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The constant moving target of Digital Platforms & Algorithms

It’s true that social media has dramatically changed the digital landscape. In fact, it is the fastest growing platform in the entire ecosystem.

The most recent evolution came at the beginning of this year when Mark Zuckerberg announced a move to join the three major social channels, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The decision to merge the three messenger apps will not only protect the privacy of the users, but also aid in achieving other user and commercial-based objectives. All brands that respond to this move will greatly benefit.

Beginning with consumer-based incentives, you’ll notice that the way we socialise is slowly drifting from public-based forums into private-oriented channels.

Consider the following stats; from 2015, a majority of social media users have been using direct messaging apps much more than public social platforms.

  • The use of social media channels from 2010 has increased from 3-9% annually
  • In 2018 the number of social media users in America has reduced by 4%
  • This is possibly due to the fact that most young people prefer using private channels
  • Private communications currently make up about 2/3 of total social media use
Data / Info from PEW Research Center & Edison Research

By merging the three major social platforms, the hassle of having to frequently switch from one platform to another will be eliminated. For instance, if you’re using Instagram you can still communicate with people on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The move will bring about two major effects; it will either reduce the amount of information we share, or change the type of information we share publicly.

This will also affect not just Facebook, but other similar channels like Pinterest and Twitter.

Regarding a commercial-based approach, Zuckerberg has pointed out his aspiration to devise a WeChat model. This is a platform owned by Tencent that allows you to send photos, make calls, pay for store purchases, send money, book taxi rides and much more. The platform has grown rapidly and currently has over 1 billion users worldwide.

Linking the three major channels will aid to streamline the social platform because they all have the same functionalities. It will also enable many brands to interact better with their customers and market their products in an even smoother manner.

Furthermore, combining Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp will also mean merging over 3.6 billion accounts into one massive platform.

Facebook as a channel cannot solely depend on marketing in public to drive revenue. There is a need to incorporate other new functionalities that can improve the provision of services to consumers. It should not come as a surprise because, for a long time, Facebook has been advising brands to improve their marketing strategies through the use of the Messenger app. Take the example of Lego, they utilise the channel with the help of a bot called Ralph. Through this, they have helped visitors understand all their products available on offer. The bot also directs visitors directly to the sales point. Instagram also introduced an in-app checkout feature together with other major brands like Dior, Nike, and Adidas.

An amalgamated platform will imply the introduction of a new sales platform for brands that use social media marketing. It will feature advanced e-commerce functionalities for safe and smooth operations. The move will also aid companies to improve their brand exposure without necessarily establishing additional channels. For instance, you can set up bots that communicate with Messenger and WhatsApp users without introducing a new channel.

Amalgamating the three direct channels will bring about major impacts to marketers:

  • We’ll see a decline in social listening; the drop in public posts mean we should change how we respond and monitor consumer feedback. Various engagement programs and analytics are vital in obtaining vital insights that will add value to brands.
  • There will also be reduced content visibility; this will impact the performance of content considering only 2/3 of content sharing happen through direct channels. This will make it hard to assess how social content performs, and brings a need to devise new analytics which aid in assessing the type of content with highest impact. Additionally, as a marketer, you will also need to find other extra metrics and insights that can be obtained from paid channels.
  • We’ll see a change in social strategy; brands will be incapable of uploading and promoting content. The focus will have to shift and focus on delivering quality service and utility within the channels. Moreover, the success measuring techniques will have to concentrate more on concrete KPIs like sales, leads, and NPS (net promoter score).
  • Product commercialisation will change completely; social media channels will turn into direct sales platforms with fully integrated payment solutions. This will bring with it a need to develop back-end features and change how social media interacts with diverse technological platforms. Brands will be wise to invest in additional technologies that help protect data.

One question that must be asked is, does this spell the end of email marketing as we know it?

If brands can converse directly with consumers and even make direct sales, then email marketing will undoubtedly be at risk. Exactly how it will play out remains unclear; and while these changes will take time manifest, what we do know is that social platforms and consumers are becoming increasingly focused on direct messaging.

It’s the right time for brands to determine how they will respond to possible changes. And in the meantime, there are chances to enjoy short-term gains via innovation of social experience.

But failing to understand and react to these changes might well lead to a drop in both market share and sales for brands in the long term.