#Twitter10K, Facebook Instant Articles, and the Future of Native Social Content

Social media networks are trying to keep users within their respective ecosystems. And users don’t want to leave, either.

At the beginning of the year, rumors started swirling that Twitter users soon won’t be restricted by a 140-character limit. They’ll be able to tweet content that’s up to 10,000 characters long. In other words, you’ll be able to tweet an entire blog post that doesn’t leave the Twitter ecosystem.

Facebook rolled out Instant Articles to a select group of publishers last fall (with a more complete rollout soon). LinkedIn Pulse encourages experts to post directly to an internal CMS and Instagram won’t let companies use links on any posts.

Social networks are building walled gardens. They want to make sure that when someone engages with content, they stay on the social platform instead of clicking somewhere else. The statistics show that this is already happening. Since January 2015, Facebook referral traffic from publishers dropped by 32 percent, but user interaction on Facebook increased by almost 3x from 2014 to 2015.

This year is going to be a big year for native social content. Ad-blocking and mobile have made it more important than ever for brands to provide a seamless user experience across channels and devices. And, for social networks, this means offering native content right within the app itself.

But what is the risk of investing heavily in native social content? And what are the opportunities?   

Unimpressive Impressions

Native social content is starting to catch a lot of attention at a time when traffic to major websites is declining. In 2015, the digital media hockey stick broke. Traffic growth is slowing or declining for most major publishers, from Buzzfeed to Mashable and Quartz. Traffic to The New York Times homepage dropped by about 50 percent from 2012-2014.

This isn’t just a phenomenon for digital publishers. Hubspot, which receives about 1.5 million visits a month, found that only 3 percent of the website’s traffic comes in from the homepage, while 97 percent comes in from individual articles from search, social, and email.

Many people are now getting the majority of news – and content – from social networks especially. Almost two-thirds of Twitter and Facebook users (63 percent) say they get their news from social media.

After they’ve read the article, most visitors bounce back to social. The average monthly time someone spends on a news article after getting referred by Facebook is 1 minute and 41 seconds. The average time someone spends after coming to the news site directly is 4 minutes and 36 seconds.

Content saturation and algorithm changes have made standing out on social much harder. Since 2012, organic reach on Facebook has dropped by 60 percent.

It’s certainly not for lack of effort on the part of brands. Forrester research showed that, compared to 2014, brands in 2015 posted:

  • 18.3x more on Twitter
  • 6.5x more on Facebook
  • 50x more on Instagram

Despite the inundation of content, user engagement is dropping or stagnant, with Instagram engagement especially falling by about half from 2014 to 2015. The only network that showed higher engagement was Facebook, which Forrester speculated was due to the fact that more brands are paying to promote their content.

Social media networks are trying to keep users within their respective ecosystems. And users don’t want to leave, either.

Native social content really helps with engagement. Help Scout’s Greg Ciotti explained that re-publishing blog posts on LinkedIn Pulse netted an average of 40,000 views. Video content that’s uploaded directly to Facebook gets 80 percent of total interaction of all video posts on the social network.

Social networks are much more interested in surfacing content that won’t interrupt the user experience, and the algorithms reflect that. But does it mean that publishers and brands should actually push more of their content directly to the networks?