By Oon Yeoh
When I signed up for Facebook in 2008, there was slightly over 100,000 Malaysians registered. According to a report last year, there are some 13.3 million Facebook users in this country.
In that short span of time, social media has evolved a lot too. When it comes to social media, change, not surprisingly, happens at Internet speed. When I wrote a book about how to use social media for business, its publication had to be delayed several times because just as it was about to go for print, some major changes had been made to Facebook or Twitter.
Today, social media is still evolving but perhaps at a slightly slower pace as it matures and grows past its infancy stage. Businesses are now starting to adopt social media in a big way. This leads us to the first point in my Top 3 trends for social media (not presented in any order of importance) in the coming year or so.
1. Social media is a “must have”.
There was a time, circa 2000, when businesses were grappling with the notion that websites were necessary. Back then, it was still considered a “nice to have” rather than a “must have” element of a company’s marketing and branding initiative. Today, no company worth its salt would be without a website.
The same question about social media emerged a decade later, in 2010 when social media started to seriously enter the public consciousness. Is it a “must have” or a “nice to have”? Today, at least among companies whose target market are the young, urban and web-savvy, it is a “must have”.
As mentioned earlier, more than 13 million Malaysians are on Facebook. That’s pretty close to half the population. Brands can’t afford to ignore statistics like that, and they don’t. Most consumer brands have some kind of social media presence whether it’s in the form of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Blogger, YouTube or a combination of these.
Not all do it well but there is an increasing awareness that it’s important to treat social media as an important plank in their marketing and branding strategy, and many are starting to put more resources in terms of personnel and budget into this area.
2. Social media is not free
Social media platforms are free to use.You register to be on the platform at no charge. But that only allows you to set up an account. What you do with it will determine how successful your social media initiative is in terms of achieving your desired goals for it.
Time was when you could simply get a large number of people to “Like” your Facebook Page and voilà all your postings would appear on their timelines. It was a free and easy way to reach a huge number of potential customers.
But lately, Facebook has been tinkering with its algorithms, making it extremely difficult for brands to reach their fans via normal postings. They need to pay for certain posts to be promoted. Meanwhile, both Twitter and LinkedIn have also been trying out different forms of paid ads. No more free lunch from social media platforms.
3. Content creation is vital
Social media platforms have made it possible for individuals and brands to create their own content – be it in the form of text, illustrations, pictures, audio or video. Even the hosting of such content is free. Only the creation of such content requires investment of time and money.
Rebecca Lieb, author of “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher – How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media”, predicts that over time, traditional publishers of content will face increasing challenges from – not other publishers – but from consumer brands who have wisened up to importance of creating relevant content for its customers.
In the US, companies like Federated Media Publishing specialize in helping brands create content for social media platforms. And as their case studies page shows, many big brands like Philips, Kraft, Levi’s, Ford and Intel are investing in content.
Why are they doing this? Because they realize that once you offer quality content that’s relevant to your customer base, it has the potential to go viral on social media. Perhaps the old saying is true after all: Content is king.
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.