For most brands, a large chunk of their page views come from non-fans – consumers and stakeholders doing their research. So smart marketers must ensure they’re portraying a complete picture for their brand on this channel.

Snapchat…

The wild west of the social world and platform of choice for millennials. It boasts around 100m daily active users and has a niche 18-to 24-year-old demographic. It’s where brands can get creative and show their personality. But the thing that people really like about Snapchat… and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger… is the intimate, closed network. And this is key to the changes in the way people are using social networking. They still want to use narrowcast tools to get attention and broadcast their lives – but to the people they know in the real world.

So what’s the conclusion?

We may be cooling off, but we’re not burnt out. Users are still posting, but doing so privately – and using public platforms as casual observers to get information and promote themselves professionally.

According to Social Media Today people follow brands for benefits like promotions and discounts, latest product information, customer service, entertaining content and ability to offer feedback. On average every Twitter user follows five or more brands, and over 90% say that they follow a brand on Twitter for offers.

It’s up to brands to be in tune with the different expectations of the users on each platform, tailor content accordingly, have fun in some places, inform in others and run promotions somewhere else. Social media users with multiple accounts fall in and out of love with different platforms, so you might lose them for a while – or maybe even find them again in the real world.

By Claire Anderson