Social Media At 21

How stories and TV will bring the industry into adulthood

With Social Media Week in full swing, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on a notable ‘coming of age’. For most of us, 21 is synonymous with the arrival of adulthood. And now it seems the social media industry is following suit.

Looking back at the last 21 years, we’ve gone from the creation of the very first social media site,, to the most recent headlines that talk about Snap’s launch of augmented reality (AR) Lenses that respond to a user’s voice and Facebook’s patent for physical AR glasses. However, social platforms aren’t just relevant for helping to usher cutting edge technology. They’re perhaps most relevant as the next mainstream media sources.

Social platforms have put the power firmly in the hands of the consumer to the point where they hold more information and choice than ever before. Plus, social companies are learning different skills and earning money with the introduction of professional content, algorithmic curation and broadcast rights procurement.

For those wondering what the future of this ever more complex and intricate landscape looks like, it’s important to keep both eyes planted on two key areas: Stories and TV. Having experienced two decades of channel propagation, social media companies are growing up by converging and aligning offerings, creating new cross platform opportunities, and increasing transparency through better measurement.

These are the areas that will usher social media into adulthood – and yield the greatest returns for platforms and brands alike.

A portfolio approach

A driving force in the maturity of social publishers will be a shift to a holding company model. The portfolio approach for media companies is well established in the TV space and is one that translates well to social media companies that have a mix of properties – and therefore a mix of opportunities to help advertisers get in front of their key audiences.

Take Facebook as an example. As a holding company, Facebook can more effectively bundle audiences and advertising across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, providing brands with increasingly better performance at scale.

The key to an effective portfolio approach in media is having a common unit – one ad format – that is constant across placements. This will be where the innovation that companies like Facebook are so well-known for will be critical.

Stories, for instance, is the latest and most innovative content and advertising format from Facebook, and it brings massive volume and value to the table for advertisers. How much volume? In its Q3 2018 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg announced that more than one billion people are using Stories each day across all of Facebook’s properties. Bundling these innovative new formats with other formats and across mediums will help social platforms continue to drive growth and business maturity.

Convergence with TV creates new opportunities

In addition to bundling their own properties, another trend that will play heavily into the futures of all social platforms is the convergence of video across digital, social and TV.

Already Snapchat and Facebook have taken pioneering steps towards becoming content creators in their own right, alongside the likes of Netflix and Amazon. With partners like NBC and ESPN, Snap has been making short TV-like episodes for Snapchat’s Discover section for a few years with a view to bringing serialised dramas into the mix. Similarly, Facebook’s Watch service enables users to choose from a range of shows from both established brands and new players.

Platforms including Facebook have also hit the headlines in recent months for their growing interest in TV rights packages. In particular, the acquisition of Premier League rights has been seen by many as a watershed moment in the development of social media. Combining live events and social allows brands to reach their most relevant consumers by delivering contextual content during live moments. Kantar Worldpanel found that households reached by both Facebook and TV produced a sales outcome 1.3 times greater than expected, showing the synergistic effect of planning Facebook and TV together. This not only reflects social’s growing role in commerce, but also its unique capability to provide measurable, evidence-based feedback of the success of harder to measure channels such as TV.

Technology is still as relevant as ever as consumers constantly look for new and exciting experiences. But with a portfolio approach and convergence centering around video content, social companies will grow into adulthood and continue to deliver increasing value for advertisers.

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