Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley revealed the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (or SMART) in an effort to reduce our addiction to endless scrolling on social media. The bill would introduce new requirements for social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – such as banning autoplay for videos and infinite feeds, limiting usage minutes per day and calling attention to how long users have been on the platform. Considering we now have products made specifically to mimic phone scrolling, maybe Sen. Hawley’s bill isn’t such a bad idea.
Whether or not the bill passes, we are seeing pushback not just from the powers that be in eliminating mindless activity on social media. Based on recent updates and tests, Facebook and Instagram themselves are testing getting rid of vanity metrics such as “likes” and passive use on their platforms. These changes can actually get a pretty clear picture of what our feeds may look like in just a year’s time and the pivots that marketers will have to make to continue to reach audiences on social media as a result.
Instagram influencers went into a frenzy when the platform announced it would be doing a test on hiding the number of likes on posts and video views. Users would still be able to like content and see comments, but they wouldn’t see the total number of likes a post already had. If reception goes well, Instagram may even test getting rid of follower counts altogether – which will hit celebrity influences like the Kardashians hard, but ultimately, would place more emphasis on engagement and conversion (clicks, shares, sales, email subscribers).
Influencers would have to go back to relying on content to be influential, not just touting thousands or millions of likes. This change means that micro and nano influencers will go back to being just influencers – people who actually influence behavior regardless of the size of their following. And celebrities would have to demonstrate authentic engagement to prove their value to brands.
Our client Traackr shared with Adweek that placing too much emphasis on follower counts created the army of bots and fraud we see today. They recently launched a new influencer marketing metric that smartly predicted the decreasing importance of follower counts and placed greater emphasis on brand trust, authenticity and engagement.
Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 this year that the future of Facebook is private and not in the very public posts and “reactions” of the News Feed, but instead in private groups, the ephemeral Stories and Messenger. Yes, this pivot was likely a reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but also to draw more attention and users to its other products. In the near future, you can expect marketers to move budgets and create new tactics via live video, private Facebook Groups, and Messenger.
Live video (Facebook Live) requires active participation, not autoplay while scrolling through the News Feed, enticing users with live Q&A with hosts for an interactive experience. Facebook’s algorithms will favor live video, so brands that livestream will show up higher and more often in front of their audience.
If Facebook will be private in the future, brands will need to insert themselves in Facebook Groups or start their own. If history has told us anything, it’s that soon Facebook will monetize Groups, either with sponsored brand moderators, targeted in-group ads and much more. Brands looking to build their own communities could start with a private Facebook group or invite-only Slack channels to test the waters and scale with their members, who can then evangelize outside of these private arenas.
While chatbots have been the talk of enterprise tech for a few years now, we haven’t seen any Messenger bots become as indispensable as say, Amazon’s Echo (although, I usually just ask my Alexa what the weather is or play music). I dabbled with a chatbot from Quartz awhile back, which let me “choose my own adventure” as it pertains to news for the day, but I haven’t seen any brands really connecting with me in Messenger.
With Facebook’s emphasis on privacy and focus on growing both WhatsApp and Messenger, direct messages should be used more frequently by brands for one-to-one, personalized conversations in the most private venue. Not only can DMs make your customers feel heard and like they have a personal relationship with the brand, but imagine the retail possibilities to come in Messenger. Just like Instagram has shoppable posts, Facebook users may be able to shop not only from conversations with brands but with their friends and family as well.
Whether or not Facebook’s future is truly private, these updates are actually encouraging for both users and marketers. I typically only log on to Facebook for private groups to which I belong that are hyper-targeted to my interests and daily life. I check in with my tribes in Groups, as my News Feed has been inundated with ads, polarizing news and lots of baby photos from people I went to high school with and haven’t talked to in 15 years. On Instagram, maybe we’ll post authentic content that isn’t filtered or isn’t FaceTuned because we won’t be posting it just to herd likes. A resurgence of authenticity can only help bring social media back to its basic function – connecting people.