The Future of Social — A Talk with Callum McCahon
Wondering what lies ahead of us? Get the inside scoop from the strategy director from BORN SOCIAL
Hi Callum McCahon. 2018 is here, what are the three key trends that brands can tap into today?
The first one is Stories. Stories are the new news feed. It’s obvious when you use them that the experience is built for mobile — it just makes sense. When people open Instagram, more and more of them are opening Stories before scrolling down the feed, clearly showing where their priorities lie.
The second one is influencers. Influencer marketing has had a difficult few years — but I think now we’re starting to take it more seriously, regulations are becoming clearer, and platforms are releasing native features. Brands have a big opportunity to do it properly, but we’re yet to crack the true ROI of influencer marketing.
The third one I want to highlight is Facebook Groups. I think groups are in a really interesting place right now. Facebook are clearly keen on pushing them, by prioritising group content on the news feed. This is another representation of the shift towards more private, curated sharing — rather than sharing to the whole of your network at once.
There’s no doubt that Stories are the new News Feed. What are you key tips for maximizing impact with this format?
The skill of short form will become even more pronounced. People are trained to swipe — so you quite literally need to prove why they shouldn’t do so in the first second. That takes real skill and this is what brands will need to hone in order to succeed in a stories-first environment.
“People are trained to swipe — so you quite literally need to prove why they shouldn’t do so in the first second.”
The other thing to think about is how you are going to measure success. Engagement metrics don’t exist in the same way as they do for content in the feed. Instead you need to look at more ‘passive’ forms of engagement.
This requires looking at metrics like viewer retention, for example, how many people watched all of the stories in succession? Click through rate is another good one — how many people were enticed enough by your content to swipe up and explore more? You need to nail down these new metrics of success so that you know if your stories strategy is worth the investment for your brand.
With Instagram Stories substantially gaining ground, how can brands innovate on other social media channels?
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of chasing ‘innovation’ for innovation’s sake. I think too many brands get obsessed with jumping on the latest and greatest trends with no regard for their effectiveness. What’s more important is simply defining what works for your brand and figuring out how to scale it.
“Too many brands get obsessed with jumping on the latest and greatest trends with no regard for their effectiveness.”
The new metrics of success: what are the three main ones brands should tap into?
Here’s what I’d recommend measuring:
1. Are you growing your audience?
2. Are you increasing their engagement?
3. Are you converting them into business value?
These three metrics mirror the classic marketing funnel, and there’s a reason for that — it works. How much of your target audience are you reaching, how well are you increasing their interest, and how effectively are you converting them.
Take all three together and you’ve got a powerful yet simple combination. You’re evaluating your success beyond social-only metrics (which have the propensity to be fluffy on their own), but you’re making sure you don’t slip into a short-termist mindset of exclusively chasing hard ROI.
Is organic reach dead?
From a strategic point of view, yes. You may still get lucky with the one off ‘viral’ post, but it’s just not something to base your social strategy around. Creating content with the hope that it performs well organically, giving you ‘free’ reach is, to me, a completely outdated view of social media.
Social media marketing is now clearly pay to play. But that doesn’t give you permission to get lazy with your content and rely on paid reach to do the heavy lifting for you.
“Social media marketing is now clearly pay to play. But that doesn’t give you permission to get lazy with your content and rely on paid reach to do the heavy lifting for you.”
The brands who succeed in this new paid-first world will take the lessons from organic social and apply it to paid. Fight for your place in the feed, cause real impact, and outthink your competition. Adopt the organic mindset in the paid-first world and you’ll be well placed.
What is one of the popular social media mistakes brands do?
Assuming that people care.
Okay, I’m being slightly provocative there. But there’s a great deal of truth to it. Many brands assume that people care about what they have to say a lot more than they actually do.
In the real world — outside the marketing bubble — people skip right past brand content as the norm. They literally do not care what we are trying to say.
No one is going to complain if you don’t post. No one will even notice.
Get comfortable with this, and then figure out what you want to achieve and what you’re going to talk about. Try it, it’s freeing.
“No one is going to complain if you don’t post. No one will even notice.”
What is the new social buzzword we should keep an eye on this year?
I’m going to go with three: ‘meaningful social interactions’.
That’s what Facebook have prescribed with their latest news feed algorithm change. Zuckerberg has pledged to “make sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent”. Brands and publishers around the world are currently scrambling to achieve a solid definition of what exactly this means and how they need to shift their content strategy to play into it.
Expect a great deal of talk about what exactly this means and what the implications are.