From a brand marketer’s perspective, SXSW this year was dominated by a call to demystify the growing consumer trend that’s seen a significant move away from traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for a full-scale adoption of more intimate (and private) messaging apps like Snapchat and Kik.
It’s a paradigm shift that requires mobile marketers to re-evaluate how they successfully reach an audience that’s essentially moved from sharing its life socially on a broadcasting model to that of a narrowcast one.
There were several panels addressing this issue at the Austin conference this year and here are the noteworthy trends everyone agreed have emerged:
1) Social Messaging Usurps Social Media
With some 40 percent of U.S. teens and young adults now employing a web-enabled smartphone messaging app like Kik to send rich-messages billions of times a day, it’s become apparent to marketers that the next generation is spending less time on social media channels and more time in social messaging.
Mobile message marketing comes with its own set of challenges, since the users are younger and the messages need to be engaging and personal—or they’ll be dismissed as spam. Finding the appropriate content hooks that will capture the interest of this demographic is no easy task, especially for content creators who’ve only just successfully mastered social media tropes. Fortunately, the makers of these apps are willing to share what’s working for them, at least for the time being, which allows a group like Kik to offer marketing services based on campaigns that have found success.
Of course, you can’t talk about social messaging, and the intimate, one-on-one relationship it establishes, without acknowledging another, similar, trend that’s got marketers really frustrated. Dark Social.
2) The Rise of Dark Social
Perhaps shuddering at the notion that their parents have befriended them on Facebook and can monitor their every activity via their timelines, an emerging Generation Z crowd has failed to embrace public-facing social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, instead opting to live out their social lives where only an immediate, private and most importantly, ephemeral, message is generated.
Using apps like Snapchat and Eroder, they share a short, in-the-moment, snapshot of their lives, with a vetted group of friends, which then all conveniently disappears within a number of hours–saving their future political aspirations from undue scrutiny or just having to suffer through any awkward job interview inquiries.
Since this communication all takes place out-of-the-site of analytical tools that could readily dissect it for a galaxy of marketing purposes, dark social has marketers banging their heads against the wall. Ultimately these private conversations are believed to hold a treasure trove of holy grails that marketers seek – though having seen the content of some employee Snapchats shared with me, I’m not sure that assessment is entirely accurate!
3) The Shift from Text-Based to Visual-Based Marketing
With the emergence of these mobile-based visual channels like Snapchat and Periscope, it’s clear “text” messaging has become less about text and more about image content. From animated emoji’s to Go-Pro helmet video footage, the short spurts of information being shared by consumers is less about “telling” and more about “showing” the ins-and-outs of their day.
For marketers, this means finding ways to interact with the audiences they want to reach with engaging visual stimuli. Whether this is short from video or simply food porn shots, the clear edict here is we must all move away from texting the “Get 15 percent off your next purchase when you #XYZ” campaign and learn to leverage the charming, if sassy, 3-D talking pizza pie image.
4) Conversational and Emotional User Experience
Just as plain text messaging appears stale and outdated, what once worked so well in defining your brand in your social media marketing efforts simply won’t hack it in the mobile messaging world — where enabling a two-way conversation is key. While it was once sufficient for a brand to shout “I’m here” using some compelling creative display ad or another, marketers need to find ways to unobtrusively insert themselves into the mobile messaging conversation through images or video that promise a compelling customer experience.
In effect, the engagement needs to mirror the messages consumers are already happy receiving – those they are getting from intimate contacts that are defined by their interactivity, connectivity and, to really be successful, emotional pay off. It’s what they send and seek from their friends. It’s what they’ll want from you as a brand marketer.
5) Marketing in Messaging
In the end, the goal is to neatly integrate your brand’s marketing message into the social message—assuming you’re even given the social messaging opportunity. It’s this communication shift that will busy marketers for the coming year, as even the Twitters and Facebooks expand their capabilities to accommodate the increased demand for social messaging.
The next challenge after that, so the panels discussed, was finding effective ways to measure what’s working and what’s not. Again, since many of the messaging opportunities lay outside the range of traditional analytical tools, the measurement itself will be part of the battle.
Readers: Has your brand started addressing the social messaging challenge?
Ernie Canadeo is the founder & CEO of EGC Group.
Image courtesy of SXSW on Facebook.