As Social Platforms Rapidly Evolve Into Media Companies, What Does This Mean for Brands?

The next time you ride the bus or step into a coffee shop, look around and count how many people are reading a newspaper. Perhaps a handful? Now look around for cell phones and you’ll see people glued to their smartphone screens.

The next time you ride the bus or step into a coffee shop, look around and count how many people are reading a newspaper. Perhaps a handful? Now look around for cell phones and you’ll see it’s no secret that people are glued to their smartphone screens.

While they may not be holding a newspaper, a quick peek at your neighbor’s screen and you’ll likely find them reading a blog post or news article on social media. In fact, this year, 62 percent of U.S. adults reported they get their news on a social networking site, a 26 percent increase from 2012. And with millennials reporting that they are more likely to turn to social media for news than TV, these numbers are likely to continue to increase.

As people consume more of their news on social networking sites, these platforms offer brands new and different opportunities to engage audiences, resulting in higher profits through advertising revenue.

In its third-quarter-2016 earnings report, Facebook reported $6.8 billion in ad revenue, a 130 percent increase from the third quarter of 2014. In the U.S. overall, social ad revenue is estimated to surpass $30 billion by 2021.

How social platforms are becoming media companies

As more people consume their news directly on social media sites, social platforms will continue to capitalize on this by behaving like media companies and offering ways for publishers to monetize. Let’s look at a couple examples that demonstrate this shift.

A prime example is Instant Articles, Facebook’s mobile publishing platform that allows news publishers to publish articles directly on Facebook’s application at a much faster speed than the standard web.

Facebook created this publishing product with the intent of streamlining the experience of clicking article links on Facebook. Consequently, users are consuming more news articles and brand content directly on Facebook, rather than via third-party media sites or company websites.

Just a few months ago, Facebook offered publishers additional incentives to publish more of their content directly on the platform with new ways to monetize their Instant Articles, including larger ad units, video and carousel ads and more.

LinkedIn’s publishing platform, Pulse, has drawn attention from top business publishers including Forbes, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn offers publishers opportunities to monetize their content with its sponsored updates product, which boasts highly targeted content ads.

Medium, another publishing platform, launched by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, has also introduced monetization opportunities for brands and news publishers on the site through native advertising.

And, many industry experts and analysts predict that Twitter may eventually offer a longer-form content product, as well.

As digital video ad spending continues to grow, Facebook has been heavily promoting its Facebook Live video platform, even launching a major marketing campaign recently that included TV commercials, bus wraps and billboards.

Similar to Instant Articles, Facebook has been testing ad breaks inside live video broadcasts from its top publishing partners as a way for publishers to monetize their content.

While Facebook and Twitter currently dominate the social news sphere, other platforms are starting to catch up. Publishers are increasingly using Snapchat’s news platform, Discover, as a way to engage with Snapchat’s massive audience. With Snapchat as the current platform of choice for teens, it’s likely that more publishers will soon seek it out as a media distribution platform, if they haven’t already.

What this shift means for brands

Given all of these changes and monetization opportunities, news publishers are investing more heavily in these social platforms than ever before. But if you’re a brand that’s not The Huffington Post or The New York Times–i.e., a media company–this might seem like bad news.