Listen to this story



Social Media is Not “Social”

It’s media. Start treating it that way.

Chad Anderson
Mar 10, 2017 · 6 min read

Social Media is no longer just Social, it’s the most important and underutilized Media Channel available to marketers.

It’s 2017, and if you haven’t been playing really close attention over the last two years, digital and more importantly social media have dramatically shifted. You’ve likely read some headlines, you seen digital spending reports rising, but most marketers have largely ignored them. As a marketer, you can no longer look at Social Media as this siloed off marketing step-child that you pay little or no attention to, (except on Wednesdays and every other weekend) each month. You are likely more involved and infatuated with your other favorite marketing channels. You’ve had them longer and you are more invested in them. They’re like family. Entrepreneur and tech-soothsayer, Gary Vaynerchuk articulated it in a powerful way late last year:

“Social Media is just a slang term for the current state of the internet.”

This is 100% spot on. In it’s earliest beginnings, Social was a handful of networks, each with their own audiences and capabilities — and mostly was considered “for the kids”. That may have been true 5 or 10 years ago. But in 2017, the networks of Facebook (including Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp), Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube, are THE NETWORKS where (billions) of consumers are spending their time. Furthermore, they are quickly evolving out of being merely social channels, but rather full-fledged media companies.

If you don’t buy into Gary V’s above thesis on how to look at social in today’s digital landscape, then consider the following: In March 2017, Snapchat went public and in its first week — it’s currently valued higher than Delta, Target, Hershey, Viacom, CBS and Hilton (just to name a few).

Chart from Statista

Not too bullish on Snapchat? Ok, then consider these stats from comScore, eMarketer & Nielsen.

  • 66% of all digital time is spent on a mobile device.
  • 89% of all mobile device time is spent on apps.
  • 49% of mobile app time is on Social Media and Messaging Apps.

“Mobile first” doesn’t just pertain to your website anymore, it’s about evolved consumer behavior patterns towards mobile and social.

Do these consumer usage stats have your attention? They should rock you to your marketing core. Social Media has gone beyond being a handful of channels that you can activate your marketing on, they are now the channels you must be activating on.

Still, so many seasoned marketers continue to look at it this way — yeah that’s cute, no thanks. It’s in the same vein of how they laughed off the importance of Facebook a decade ago and the same way channels like Snapchat are getting laughed off today.

Over 150M user per day are spending minutes and hours on Snapchat alone. That’s called scale and that’s why it matters. You can’t disregard or disrespect a platform like Snapchat just because you don’t understand it or because it’s not the same feed format that you’ve grown accustomed to with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

  • Mega hotel chains laughed off AirBnB.
  • Major metropolitan taxi medallion holders laughed off UBER.
  • Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart laughed off Amazon.
  • P&G-Gillette laughed off Dollar Shave Club.

…Billions of dollars of lost revenue later, here we are. Digital, social, peer-to-peer messaging apps, and the gig-economy continue to win and they will take down more formerly assumed un-killable giants as they mature.

You have to pay the piper.

In 2014, Marketers freaked out when Facebook changed their algorithm and they lost their page’s organic reach. FREAKED. THE. F. OUT. What brands and marketers had been getting for free, they now needed to pay for — and still not achieve the same results. It sucked, sure. But, what marketers took for granted, was that this change gave birth to the single most powerful branding and advertising vehicle in history.

Print ads were king for over 150 years until Radio came along in 1920 and disrupted a two-century old medium . Radio ads were king until TV advertising hit scale in the 1950’s. TV was king, and will be dethroned in 2017 by digital ad spending for the first time in history. Digital moves fast.

The consumer internet is really only about 20 years old. Smartphones are only 10 years old. Let that sink in, and consider the dramatic shifts in the marketing/advertising landscape over the last 20 years compared to the previous 300.

  • It took 38-years before 50 million people gained access to radios
  • It took television 13-years to get to 50 million
  • It took Instagram a year and a half
  • It took Flickr two years to reach 100 million uploaded pictures
  • It took Instagram eight months

Again, Digital isn’t just fast it’s lightning fast, and the combination of smartphones and social have taken over how we use the internet itself.

You likely (or better) understand the relevance of digital marketing in today’s landscape. Now you need to wrap your head around the idea that social can, and will overtake Paid Search, Display, Adwords, etc. in the very near future. The internet itself, as we know it, will give way to the IoT, Voice-Search, and AR/VR in the next 15 years…that’s a seperate post and rabbit hole to go down all together.

Here’s the rub… You cannot be nostalgic or romanticize the advertising and marketing methods that worked for you in the past — 50 years, 15 years or 5 years ago. It is irrelevant in today’s society and consumer behaviors.

Social media is already and has already become the next thing. Marketers as a whole just haven’t been capitalizing on it and giving it the respect it deserves. The cost to entry is as low as it will ever be right now because the mega-brands haven’t completely priced out the competition yet. But the clock is ticking, and if you have been reading the tea leaves it’s changing. As an example:

In the U.S., the Super Bowl is the most valuable TV ad buy, year-in and year-out based on exposure and viewership. Yet in 2017, decade long major brands players like Kraft-Heinz, Frito-Lay Doritos decided to drop out. So, why do you expect they bailed— and where do you expect those tens of millions of dollars for production and ad-buys are going this year? Here’s a hint, it’s not direct mail.

Once the big boy brands decide to go all-in on social advertising because of the micro-targeting and delivery vehicles that it can provide compared to traditional channels, the cost of entry will skyrocket. SMB’s are going to feel the strain of those tens of millions of dollars and the CPM to reach your target is going to go up by 3–5x of what it is today by 2020. The supply and demand curve will shift as more businesses continue investing larger spends into digital.

“Anti Social” social (or Peer-to-Peer Messaging) is the next iteration of digital communication.

Once marketers start positioning themselves around the current state of what consumers are actually doing, they will start making an impact where it matters. Instead of scrambling to figure it out after something they initially dismissed actually hit scale and started to matter. Case in point, Messaging Apps.

The next big thing that marketers need to pay attention to is the mass usage of Messaging Apps. “Kids aren’t on Facebook anymore”, said the out of touch digital marketer. Yes, they are. They’re just using different iterations of the platform in the form of peer-to-peer messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, What’sApp, and a slew of others globally.

A projected 1.2 Billion users will be on Facebook owned What’sApp in 2017.
Facebook Messenger has another 1B+ Active Users. This is “where the kids are”.

Most popular mobile messaging apps worldwide as of January 2017, monthly active users (in millions) from Statista

For marketers, Social Media should no longer be a “Should we or shouldn’t we” conversation. If you’re even having that conversation, “What the ROI of shifting dollars from your PPC spend to social is”, or even the “We want to know how to do social” — then you are still a million miles away from the bulls-eye.

What you need to do, is reconfigure your entire understanding of digital marketing.

Stop focusing on immediate ROI and 12-month marketing calendars that tether you to traditional media buying cycles.

Start thinking about the long game: Brand Value and Customer Retention.

Chad Anderson

Written by

Digital Strategist 💡 Twin Dad 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Aspiring woodworker 🛠 KC & Jayhawk enthusiast ❤️💙 Instagram: @chadstagrams_kc

On Advertising

We’re an open community of Executives, Strategists, Designers, Developers and Students alike, skeptically examining communication, technology and culture.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade