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Instagram’s Like Removal is Just the Beginning: Social Media 2.0 is Here

Instagram just took off likes counts — and this is just the beginning. Valuable for anyone who uses social media to promote or build their business.

In the last couple of days, Instagram announced that it will be removing the likes counter from posts so users “spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.” Here is what it means for social media in general, and why this move is just the beginning of a new era of social media.

Social media began as friends re-connecting after years and sometimes continents apart. Then, as platforms felt the need to monetize, the prime era of social advertising unfolded. Ads were cheap, and for a while, ads were few. Now, as small businesses are increasingly adding social ads to their marketing arsenal, ads are still affordable, but increased demand drove increased competition for eyeballs. Facebook led the charge with re-writing their algorithms to prioritize personal updates from people over brand messages in an effort to “promote human connection.” In reality, the move forced brands to commit to putting money behind their posts for any kind of sizable reach. This was the Town Square (i.e. the Golden) era of social media. And now it’s coming to an end.

Users are becoming desensitized to brand ads that are the most common (and affordable) — TV-style ads with a meaningless call to action. Increasingly, people are craving connection. Instagram’s move to remove Like counts is just the beginning of a social media redesign being led by Facebook. News feed will recede — instead, small, private groups will be favored by the platforms and the users alike. Facebook’s Messenger will play an increasingly important part in facilitating connectedness that’s privacy focused. Marc Zuckerberg outlined his vision for a privacy-focused social media in a blog post some weeks ago.

Brave New World

Zuckerberg talks about a social future that is more secure, more personalized, more private and less permanent. His vision is for communication within and across platforms in a seamless, secured manner. We are likely to see Messenger, Instagram and WhatsUp lined up and inter-connected to meet this vision. Zuckerberg calls this new social era the Living Room. Messaging apps in North America are likely to follow China’s model — a chat app with ecommerce, video and image sharing capabilities built into it in a seamless and private manner.

Deloitte looked at the future of retail and ecommerce, and mapped out the consumer journey in China vs. the USA. Here is the basic diagram:

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The US shopping journey is fragmented, involves multiple social platforms — each step offers a potential drop-off point. In contrast, here is a Chinese consumer-shopping journey:

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I believe this is the future Zuckerberg has in mind for North America/Europe. Building e-commerce, gaming, augmented reality and IoT on top of a secure chat platform would allow social platforms to keep the user engaged at each step of the consumer journey. In turn, it would keep brand advertising competitive and continue to monetize the platforms, in spite of the “Living Room” layout.

The New Playbook for Social Advertisers

Social media is an invaluable resource for all kinds of brands. Facebook’s seven/eight figure revenue is driven largely by online advertising. The sooner you understand some new realities of social media 2.0, the sooner you’ll be able to adapt:

  1. Social ad prices will rise. Invest in testing now, before it becomes cost-prohibitive to mine your user data. Use the testing results to drive proven traffic to your business objectives.
  2. Start to rally a community. Facebook Groups is making a comeback — create a group that offers real value to members and offers a more personalized and humanized brand experience. Invest time and effort into building communities now, before they become mainstream.
  3. Focus on valuable content. As vanity metrics (like Likes) disappear, what’s left behind is creative, quality content. If you are not making videos, you’re behind. If all your social content exists to push a sale, you’re not getting it.
  4. Prioritize messaging. From paying more attention to your Facebook page messages to learning about AI messenger solutions understand the nature of messenger and capitalize on it. Messenger ads will become more common, and likely, less effective — so some more creative and human strategies will stand out.

The rules are still changing, but some themes are emerging. One is authenticity and transparency — lose the guarded corporate demeanor and think about how you can truly connect with your users. Another is human experiences — offer continuously human experiences online and through your content. Tell stories, show faces, support and raise up your followers (rather than focus on growing your follower counts).

Where do you think social is headed? Leave a comment or send me a message — I’d love to talk about this more!

Social marketing insights, neuroscience and a little bit of musing on mental health. #MadeInEdmonton Website: www.promohack.ca

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