Are you ready for the mega-shift from social media to private media?

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private media

By Mark Schaefer

Over the past few months I’ve seen a few trends coming together but I’m not sure I grasped the significance of what’s happening until I heard a recent comment from my 16-year-old nephew. Here is what I have seen occurring:

  • WhatsApp has rapidly become the biggest messaging service in the world with more than a billion users.
  • Snapchat is a juggernaut with the 18-24 age group, now earning more daily check-ins than Facebook. The company founder insists it is “not a social network.”
  • Facebook is the social network for most of the world, yet their major investment is in the development of private Facebook Messenger, including bots that would help companies scale “human” interaction through the service. More than 900 million people use Messenger now.Instagram (owned by Facebook) started private DM in 2014 that focuses on the sharing of content with up to 15 people in a threaded approach. The artificial intelligence-powered messaging space that allows third parties to build and deploy chatbots is predicted to facilitate 40 percent of mobile interactions by 2020 as “smart agents” proliferate, according to Gartner.
  • After falling behind Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, Apple has become laser-focused on improving Messages.
  • Other private messaging services like Viber and Kik have established footholds with certain demographic groups and have attracted millions of users.

And here is the quote from my young nephew:

“Oh Facebook is dead. My friend posted on Facebook and we made fun of him. We only use Snapchat now because who wants to put everything in public all the time? This just connects me with my real friends.”

Of course you can’t pin a trend to the comment of one person but he helped articulate the idea I had been pondering: A seismic shift in how people connect to each other. People are more interested in actually communicating, instead of broadcasting. We don’t want personal and private lives merging any more and we want control over our different social circles within these messaging apps.

Social media won’t go away (Facebook isn’t dead!), but it may become less important to certain groups as this trend toward more intimate conversation rises. It seems like we’re going full circle. The first communication apps (ICQ and AOL Chat for example) were all private.

What Facebook, Snapchat, and WhatsApp have realized for some time finally hit me, too. The world is transitioning from public social media to private media. For the foreseeable future, these intimate channels will present vast new opportunities, and perhaps perils, for marketers.

The rise of private media

The platforms have been responding to the rising trend of private media:

  • Instagram started private DM in 2014 that focuses on the sharing of content with up to 15 people in a threaded approach.
  • Twitter has experimented with Snapchat-stylized doodles and photo editing and in 2015 expanded the character limit via direct messaging.
  • Facebook Messenger will now support scannable codes, user names and links. This update allows the creation of a unique Messenger URL that will allow for greater discovery of users and businesses within the private sphere.
  • Facebook is already positioning pages and ad units with a “message the brand” option and analysts believe Facebook is positioning Messenger as its primary commerce hub of the future.
  • Business Insider reported that for the first time, combined usage of the top four messaging apps exceeded the combined usage of the top four social media apps. Falling data prices, cheaper devices, and improved features are helping propel their growth:

Screenshot 2016-04-30 17.12.10

Implications for marketing

I am beginning to think through some of the implications for this trend and I would be delighted to hear about your ideas in the comment section.

“Open rate” — The typical open rate for email is about 20 percent. Without the boost of ad support on Facebook, your organic reach for your content probably averages less than 1 percent (this varies widely by business). The open rate for a private message? 98 percent. Smartphone users are more likely to have push notifications turned on for a messaging app than for email, a branded app, or even Facebook.

Protection against another wave of content shock — I recently wrote that content shock isn’t a trend, it’s a wave. Every “quiet” channel becomes more difficult and expensive to maneuver in as the amount of noise rises. How do you keep the open rate at 98 percent as the popularity (and potential spam level) rises? What will be the rules of engagement?

Conversational moments — Today a brand goal on social media is mass relevance. We want that kitty picture to get as many likes, clicks, and shares as we can muster. But in this new world, the goal is engagement through private, meaningful, conversational moments. How do you scale? Through …

Bots — Facebook is working on smart bots that can hold human-like conversations. This seems like the foundational technology that would make this work on a large scale. How do we insert ads and brand messages in conversations in a way that isn’t disappointing … or creepy?

From content-orientation to person-orientation — In our current “mass relevance” model, content is at the center of the experience. In the future, content will still be important, but an individual will be the focus of the experience. We will be using Big Data in sophisticated ways to craft personalized, timely, location-based content and offers. Brand communications will be more immediate, expressive, and intimate.

Permission-based — The challenge of Snapchat is to get people to find you and follow you. Presumably brands will have to get people to find and follow them in these channels.

The purpose of Facebook — It will be fascinating to see how Facebook morphs and shifts in this environment. This is the platform most brands have been married to, and this is where most of the marketing investment is still occurring. There is a comfort there. How does that relationship change moving forward?

