Defining the new social media landscape - Wishevoke

Defining the new social media landscape

Think about your first social media account. Why did you join? The answers change as you move across platforms and over time.

If you joined Facebook in the mid-2000s or Instagram in the early 2010s, your goal was probably to see what your friends were up to. But let’s say you joined later, during the rise of the influencer. Your reason could be to stay up to date on news or the latest trends while also keeping tabs on the people you went to high school with. If you’ve turned to TikTok during the pandemic, you may have been looking for a distraction from lockdown – a goal TikTok recognizes as it bills itself as “Entertainment platform” and not a social media platform.

What is social media? If brands, creators and audiences sign up for completely different reasons, where is the commonality? As platforms and their users’ preferences change, our working definition should change too.

Do you consume or communicate?

There is a lot of talk about this in the social media world audience And communities. We see these terms as synonymous, but they are very different.

Imagine an audience watching a play. They clap, laugh and cry in due course – but they are not part of the show. They may ask questions at the cast Q&A session afterward, and the actors will adjust their performance based on response, but realistically the script doesn’t change based on audience input. The audience is there to be entertained, informed or persuaded, not to participate in the dialogue.

Now imagine a community, such as a small town. Everyone has their job – the doctor, the grocer, the teacher or the firefighter. All of these parts interact with each other and form a functioning city. When people stop playing their role, the community stagnates. Everyone is encouraged to connect with one another, and these interactions strengthen community.

Communities and target groups have different dynamics. In both scenarios, everyone connects with other people – viewers have a shared experience and community members collaborate – but they do so in different ways. As the social landscape matures and mimics real-world interactions, platforms are considering the different ways users want to participate and developing features to meet those needs.

What are you looking at?

When an audience is full of people, like a theater, the goal is to entertain them for as long as possible. Audience-centric platforms are constantly developing and refining features to keep users on the app and coming back for more.

Algorithms determine what happens

Who hasn’t had the experience of watching a Reel or TikTok video so specific it makes you wonder if the app was scanning your inner thoughts? This is the work of the algorithm. This top-down distribution approach is a hallmark of audience-based platforms. When you log in, you don’t necessarily decide what you see, the algorithm does that for you.

Audience-based platforms feed the audience content they will theoretically like and adjust the recipe based on their reactions. TikTok does this concept particularly well and has a For You page that is entirely curated by TikTok their algorithm.

Creating value with creators

If audience-centric social media is a play, the creators are the actors. Creators thrive on audience-based platforms because their goal is to produce content that entertains, informs and persuades. Therefore, it’s no surprise that marketers’ primary goal when working with creators is to reach new audiences.

Companies like Meta are taking notice. Facebook is shifting its focus from news to YouTubers with a billion-dollar investment in creator features as Instagram places more creator content in its new feed suggested posts.

Diagram of the marketer's main goals

Stay up to date with your community

In a small town, people know each other, interact with each other and depend on each other. Community platforms work in the same way and focus on interpersonal relationships. In a community there are few passive observers. Everyone has a role.

Room to grow

Community platforms and features provide space for real conversations. Instead of simply commenting on posts, chat about topics. A YouTuber or brand marketer might start the conversation, but community members determine where it goes. Geneva And niche are the latest examples of these apps, offering chatroom-like spaces where people can meet over shared interests. A host may create a specific group or channel, but once they create it, it belongs to everyone.

Screenshot of a chat room in Geneva


Content democracies

A community’s values ​​and priorities unfold organically – there is no decree that dictates what is most important. It’s the same with community-based platforms.

While audience-based platforms use algorithms to distribute content to individuals based on their interests, community platforms allow users to decide which conversations take priority. Reddit’s The upvoting system is a prime example of this. Users give content a thumbs up or a thumbs down depending on relevance and resonance, with the highest rated content at the top. This system allows communities to decide among themselves which conversations are worth having and encourages users to connect with like-minded people.

Alignment with the platform

Brands have long known that not all platforms are created equal. But as the gap between audience and community becomes more apparent, marketers must become more focused on the platforms and features they use – whether it’s staffing social teams, producing content or measuring success.

Audience-based content should be designed to captivate the audience. This top-down approach to content is more traditional. The brand tweets, people like and retweet, and the cycle continues. Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are great options for top-down content designed to impress.

Community-based content is being produced less. Brands need to have a strong brand voice, but not be prescriptive. Some brands are flocking to Geneva Focus groups, ambassador programs or general community building while others engage in conversations in existing communities via Ask Me Anything (AMAs) on Reddit. The most important thing to remember about community content is that your brand is not in charge. It’s a democratic process and you’re just there to get the conversation started.

What is my motivation?

Social media is and will continue to be an evolving category. As definitions change and platforms move deeper into their niches, marketers need to keep an eye on what motivates users to sign up for the service.

By keeping your customers’ or potential customers’ motivation at the heart of your social media strategy, you can always provide timely, relevant content in a way that appeals to them. The new subcategories of social media give brands the opportunity to make more targeted decisions about how and where they appear online and what success looks like.

Would you like to learn more about what consumers want? Visit the Sprout Social Index™ for the latest trends among consumers and marketers in the social space.

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