Where do you normally get your news from? Social media has rewritten the rules for news coverage to such an extent that many TV networks and publications now tailor their headlines, featured images and content length so that their reporting is more likely to be shared on Facebook and other social media. As a result, “watching the news” and “scrolling through my Facebook NewsFeed” have become synonymous actions for millions of people. Even users who don’t actively seek news get a good dose of it because their friends are picking up interesting stories and passing them on.
While individuals across all age demographics continue to rely on a mix of print, TV and Internet news sources, smartphone owners in particular are prone to making social media a big part of their news flow. They are 2.5 times more likely to get news from a social channel than individuals who don’t own one. What are these users doing with news via social media? Their growing consumption of video and sponsored content reveals a big opportunity for small businesses everywhere.
Social media and news: What’s next?
Sometimes you can see the next big thing by looking at what is considered silly in the present. For example, a 1996 article made fun of e-commerce since it was immature at the time and couldn’t bring in as much revenue as a suburban mall. Right now, social media (though this term might be a bit restrictive) apps like Periscope, Snapchat and Meerkat are sometimes dismissed as gimmicks, but, like e-commerce in the late 1990s, they could hint at something big on the horizon.
Let’s begin with Snapchat. The ephemeral photo/video/text messaging service has changed how conversations start on mobile devices, as well as how mobile data plans are utilized. It recently introduced Snapchat Discover, a news service that allows Snapchat users to get bite-sized stories and updates from Snapchat media partners. Much of this content is video and it has led to an explosion in data consumption:
- The week before Snapchat Discover launched, Snapchat users in the U.S. and Europe were going through about 100-150 MB weekly.
- The week after, the average number had risen to be 400 and 600 MB per week. Native video likely accounted for the surge.
- Snapchat has further plans in the works for live sports coverage during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament that could lead to additional growth.
Snapchat Discover plays into what many mobile users were already doing in terms of keeping up with news via apps. However, unlike news alerts, it provides a more immersive experience that is sustaining engagement for longer periods of time.
Another app that has made some interesting inroads into news is Yo. Yo started as a service that could do nothing but send the 1-bit message “yo” to someone else with the app installed. From there, though, it introduced the Yo Store, which allows for subscriptions to publications, RSS feeds and other custom content.
For example, it once had a subscription that allowed the user to get a notification each time there was a buzzer-beating shot in a National Basketball Association game. Recent additions have included curated updates from BuzzFeed and the ability to know when a favorite Instagram account has posted a new photo or video.
Then there’s Periscope and Meerkat. Theses mobile app allow a user to stream live video to his or her Twitter followers. They’re popularity at launch and use at recent conferences such as SXSW and Social Media Marketing World demonstrate that they have the potential to become significant content and social channels.
What small businesses can do in the new news environment
Mobile apps are a great equalizer for small businesses trying to reach news-seeking customers. Whereas mainstream media networks may not have time to cover what a business is doing or provide ideal advertising rates, organizations can reach out directly to customers and leads via video on social media.
“Mobile apps are a great equalizer for small businesses.”
Streaming live video via Meerkat, Periscope or another service, for example, is a good indication of what the future of engagement might look like. Of course, given the number of options that consumers now have for getting news, watching video or browsing photos, businesses must stay on message and keep their social content tight and to the point.
While a blog post like this one can afford to be longer, a campaign that uses Snapchat, for instance, would have to really get to the point right away, in light of the constraints of the medium. Just remember that while some apps and tools can seem weird or the frivolous in the moment, many of them hint at things that businesses could do (e.g., tighten their messaging, invest in video production equipment) to reach customers.
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