Data capture — Several years ago I suggested that Google should give away new smartphones every year in exchange for the ability to analyze the gold mine of data in text messaging. It appears that this trove of data could be migrating from texts and email to company-controlled messaging apps. What will happen to the lines of privacy? Will there be a new value exchange for this data?

And by the way … Where IS Google in this whole development? As of yet, they don’t seem to have a relevant entry.

This is a fascinating new development and there are many, many future conversations we will have together on this topic. Let’s get the ball rolling with this new podcast episode. In the latest edition of The Marketing Companion, Tom Webster and I open up a discussion on private media and we also dissect new research on brand authenticity.

And oh yes, we launch our latest product from the Marketing Companion Labs, Snapchat Silver, for those of you over 40 trying to figure out Snapchat. You won’t want to miss this episode!

I

f you can’t access the edition above, click on this link to listen to Episode 75

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Screenshot 2016-04-04 10.00.58Affinio is now offering a FREE eBook co-authored with Mark Schaefer called How to Identify, Understand and Grow Your Ideal Content Audience. Check it out! Affinio is an advanced audience intelligence platform that leverages the interest graph to understand today’s consumers. Using our deep learning and custom network engine, Affinio is able to analyze these connections to develop a social fingerprint for each user.  Affinio’s customers use this data to: Build in-depth data-driven personas; Understand their audience; Conduct competitive analysis; Identify ideal influencers and sponsorship opportunities; Build data-driven content strategies that resonate; Place highly targeted ads with data-backed creative.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and jmettraux 
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  • Kitty Kilian

    ‘We only use Snapchat now because who wants to put everything in public all the time?’ Right. But he is not looking for exposure. Hm…

  • Kitty Kilian

    ‘We only use Snapchat now because who wants to put everything in public all the time?’ Right. But he is not looking for exposure. Hm…

  • Hi Mark, what a terrific overview of this rapidly emerging trend. You may also want to add the “WeChat” phenomena to your discussion as they have clearly learned (if not set the standard for) private social media monetization. And, in fact, through investments in many similar platforms (KaKaoTalk, Snapchat, KiK) are preparing to launch globally with access to billions of already “converted” users. I’m not even sure FB with Whatsapp and Messenger can effectively address this as users (like your nephew) have clearly stated their lack of trust in FB itself. It may try so hard to protect its “legacy”, this emerging consumer attitude could cause real damage.

    Given revenues in this private space are now exceeding $billions annually, IMO, this is this way past emerging.

  • Hi Mark, what a terrific overview of this rapidly emerging trend. You may also want to add the “WeChat” phenomena to your discussion as they have clearly learned (if not set the standard for) private social media monetization. And, in fact, through investments in many similar platforms (KaKaoTalk, Snapchat, KiK) are preparing to launch globally with access to billions of already “converted” users. I’m not even sure FB with Whatsapp and Messenger can effectively address this as users (like your nephew) have clearly stated their lack of trust in FB itself. It may try so hard to protect its “legacy”, this emerging consumer attitude could cause real damage.

    Given revenues in this private space are now exceeding $billions annually, IMO, this is this way past emerging.

  • Google has Hangouts 🙂

    I think the trap for most small businesses will be automating these responses – they have been given the keys to a new method of providing customer service. A lot of folks rant on Twitter in public at businesses who pay money to have people de-escalate and get those convos into DM. Small biz can do the same thing but it’s not quite as easy – someone has to be watching and they certainly won’t be going 24/7.

    Facebook is giving businesses the way (and a scannable code) to hold those conversations in private instead. It’s a huge opportunity but also requires the user believe in Facebook.

    Snapchat is a double-edged sword. Right now it means forgoing creating more public content on a larger platform. Most small businesses will scoff at the idea of creating something as time intensive as a snap vs instagramming or FB. I doubt there will be significant marketing efforts made until the phone-as-input method can be bypassed by the majority of businesses and not just specific brands.

  • Google has Hangouts 🙂

    I think the trap for most small businesses will be automating these responses – they have been given the keys to a new method of providing customer service. A lot of folks rant on Twitter in public at businesses who pay money to have people de-escalate and get those convos into DM. Small biz can do the same thing but it’s not quite as easy – someone has to be watching and they certainly won’t be going 24/7.

    Facebook is giving businesses the way (and a scannable code) to hold those conversations in private instead. It’s a huge opportunity but also requires the user believe in Facebook.

    Snapchat is a double-edged sword. Right now it means forgoing creating more public content on a larger platform. Most small businesses will scoff at the idea of creating something as time intensive as a snap vs instagramming or FB. I doubt there will be significant marketing efforts made until the phone-as-input method can be bypassed by the majority of businesses and not just specific brands.

  • Most people don’t, I imagine : )

  • Most people don’t, I imagine : )

  • Probably should have added that but the article was getting so long! WeChat is probably the app leading this trend! Thanks for bringing that up Steve!

