For a time, Facebook was the only social network that businesses had to bother with. Then, YouTube blew up. Twitter became big. Influencer marketing made Instagram a must.
Social media may have splintered, but brands remain heavily invested in the biggest networks. According to Hootsuite’s 2018 Global Barometer Report, 98 percent of B2C companies use Facebook. Facebook’s user base, however, has declined by 15 million since 2017, particularly due to the 12- to 34-year-old demographic moving to niche platforms.
Like it or not, social media is a cat-and-mouse chase. Unless brands follow users to new platforms, they risk missing out on social media marketing ROI of up to 1,000 percent.
Top Platforms to Watch
The good news is that your brand doesn’t need to be on every social network. If your audience isn’t there, why bother? Consider whether your target customers might be using these up-and-coming social networks:
Mappen may be unfamiliar to marketers, but it’s well-known among teens. According to the company’s latest count of its user base, more than 10 percent of Americans ages 14 to 17 use Mappen. Founded to help young people struggling with the emotional consequences of excessive screen time, Mappen brings social networking into the real world. By connecting users with their nearby friends, the network encourages them to “make something happen.” Although Mappen doesn’t allow companies to join, marketers at entertainment and hospitality companies can cater to its audience by promoting their space as a meetup location.
Known as Douyin in its native China, TikTok is a social network for creating and sharing short-form videos. Despite being initially released in 2016, its user base has exploded since its stable release in February 2019. Influencer marketing agency Mediakix reports that TikTok’s monthly active user base recently hit half a billion — more than twice the number of once-promising video network Vine at its peak. Mediakix points out that TikTok also claims the longest average session duration among social channels, at 294 seconds. Fortunately for marketers with a young, international audience, TikTok recently added ads to its platform.
Effectively a TikTok competitor, Lasso was launched last November by Facebook. Can’t users already share videos through Facebook? They can, but Facebook knows that only half of teens still used its platform as of May 2018. The social media behemoth is betting that a fresh brand focused on social video can reclaim at least some of them. Although brands can’t directly participate in Lasso yet, they can enlist influencers on the platform. Plus, Lasso videos can be shared through Facebook and Instagram, extending their reach across multiple platforms.
Perhaps the most unusual network on this list, Steemit is a blockchain-infused social blogging site that rewards engagement with a cryptocurrency called Steem. Intended to be the crypto world’s answer to Reddit, Steemit’s target user is a tech-savvy young male. Despite still being in beta mode, Steemit sees 1.2 million transactions per day. After being Steemit rolled out as an ad-free platform, it has since started testing ads to improve its profitability.
To stake their claim in the “social broadcasting” space — or live streaming for gaming and entertainment videos — two former Apple executives launched Caffeine last year. Although it’s still in beta mode, the young streaming service shows promise in taking on its older brother Twitch. Last September, Caffeine got a jolt to the tune of $100 million from 21st Century Fox. As with Lasso, brands can’t currently place ads on the platform, but they can partner with broadcasters — who are also compensated by the platform itself — to reach its young, e-sports-focused user base.
No matter how popular a platform is today, it won’t be big forever. Facebook and Twitter may go the way of MySpace and Bebo, or they may be valuable to brands well into the future. Whatever happens, social media experts’ best bet is — as with most areas of marketing — to follow their audience’s lead.