The addition of Instagram Stories raised a few eyebrows last week, not only because the newest arm of the photo-sharing app looked like a carbon copy (minus the dog filters) of Snapchat, but because it was yet another piece of the social layer cake that has many already feeling stuffed. Thanksgiving style.
There are now a total of five major social players: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest. Add in the characters that are brand specific-- YouTube if you're in the beauty space, Vine if you're in comedy, and LinkedIn if you're a business, and your social Rolodex is on constant spin. Update one. Then the next. Tweet this. Pin that. Share. Share.
It's OK to be tired and over it and at the same time want to keep up. Making the decision to stay off a social media platform can come back to bite you, especially if you're a brand. And for those whose JOB it is to keep up, the job description is as shaky as a fault line.
For social directors and bloggers the ever-shifting landscape is not only difficult to navigate, but the addition of new platforms can feel completely overwhelming. For some, the challenge is exciting, keeping them on their toes and at constant warp speed. "If you want to work in social," says Priscilla Castro, Social Director here at Create & Cultivate, "you know what kind of a beast you're going to battle. It's not a secret that new platforms are added or that one day, a platform you worked really hard to build up, could all of the sudden become obsolete. But that's the great thing about this space-- regardless of your background, you learn as you go because it's constantly evolving. It's safe to say that it's quite different from when I started working in it 3 years ago."
That's not to say it's not disheartening. "There's definitely an 'all that work for what?' feeling to it sometimes, but that's also the challenge and where the exciting part of the job is. How to stay relevant. How to be an early adaptor. How to be social, but for business. It's the new communications major."
Regarding Instagram Stories she believes, "brands with a strong community on Instagram have been trying to find their ‘voice’ on Snapchat for some time, but with the new update many brands and personal brands that haven’t properly broken into Snapchat will abandon the platform to invest time into Instagram as a whole."
For her, "Snapchat has become an after-thought, I want to share more meaningful content on the fly with my Instagram community only. I’ve noticed a decline in updates from people and brands too, and those in my real life community that didn’t invest time in Snapchat are creating brilliant content through Instagram stories."
So how do you decide what your social strategy should be if it's always changing? Or when and if you can KO a platform?
Adrianna Adarme who founded the food blog A Cozy Kitchen says, "I haven't explored Instagram Stories a ton but I do think think it can be really beneficial for people who already have a strong following on the platform; it's sort of nice that it's all in one place."
And that's the general current sentiment. It is "nice" that it's all in one place because shifting gears through the apps is exhausting, for both content creators and consumers. Adds Adrianna, "I don't think it's the end of Snapchat though, I think its core audience was and always will be a teen, early twenty-something audience and I believe they'll continue to use it. I'm testing out both to see what works for me but I already miss the dog filter and stuff." Therein lies the rub. We all fall prey to "testing out both," and before we know it, we've added them all.
It's something that colleges have taken note of as well. Social Media degrees are becoming more popular than ever, teaching students how to engage audiences through creative content and impactful messaging.
University of Southern California offers a master's program in digital social media from its journalism school. The degree, according to the program's website, "teaches you leadership and management of social media, digital media, and online communities," so that student, "develop expertise in the practice, theory, and strategies that are essential for success in today's business and social landscape."
But what is impactful one semester, might not be the next. The same goes for your social strategy.
"While a degree in social media is amazing and useful," says Priscilla, "the curriculum you learned in a semester in college will be obsolete by the time you enter your work field. There is no way to 'do' social media 'by-the-book,' because it's always evolving."
"To do it right," she adds, "you have to move with the ebbs and flows of the space and not dismiss new platforms that will change your day one strategy. Just get with it, get your hands dirty, and create amazing content that you know your audience will love."
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