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What this week’s Facebook, Snapchat news says about your content

Two pieces of news this week reminded us of the continued importance of media content in the overall media-and-platform ecosystem: the first piece of news the confirmation of social discovery coming of age and the second the launch of Snapchat’s new Discovery feature. Cobus Heyl considers some of what it means.

When it comes to content and platforms, the discussion is often a chicken-and-egg one – depending on whether you look at it from a technology or content perspective. However, I think there exists a symbiotic relationship, which, coupled with good user experience and audience, delivers win-win situations. In my view it’s more “and” than “or” and the latest news, I believe, underscores it.

Social discovery, with Facebook dominant, comes of age

A study by Shareholic shows Facebook referred 24.63 per cent of all web traffic in December 2014. 

This has been in the works for a while: in 2014 we noticed social media is fast closing in on Google as a referrer of traffic, with studies in March 2014 by Shareaholic (Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter made up 29.49 per cent of referral traffic) and Parse.ly (search made up 32.8 per cent and social media 31.2 per cent of referral traffic to content websites) showing the way.

In its latest report, Shareaholic again highlights this:  “Formerly, organic search (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) made up the lion’s share of overall visits to sites. In 2014, the tables turned … Collectively, the top 8 social networks drove 31.24 per cent of overall traffic to sites in December 2014, up from 22.71 per cent the same time [in 2013].”

Shareaholic’s latest results show Facebook, with its 24.63 per cent, was most dominant among social networks, followed by Pinterest with 5.06 per cent, and Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube with a combined 1.55 per cent share of overall traffic.

Snapchat launches its Discover feature

Snapchat grab ()

Messaging app Snapchat’s launched its “Discover” feature this week, including content from brands such as National Geographic and Cosmopolitan – both FIPP members – vice, Blecher Report, MTV, the food network and Mail Online.

As Gigaom reported, this is an important development: “Snapchat is distancing itself from its core messaging feature with its new Discover feature. Instead of offering new communication tools, it’s focusing on media content to hook users.”

And while most reports this week focused on what social/messaging platforms do for media in terms of referral traffic, Gigaom tellingly framed their article on the Snapchat Discover feature with this question: “Can media do for Snapchat what it did for Facebook?”

It goes on to say, “Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have a new, very different sort of competitor in the media-carrot-to-engage-users game.”

See the value proposition of content to platforms here?

The money equation

The Shareaholic report also highlights the dramatic increase in time spent per average user on Facebook from August 2011 (15.5 minutes per day according to Nielsen) to November 2014 (42.1 minutes per day according to eMarketer).

And Gigaom puts this into context, “It’s no surprise that Snapchat thinks it will make more money off media than it could off messaging. Facebook discovered the same thing after a few years of running its newsfeed product. People stuck around and spent more time on the site when they had more content to look at than just baby pictures and wedding albums. That in turn made advertisers willing to pay more for the eyeballs.” [Sounds like a familiar strategy, eh?]

What of the providers of content?

There are several considerations here (perhaps you can add more):

1. Participation in social (where it fits your objectives) connects you with new and re-connects you with existing audiences

2. Every single piece of content shared presents monetisation opportunity

3. Every single piece of content shared presents an opportunity for further engagement with your brand

4. Overall, it contributes to development of your brand

5. Each engagement generates audience data, and with the right approach intelligence and opportunity

The value proposition for content brands lies on two levels, the overall brand proposition and single pieces of content as the atomic unit of online consumption. Too often magazine media owners still think mostly in terms of the overall “package.” However, online the single article, video or image presents value in the overall strategy, too.

Engagement is an important measure in creating habit and eventually loyalty. The higher/deeper the engagement across channels, the higher the likelihood of habit and loyalty forming. It really is old news, but for many in magazine media, where print offered a periodical lean-back experience, it requires a shift in thinking, perfectly summarised by Hearst Magazines’ “months-to-moments” mantra (see here how Duncan Edwards described it here).

According to GlobalWebIndex adults have on average 5.42 social accounts, and are active on 2.82 of them. Among 16-34 year olds, it is upwards of 6 accounts (active on around 4). While it is challenging to stay on top of it all, you have no choice. Getting your content to where your audiences (or prospective audiences) are remains important (just as it is/was with print, isn’t it?).

Much of the surge in social referral activity is arguably driven off mobile devices. In Facebook’s 4th quarter financial results reported earlier this week, Quartz highlighted its 1.2 billion mobile active users during December 2014, and 526 million mobile-only users. Mobile ad revenue, at US $2.48 billion, represented 69 per cent of all its advertising revenue. This, combined with Facebook’s position as a source of traffic (or put differently, the way audiences increasingly prefer to discover content), makes it imperative for you to make your content work on these devices.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Get in touch with me via email or Twitter.

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