  • Probably should have added that but the article was getting so long! WeChat is probably the app leading this trend! Thanks for bringing that up Steve!

  • I agree. I think there are significant adoption hurdles that will make Snapchat accessible to most small businesses.

  • I agree. I think there are significant adoption hurdles that will make Snapchat accessible to most small businesses.

  • Hey Mark,

    Interesting post. Like you mentioned FB is looking at chat bots. So is Google. These bots will be AI driven and provide contextual entries to user goals. If we put in in today’s lingo; you’re on snapchat with friends and thinking of reserving movie tickets or making dinner reservations, your ‘chat bot buddy’ will listen in and offer you the point of purchase proactively.

    Pretty seamless compared to today’s user experience in a similar scenario where it takes hopping in and out of apps to accomplish the goal.

    Will be interesting to see how it all plays out but Google is already ‘in’ the game with its legacy reach and ongoing AI investments.

  • Hey Mark,

    Interesting post. Like you mentioned FB is looking at chat bots. So is Google. These bots will be AI driven and provide contextual entries to user goals. If we put in in today’s lingo; you’re on snapchat with friends and thinking of reserving movie tickets or making dinner reservations, your ‘chat bot buddy’ will listen in and offer you the point of purchase proactively.

    Pretty seamless compared to today’s user experience in a similar scenario where it takes hopping in and out of apps to accomplish the goal.

    Will be interesting to see how it all plays out but Google is already ‘in’ the game with it’s legacy reach and ongoing AI investments.

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  • Great commentary and good to hear from you my friend!

  • Great commentary and good to hear from you my friend!

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  • Sarah Wood

    It’s the scalability aspect of this that will prove the real challenge – and how well that can be executed. With remarketing more often than not missing it’s target and upsetting rather than reaching the right people, will badly-executed automated responses have the same effect – but with more negative consequences as a ‘personal’ conversation once negatively affected will lose that contact and can’t be reached again if the conversation depends on willing participants. How to create that intimacy and trust that comes from two ‘real’ people talking, and for a conversation not to sound false – I would love to see a good execution of that.

  • Sarah Wood

    It’s the scalability aspect of this that will prove the real challenge – and how well that can be executed. With remarketing more often than not missing it’s target and upsetting rather than reaching the right people, will badly-executed automated responses have the same effect – but with more negative consequences as a ‘personal’ conversation once negatively affected will lose that contact and can’t be reached again if the conversation depends on willing participants. How to create that intimacy and trust that comes from two ‘real’ people talking, and for a conversation not to sound false – I would love to see a good execution of that.

  • Mark Tietbohl

    Excellent article! I think an additional challenge for marketers with this trend is the tracking aspect…where did my traffic come from. Many times the traffic arising from messaging apps looks like organic traffic, which is not as helpful as that might be. As Jack Simpson from e-consultancy states: “let’s be honest, nobody really knows what the hell to do about it” This is a concern as we try to achieve what you discuss…greater “person orientation”.

  • Mark Tietbohl

    Excellent article! I think an additional challenge for marketers with this trend is the tracking aspect…where did my traffic come from. Many times the traffic arising from messaging apps looks like organic traffic, which is not as helpful as that might be. As Jack Simpson from e-consultancy states: “let’s be honest, nobody really knows what the hell to do about it” This is a concern as we try to achieve what you discuss…greater “person orientation”.

  • Given what I focus on for a living, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Excellent summary. Dead on. One quibble. When you write, “How do we insert ads and brand messages in conversations in a way that isn’t disappointing … or creepy?” I think we should instead be thinking, “How do we surface the exact right offer in a conversation in a way that solves the person’s real problem?” Serving an ad will break a conversation. Saying, “We have this solution that might help you,” is much more natural.

  • Given what I focus on for a living, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Excellent summary. Dead on. One quibble. When you write, “How do we insert ads and brand messages in conversations in a way that isn’t disappointing … or creepy?” I think we should instead be thinking, “How do we surface the exact right offer in a conversation in a way that solves the person’s real problem?” Serving an ad will break a conversation. Saying, “We have this solution that might help you,” is much more natural.

  • you nailed it Sarah. Well said.

  • you nailed it Sarah. Well said.

  • Absolutely! Great point. I guess I take heart in the fact that we might have at least SOMETHING to give us some direction if Facebook adds this to its analytics suite eventually. Stay tuned!

  • Agree Jim. Well said sir.

  • Absolutely! Great point. I guess I take heart in the fact that we might have at least SOMETHING to give us some direction if Facebook adds this to its analytics suite eventually. Stay tuned!

  • Agree Jim. Well said sir.

