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How to Navigate the Changing Landscape of Social Media

It might still be trendy, but social media has been around for a while. In fact, experienced marketers have been using it for 15+ years to attract and engage with potential customers. At the same time, it never stands still; the landscape of social media marketing now compared to those 15 years ago is almost unrecognizable.


Where once text was reigned supreme, visuals are king. In-the-moment content matters, and so does aligning your strategy with your audience’s channel profiles. 


But there’s a silver lining: marketers who know how to navigate this fluid environment are almost guaranteed to win in the long term. Understanding the changing landscape of social media in 2023 and beyond can help you build a strategy that’s sure to beat your competition and attract new customers.


Trend #1: Audiences are Limiting their Social Media Channels

First things first: social media is here to stay. The United States alone now has more than 300 million social media users.


But at the same time, the ways in which internet users engage on social media are shifting. As a recent article by the New York Times pointed out, users are limiting the networks on which they are active. Where it might have once been the norm to maintain relatively active presences on 3+ networks, it’s now becoming much more common for users to pick a single favorite network and stick with it.


For businesses, that makes understanding your audiences’ social media preferences more important than ever. Getting their attention means being able to identify exactly what network(s) they spend their time on, and focusing your attention on those more limited channels.


Rather than spending energy trying to have a presence on every channel, it’s about being great on fewer channels to truly leverage social media for marketing.


Trend #2: For Businesses, It’s Visual Content—or Nothing

The fact that social media content is moving towards visuals is not necessarily new. Videos and images have outperformed text-based posts and links for a while now.


What is becoming noteworthy, though, is just how drastic that shift has become.


Social media posts with images get 2.3x more engagement than those without any. A featured image increases the likelihood that your content will be shared by 80%. Finally, 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.


If you’re not already prioritizing visuals on your social media channels, that means the shift has to happen now. Whenever you can, post product and business images and videos to engage your audience. Otherwise, you risk your content getting lost in the endless noise of other businesses trying fruitlessly to get their content in front of their audience.


Trend #3: Authenticity Has Never Been More Important

Speaking of a crowded environment: every day, more than 300 million photos get uploaded to the top social media sites. That trend, and especially businesses leaning into social media to engage their audience, has led to a level of cynicism toward marketing-oriented content that’s difficult to overstate.


Simply put, your audience can sniff promotional content coming from a mile away. They don’t use social media to be sold to; instead, they want to have authentic conversations, learn something new, and maybe just waste some time without spending much brain power.


Against that backdrop, businesses can only be successful if they truly embrace authenticity as part of their social media strategy.


Don’t look at social media as an opportunity to sell your business. Instead, look to it as a way to build relationships with your audience, which will eventually increase their likelihood of buying from you—when they’re ready, and on their terms. User-generated content, a personal voice, and intentionally avoiding product promotions can all play a role in making your social media presence a success.


Trend #4: Live and Almost-Live Content Carves Out a Niche

In some ways, social media has come full-circle. In the early days, before newsfeed algorithms, marketers were able to post content and rely on the fact that most of their audience would see it close to its posting day. That’s no longer the case, with days-old content with lots of engagement having a higher chance of being seen by your followers than content from a few moments ago that doesn’t have the likes, comments, or shares.


But live and in-the-moment content is making a comeback. Most prominently, we’re seeing it in the forms of Facebook and Instagram stories, which are designed for temporary content above the newsfeed.


There are other content opportunities as well, of course. WhatsApp is just beginning to experiment with brand offerings, including new communities that revolve around specific topics. Live video has long been successful in getting your content to the top of newsfeeds.


Not all content is necessarily suited to these live and nearly-live opportunities. Use it to promote time-sensitive promotions and events, or to offer behind-the-scenes looks. Over time, you’ll begin to see what works, and can adjust your content strategy accordingly.


Trend #5: Organic Content May No Longer Be Enough

Finally, it’s impossible to ignore the drive of social media networks to push businesses to paid ads. The average organic (unpaid) Facebook post now reaches less than 2% of followers. You can still build a successful presence, but you may need to supplement with targeted ads.


The good news is that the opportunities for ads continue to become more significant for businesses every year. In-depth targeting options based on anything from interests to online behaviors increase audience relevance. Meanwhile, integrated A/B testing possibilities allow you to make sure your text and visuals are just right for the money you spend.


Closing Thoughts

The only constant in the world of social media is change. Understanding the nature of that change, in turn, is a crucial piece to making sure that even as trends emerge and best practices shift, your business can use social to attract your customers.


It’s not easy to do, and certainly won’t work on autopilot. At the same time, intentional strategies like focusing on the most important channels, embracing a visual focus, prioritizing authenticity, and taking advantage of live content can go a long way toward success. It’s how you can make sure that even within the shifting landscape of social media, you build a strong strategy designed to grow your business.

Austin Kruger
I'm a data-driven marketer with a passion for crafting engaging content and optimizing campaigns for results.
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