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If Social Media Is Declining, Where Should I Put My Digital Marketing Focus?

Since it started to really take off in the early part of the 21st century, social media has been ascendant. That language may sound a little bit lofty or hyperbolic, but it’s totally earned.

The way we see it, the rise of social networking has been one of the most influential events in recent world history. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat have all fundamentally changed the way we speak to each other; the way we conduct our business; and, above all, the way we market and sell to one another.

But is the stratospheric rise of social media finally reaching a turning point? And what effects could a social media downturn have on your digital marketing efforts?

Let’s break down the ups and downs of social media in 2018, and explore what digital marketing channels will continue to best serve your brand in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Is Social Media Declining?

Certainly, among a lot of people we talk to day in and day out, there is a feeling of doom and gloom around social media. No one is talking about leaving their social networks, per se – but there seems to be a growing sense that we’ve entered some new chapter in social media history.

After all, the goliath that is Facebook has been stumbling in the press and with users lately. In fact, Facebook seems to be caught up in a never-ending PR tailspin, what with reports emerging all the time about mishandling data, foreign election interference, and other serious privacy concerns.

On the new media side, Snapchat’s stock has been tanking for some time now – and its rollout of a new user interface was met with real scorn several months back.

Looking even further, Twitter has recently managed to turn a profit for the first time in a long, long while – but it also makes headlines all the time for its own set of privacy issues, as well as the ongoing scourge of bots and fake accounts that are affecting user experience on the platform.

In all, it’s hard to avoid the sense that something significant is happening with social media – and decidedly not the good kind of significant.

And people’s reactions to social platforms reflect this ongoing shift. In one recent Harris poll of several thousand American adults, 46% of people wanted to do away with Twitter altogether. 40% advocated doing away with Snapchat, and nearly a third (32%) yearned for the deaths of Instagram and Facebook.

Similarly, a Hubspot poll found that more than half of Americans find ads found on Twitter and Facebook to be untrustworthy, and 77% say that social media platforms aren’t proactive enough when it comes to vetting content and ads.

So. Again. All of this is… bad PR, to say the least. But on the flip side of the coin? All metrics show that these recent trends and troubles aren’t really pushing people away from their preferred social networks. In fact, in that same Hubspot poll, 66% of Americans reported that they did not plan to use social media less in the foreseeable future.

And that bears out in the real world. According to recent findings from Pew, social media is still hugely popular among all age demographics, with 68% of all American adults using Facebook regularly. Hundreds of millions of people use Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn daily – and PR troubles or no PR troubles, they don’t seem poised to stop.

The Next Generation of Digital Marketing

So, as you may have guessed: To put our cards on the table, we don’t think that social media is going anywhere anytime soon. Facebook continues to rival Google as one of the biggest and most influential ad platforms in history, and other social networks are thriving in practice, whatever the headlines may say.

But, with that said, we’re also realists. And as such, we realize that there is some cause to be nervous about the future of social media.

In any case, it’s important to recognize that we are hitting a paradigm shift. Digital marketing channels are evolving, and your brand will have to adapt to keep up as the current platforms change, fade, or diversify.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a step back, and exploring what digital marketing and publishing strategies will work best for your brand, moving forward.

Paid Social Media Marketing

As Mark Traphagen recently put it over at Marketing Land, there are a few ways sure to allow you to continue deriving value from social media in the near term. Chief among them? As he writes, it’s time to “accept that paid is no longer optional for social media marketing.”

While your brand may have been able to get by on organic social reach for some time, the reality is that the days of “free” Facebook and Twitter marketing strategies are ending. It’s sad, but true. Organic reach has been declining across platforms for some time now, and constant algorithmic changes are making it all-but-impossible for even the savviest social marketer to completely keep up.

With that in mind, it’s time to recognize that social media is becoming pay-to-play. And that’s not all bad news! Facebook (as well as Twitter and LinkedIn) offers incredibly powerful targeting tools, allowing you to hone in your marketing efforts on exactly the consumers most likely to engage with your brand. At the same time, the barrier to entry is still somewhat low; we’ve helped clients attain social advertising success for as little as a few dollars a day.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As we mentioned earlier, Facebook is one major marketing behemoth – Google is another.

If your interest is waning in social media, why not turn your attention to the power of search?

Since the earliest days of Google, Yahoo, and the like, search engine optimization (SEO) has been one of the most powerful tools available for brands looking to find, capture, and keep clients using the internet. You might think of SEO as the art and science of helping your brand rank highly on search engine rankings pages (SERPs). It’s a little bit creative, a little bit technical – and, when it works, its’ an amazingly powerful tool for helping you increase your traffic and secure new leads.

In our experience, the backbone of successful SEO is content. The more creative, compelling, and informative content you add to your site, the better the chance that Google and other search engines will recognize and rank your brand – improving your chances of appearing in more searches, especially for more targeted “long-tail” keywords.

And here’s the thing: The benefits of crafting original content don’t stop with SEO! In fact, there’s no limit to what you can do with your creative multimedia content, from leveraging it for traditional ads, to using it to bolster your social media strategy, to putting it to work as the backbone of a great digital newsletter.

Looking Ahead

The bottom line? Today’s digital landscape is more complex and multifaceted than you might think – and it’s essential to build a digital marketing strategy that can weather all of the ups and downs that are still sure to come.

From changing social media algorithms, to platform changes on Google, and everything in between: The best way to prepare for future shocks is to diversify now, taking care to craft a content marketing strategy that leverages many different channels in pursuit of one common goal – getting you more traffic, leads, and conversions.

Curious about how you can continue to draw benefits from social media marketing in 2018 and beyond? Ready to expand your strategy to include blogging, SEO, email, and even paid search engine marketing with Adwords? The Geek Chicago team can help set you down the right path to lasting success! Drop us a line today to get the conversation started.

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).