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  • Jayme Soulati

    Hi, Mark…grabbed this on LinkedIn and came over. My prediction is that the merry go round has nearly come full circle and businesses haven’t truly adopted for the full ride. As we in this space grapple with what you’re suggesting, brands are trying to validate the customer experience that ‘delights.’ Such an ‘oldie’ but critical to cutting through. When I strategize to deliver client service, I’m less about the social tools and more about the tried and true owned media and direct marketing. Whether the clients are on board is another story; however, the tidal wave is approaching tsunami disruption. Are we ready for what’s to come?

  • Jayme Soulati

    Hi, Mark…grabbed this on LinkedIn and came over. My prediction is that the merry go round has nearly come full circle and businesses haven’t truly adopted for the full ride. As we in this space grapple with what you’re suggesting, brands are trying to validate the customer experience that ‘delights.’ Such an ‘oldie’ but critical to cutting through. When I strategize to deliver client service, I’m less about the social tools and more about the tried and true owned media and direct marketing. Whether the clients are on board is another story; however, the tidal wave is approaching tsunami disruption. Are we ready for what’s to come?

  • So much wisdom here Jayme. An entire blog post of ideas really. The customer journey is a tangled mess. New challenges to the road to delighting customers!

  • So much wisdom here Jayme. An entire blog post of ideas really. The customer journey is a tangled mess. New challenges to the road to delighting customers!

  • Jayme Soulati

    I am struggling, honestly. Someone said we’re in ‘post digital age; we already know we’re in post social media age. I also predict that once again, very soon, the largest brands with the biggest budgets will again control the media and message — one way. The squeeze is happening right now. Thank you for your leadership, insights and commitment, Mark. XO

  • Jayme Soulati

    I am struggling, honestly. Someone said we’re in ‘post digital age; we already know we’re in post social media age. I also predict that once again, very soon, the largest brands with the biggest budgets will again control the media and message — one way. The squeeze is happening right now. Thank you for your leadership, insights and commitment, Mark. XO

  • I actually think the digital age is just beginning. Sad and scary but the bots are coming to answer our questions, predict our needs, even write our posts.

  • I actually think the digital age is just beginning. Sad and scary but the bots are coming to answer our questions, predict our needs, even write our posts.

  • Jayme Soulati

    Crumbs. Robotic Age?

  • Jayme Soulati

    Crumbs. Robotic Age?

  • Mikael Svartdahl

    Hi Mark. Really loved this episode. I am trying to track down the study you guys are talking about around the 26 minute mark. Regarding authenticity. Do you have a link to it? Thank you for the great work and all the insight!

  • Mikael Svartdahl

    Hi Mark. Really loved this episode. I am trying to track down the study you guys are talking about around the 26 minute mark. Regarding authenticity. Do you have a link to it? Thank you for the great work and all the insight!

  • Jeremy Bednarski

    Hi Mark, interesting thoughts as always. When it comes to how we get our marketing messages into these private conversations in a way that’s not creepy, I don’t know if we can. It reminds me of the “Sponsored Content” episode of South Park where ads find a way to reach you to the point of becoming a human. While the private conversations will appeal to the audience, the intrusive content and/or ads into these conversations could eventually drive that audience away to the next trend. Either that or spur the next ad blocking software companies that can keep conversations ad free. Just my two cents.

  • Jeremy Bednarski

    Hi Mark, interesting thoughts as always. When it comes to how we get our marketing messages into these private conversations in a way that’s not creepy, I don’t know if we can. It reminds me of the “Sponsored Content” episode of South Park where ads find a way to reach you to the point of becoming a human. While the private conversations will appeal to the audience, the intrusive content and/or ads into these conversations could eventually drive that audience away to the next trend. Either that or spur the next ad blocking software companies that can keep conversations ad free. Just my two cents.

  • Sorry. Will post this in the copy of the main article.

  • Sorry. Will post this in the copy of the main article.

  • I think that is a very smart and legitimate perspective Jeremy. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

  • I think that is a very smart and legitimate perspective Jeremy. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

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  • Mike Myers

    Totally agree with this point. It’s so easy for us marketers to think like this (we’ve done it forever), but we have to shift to looking for ways to help appropriately and be patient while we earn the right to be welcomed in. In other words, content marketing.

  • Well said Mike.

  • I’ve dubbed what you’re talking about the *interpersonal web* – not as far to what people would exactly call “private”, but as you say, definitely not broadcasting as widely. Long-term it’s probably the sweet spot of online interaction. I even created a website based on the trending principle (linkhugger.com if this doesn’t sound like a plug).

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  • Rachel Moore

    This is such a great wealth of insights – brands need to be ready to move in this direction, if they aren’t already!

  • It does sound like a plug but I’ll let it go : )

  • Thanks Rachel.

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  • Thank you Mark… i am gonna use the main idea of this post (i.e. the sentence : <> in a new book editing in Italian Language in Feb.2017 , thanks for writing and inspiring me TW : @alexdeluyk

  • Thank you sir.

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