Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion around Facebook’s impending death. Today’s teens supposedly view the platform as “old”, and don’t want to be where their parents and grandparents are. Meanwhile, others have been put off by the “fake news” epidemic that has seemingly run largely unchecked, at least until recently.
But is Facebook really on its way out? Nah.
Remember, this is the same internet responsible for (incorrectly) reporting that countless celebrities, from Will Smith to Betty White to Jeff Goldblum, have died. You can’t believe everything you read, and Facebook continues to live and breathe today.
According to a January 2018 report from Statista, Facebook remains the most popular social network in the U.S. by a pretty large margin, and its lead grows even bigger on a global scale. The platform continues to play a pivotal role in brands’ efforts to connect with their customers—and it should. Still, as public relations and social media professionals, we can’t help but wonder if—or rather, when—the world will crown a new king. Will it be something completely new? Or something we already have?
A recent New York Times article suggests that Facebook has been “testing” society with two of its platforms: Facebook and Instagram. (Let’s not forget that Facebook owns Instagram!) The differences between the two applications are obvious to anyone who uses them, but perhaps the most notable is the ability to share. While Facebook thrives off of shared content from anywhere and everywhere, Instagram’s sharing is more restricted. Users can only share content privately via direct message, or by utilizing clunky third-party repost applications. And there are only limited ways to share external links. As a result, Instagram essentially forces us to interact with the content in a much simpler way: you can like, or you can comment.
As a social media manager, it is easy to become frustrated by Instagram’s limitations. We can’t post a working link to our article in a post? Or to our product page? If users can’t broadly share our content, how will our audience grow? But what is often perceived as Instagram’s weaknesses are actually the platform’s strengths. The New York Times columnist goes so far as to say that Instagram is a “healthier” version of Facebook, and appeals to Mark Zuckerberg to use Instagram’s principles to help improve Facebook.
Now, I don’t think Facebook will be doing away with external links any time soon, or limiting text, or deactivating the share button. And the thing is, it doesn’t need to. We already have that platform and it is Instagram. What will be interesting to see over time is if people really do migrate to spending more of their time on this platform, and how Instagram adapts in response.
For us and for clients, Instagram presents some unique challenges, but also opportunities. When it comes to social media content generation, external links are a crutch. We have so much to say, and can’t do it all in a status update or tweet (even with the expanded 280-character limit!). We write enough to capture attention and paste a link for more information—which users may or may not click on. But not with Instagram.
Instagram pushes us to stretch our creativity, and prioritize the message. How can we communicate with our target audiences with just a photo and a caption? Not only is it possible, it is fun. Catchy graphics, beautiful photos, pithy captions. Lots of hashtags. Instagram Stories. It’s a different world, but brands should learn it, and love it.
Just in case.
By Heather Kowalczyk