5 Ways For Social Media To Age Gracefully In 2015

1231647_567919409910189_1869204598_nMy lovely birthday is this week-- you know, one of those incredible birthdays that is just close enough to the holidays that relatives can say, "Oh, that gift is for Christmas and your birthday, of course." I've always been a huge fan of my birthday, even getting my favorite number (13) from its date (1/13). Then I hit the wonderful age of 25 and absolutely, utterly, completely freaked out. Having spent the time since high school focusing on college and my career, I looked around at all of my friends from small-town Wyoming that already had toddlers and were well into establishing their families. I suddenly felt way behind on life.

Needless to say, my 25th birthday party was anything but graceful. About halfway through, I ditched it. My neighbor and I snuck out the backdoor of the bar we were at and hopped in a cab to South Beach. We somehow ended up at the most popular gay bar in South Beach, where I immediately fell in love. EVERYONE loved my dress, my hair. I had never been complimented so much in my life. The place absolutely fed my insecurities. The night ended with my neighbor and I eating an entire pizza on the couch of my apartment (FYI- I don't eat cheese, so that was quite the feat).

It literally took an entire year of ups and downs and discovering myself to finally be comfortable with 25, 26 and now...27. Now when I look back, I laugh that I did not see myself as successful at 25, and felt behind solely because my life didn't have the white picket fence around it that all of my friends' did.

There's a similar quarter life crisis going on right now in social media. Seasoned professionals are freaking out that they are behind on the times, because their organic philosophies no longer work on certain networks. Gone are the days of putting up a hilarious, eye-catching post and having it go immediately viral on Facebook. Yet, I still see professionals and brands clinging to the old days. It's time for social media to start aging gracefully, instead of fighting the numerous changes on all networks.

Here are some ways to start accepting the new, and to move forward with grace in 2015:

  • Force Yourself To Be Visual 
    • It used to be that non-visually appealing brands could easily get away with posting links to educational articles and engaging audiences by asking thought-provoking questions. Now those companies will find themselves left in the dust unless they start finding a way to visually tell their story. Even the famed textual based Twitter has taken a turn towards the visual.  You don't have to be a designer brand to be visual --> Use infographics, photos of thought leaders, etc. to engage.
  • Don't Put All Of Your Eggs In One Basket
    • Facebook used to be king. As long as you put everything into a concrete Facebook strategy, you could ensure a spot in social media heaven. Now, it's not so simple. Consumers have expanded their social time to many different networks that are tailored to exactly what they are looking for. Make sure your strategy goes beyond Facebook and includes the up and coming networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat, to ensure your ship doesn't go down when Facebook does.
  • Video, Video, Video 
    • YouTube used to own video...period. If you wanted to post a video on Facebook, you had to first upload it to YouTube and then copy and paste the link. Now tons of networks have integrated video. Not only does this make it easier to share branded videos, it also makes it more popular, which makes it more of a necessity for your brand. Consumers want short, digestible videos they can consume. Goodbye to the days of long YouTube videos.
  • Invest In Influencers
    • It's no secret that consumers trust their friends more than they trust brands. That trust carries over to people they respect in their social communities. By working with influencers, you are giving a familiar face to your campaigns that consumers are sure to relate to more than the company spokesperson. There are even companies like Delmondo, that connect influencers to brands to produce valuable content.
  • Integrate
    • Social media is  no longer the new child that nobody understands that survives solely on its own. Now, it is a respected part of business and digital strategies. Make sure your social connects with everything else your brand is doing across the board. If there's a new commercial out, find a way for it to link back to social. If there's pamphlets being distributed, find a way for social CTAs to be included.

Social media is no longer in its exploratory phase, and that's okay. I'm not saying there's nothing left to learn about social media, because there is still a ton to figure out --> I'm just saying that it's no longer in it's infant stage where nobody knows what the hell it is. We are past the vanity stage of people being enthralled by the allure of social media and what it looks like, and have progressed to a stage where people now want to see what it can do. It's now time for pros and brands to respect the fact that it is growing up, and be comfortable with that by using the insights from the past to drive campaigns that follow the best practices of the future.

Don't be afraid of change. Social media has staying power, but only if the people driving it adapt to the times, and let it age...gracefully.

- Marji J. Sherman

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