Forging New Connections: The Future of Social Media

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Social media is more than a fad; it’s a way of life. It’s how individuals and influential brands speak to each other, potentially gaining followings of thousands, if not millions, of their peers. While social media platforms have existed since the mid-90s, the release of Facebook in 2004 marked its transition into an established part of our culture.

These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a social media account. Their ease of use and the ubiquity of camera-equipped mobile devices allow people to interact instantly and constantly from around the world, sharing everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. The future of social media is sure to bring with it new products and trends, but they’re all based on the same principle — to help people connect with one another and share their experiences.

As social media has made its way into the cultural bedrock, savvy businesses have taken advantage of its power. Business professionals in companies of all sizes leverage social media to build brand equity on sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. In doing so, they seek to increase brand awareness, build relationships, and drive sales through the use of organic traffic, paid advertisements, and even influencer marketing. Partnerships with highly followed, engaged accounts can drive thousands of consumers toward a product or company with a single social media post.

A close-up of a person scrolling through an Instagram account on a smartphone.

Social Media’s Growing Marketing Power

In 2005, the year after Facebook debuted and a year prior to the founding of Twitter, a Pew Research Center survey found that only 10% of all American adult internet users were on at least one social media site. Four years later, it was 50%. By 2015, it was 76%, and the percentage of those under age 30 who use social media is now close to 90%. It’s not uncommon for someone to use three or four different forms of social media daily, as various social media platforms display content in different ways.

Marketers can take advantage of this overlap in social media use by putting different types of branded content on different social media sites. The photography and video-based content on Instagram is a great place for brands to display short, catchy clips that set the brand image, but isn’t as useful to drive direct sales. Twitter and Reddit, which are more text-based, make it easier for brands to interact with their customers and drive traffic through links, while also focusing on maintaining a brand identity. These interactions also provide an opportunity for businesses to respond to customer service issues in real time. The public nature of these communications give businesses the chance to showcase how well they are able to deal with complaints, resolve issues, and stay true to their brand values.

Many companies are all-in on social media marketing, taking advantage of these opportunities. According to HootSuite, a popular social media management platform, social media advertising topped $50 billion in 2018, at an average of $17.24 per user for the 3.2 billion people on social media worldwide last year. In turn, they’re going to want social media professionals who can maximize return on investment and keep up-to-date with the latest apps hitting the market.

Staying in Front of Trends

While the general concept of social media is sticking around, and the major platforms don’t seem likely to fold anytime soon, the actual world of social media is always in flux. New trends, social movements, or cultural touchstones can go from nonexistent to worldwide phenomena in the span of a few days. Social media professionals need to recognize these emerging trends, ride the wave while they’re still popular, and move onto the next one before the old one goes out of style.

Social media professionals also need to be bold and take risks, trying new strategies to increase engagement, outreach, and sales. The future of social media marketing will likely head into niche markets, with consumers finding social media spaces where they can associate with like-minded individuals. Brands will have to think big-picture and small-picture at the same time, and need social media experts who can navigate their way through both.

The Skills Needed to Succeed

Social media managers need to be competent in utilizing mobile and online technology, marketing tactics, and writing skills, with a solid handle on grammar and search-engine optimization (SEO) best practices. It also helps if they’re plugged into social trends, such as current affairs and knowledge of pop culture, to draw in their targeted market through creative, innovative campaigns. They should also possess strong interpersonal and communication skills, understanding how and when to interact with customers in a way that won’t reflect negatively on their company.

Large companies might have their own graphics and photography departments, but smaller companies will need social media experts with a greater variety of skills. Photography skills — especially with a mobile device — as well as use of Adobe Photoshop or other graphic editing software makes candidates more attractive in the job market. Social media professionals should also be able  to analyze the impact of their content. The ability to analyze analytics and adjust course based on data is crucial to the job, as businesses will want to know if they’re getting back what they’re putting into their social media budget.

Explore Careers in the Future of Social Media

With its constantly evolving, high-energy landscape, working in social media can be a rewarding and entertaining career with numerous potential paths. Maryville University offers a number of online undergraduate and graduate business degrees to get you started. Check out how you can make a career for yourself in the business world of the 21st century.

Sources:
Business News Daily, “Get Ahead: The Future of Social Media Marketing”
Entrepreneur, “The Future of Social Media Platforms and Ways in Which Business Can Utilize Them”
Forbes, “5 Skills Your Social Media Manager Must Have”
HootSuite, “General Social Media Advertising Statistics”
Maryville University, Online Business Degrees
Pew Research, “Social Media Usage, 2005-2015”
Pew Research, “Social Media Usage in 2018”
Torpey, Elka U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Career Outlook, “Social Media Specialist”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Public Relations Specialist”