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My Thoughts on How Social Media is Changing

Recently I wrote a recap about a webinar that covered social media trends to look out for this year. Last month I wrote a blog post about Facebook’s major changes to its News Feed algorithm and how that will change how businesses use the platform. For this post I want to share with you what I’m seeing in social media trends as both a consumer and a digital marketer for independently-owned grocery retailers.

First and foremost, social media isn’t going anywhere. For better or for worse, it has become so ingrained in our lives and society that it isn’t going to magically disappear. What is going to change is how we use it. It’s already changed significantly since the days of MySpace and Facebook in the early 2000s. Social media trends move at a very fast pace. As new features are released and people experiment with these platforms, the ways in which we use them can vary from year to year. An extremely popular platform one year could be gone by the next. #RIPVine

We’re also seeing the owners of these social media platforms focus on creating a better experience for the users. The Facebook algorithm change was part of an effort to provide Facebook users with more relevant and meaningful content in their News Feed. It remains to be seen how those changes to Facebook will affect the overall user experience for consumers and businesses. But I can tell you what I’ve been noticing on social media over the past few years:

Influencers are gaining momentum in social media

I’m not necessarily talking about the “Instagram celebrities” who promote nightclubs and clothes, though they are part of the influencer culture. What I’m more interested in is a trend I’ve noticed on my personal accounts. My friends and family are turning to social media to ask for suggestions on everything from household appliances to family doctors to local contractors to help with home improvement projects. It’s so prevalent that Facebook even set up a special feature that notices when a person is asking for recommendations and changes the format of the post.

Facebook Recommendations

In that same vein, on the retailer accounts I manage, I’ve seen an increase in customers using Facebook posts as a way to easily tell their friends about a sale at the store. Customers regularly tag their friends in the comments of a post about a limited time sale or a hot sale item. I have also seen an increase in customer ratings and reviews on the pages I manage. As I’ve noted in multiple blog posts, this aspect of Facebook initially scares some of our retailers out of setting up a Facebook page for their store. But as I tell each and every one of them with this type of reservation: if a customer is going to talk bad about you on the internet, they are going to do it even if you don’t have a Facebook page. At least when you have a presence on these platforms, you give them a place to contact you with their complaint. This gives you the opportunity to fix the problem — and possibly turn an upset customer into a brand advocate for your store.

Remember the saying about how a person is more likely to tell a lot of people about a negative customer experience as opposed to a positive one? Amplify that by a million and you have the social media influencer culture. It’s time to start paying attention to it and using it to your advantage when you can.

Finding the right platform for your audience is still key

Retailers often ask me questions about Snapchat. It’s a relatively new social media platform that all of their kids and grandkids are using so they want to know if they should add it to their social media strategy. Here’s the thing, just because “all the kids are on Snapchat” doesn’t mean you need to be. The reason Snapchat and Instagram are more popular with teenagers and young adults in their early 20s is because a lot of their parents and grandparents aren’t using those platforms.

Facebook isn’t popular among teens and 20-somethings because it is incredibly popular among people who are over 30. Put yourself in a teenager’s place. If you had social media as a teenager, would you have followed your local grocery store on Snapchat? Probably not — because you don’t buy groceries. Focus on the platforms where your current customers already are and start with that. If Snapchat becomes more popular with the over 30 crowd, then you should consider it. But even then, understand the platform and don’t treat it like every other social media account your store already has. Unless you have a lot of creative, interesting in-store content, Snapchat probably isn’t the right platform for your store.

Which brings me to my final point…

Engaging content is more important than ever

Facebook changed their algorithm in effort to provide users with more meaningful content. This is what Facebook users want. Yes, some people mindlessly scroll through their News Feeds and they don’t care what they see. But there are a lot of people out there who want to look at their News Feed and see content that appeals to them. For some people this might be pictures of their friends and family. But for others it might be the latest sale at their local grocery store or a picture of the employees at that store winning a Best Local Grocery Store from the town newspaper. As a business, you need to figure out what your followers consider to be quality content. Regularly try out new ideas and continue with what works for you. But don’t just set up a page and publish the same thing over and over again and expect to get anything out of it.

On a personal level, I haven’t been looking at my social media as much over the last year or so. Part of that has to do with the fact that I had my first child almost 17 months ago. That’s definitely changed my social media consumption, among other things! But I also noticed that when I do have a free moment, I don’t always choose social media as a way to pass the time like I used to. And it’s not just me. I know a lot of people who either started avoiding their social media over the past year or they are just taking a break from it altogether. The negativity they see from individual people, news sources, etc. has made people shy away from their various News Feeds. When they are looking at their social media they want to see content that appeals to them so keep that in mind when you develop your content strategy.

Again, I don’t think this means that people are going to stop using social media completely. But the way customers are using it is changing. The way the platforms are designed is changing. As a business, the way you communicate with your customers on social media has to change too.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie