A recent study from App Annie
showed that not only did mobile app and social platform usage rise, unsurprisingly, in 2020, it also revealed, somewhat surprisingly, that TikTok has dethroned Facebook for most time wasted, ah… invested, by users.
We spent an average of 21.5 hours a month on TikTok last year, followed by Facebook, WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram and then Facebook Messenger. Clubhouse likely deserves honourable mention for hitting that level of usage on Christmas Day of 2020.
But pandemic influence aside, there’s something interesting that is happening with social media that, if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss. That’s what we’re diving into on today’s episode of Marketing Hyperdrive.
The box turtle is an interesting animal. It’s native to North America and, being relatively common and docile, they’re often considered for pet-status, yet frequently make for poor pets. Box turtles are easily stressed. The simple act of moving them a short distance from their own familiar land can be enough to prompt them to wander in circles aimlessly until they die.
But, even more interesting, according to Box Turtle Expert and disco dancer extraordinaire Kenneth Dodd, box turtles appeared “abruptly in the fossil record, essentially in modern form.” Which means over the past 15 million years, dating back to the oldest fossil record we have of the box turtle, the species has largely gone unchanged and un-evolved. It’s another one of nature’s mysteries, how an animal that is relatively small and harmless, and which freaks out at being planted just ten feet from where it grew up, could survive for so long without having to adapt or improve in the slightest way.
I told you last week about my interest in history, well this week, we’re going to geek out a bit about sociology – a topic I studied in college and have continued to be interested in throughout my career in social media marketing.
Because as a business owner or marketer who wants to leverage social media for business purposes, it can be extremely helpful to understand the nature of social networks. Twitter, LinkedIn, Clubhouse, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram… the names and nuance may differ, but the core nature of every platform remains the same. Every social network is a microcosm of society itself – a community of businesses and individuals who have determined and agreed to communicate via shared platform and experiences, and abide by both written and unwritten rules.
Rules? Yeah, rules. Every single social network has written rules in the form of Terms Of Service which every user must abide by or risk losing their account. Most such terms include things like not harassing other users, or not selling things which are illegal. Unwritten rules in society are called norms and these are the ways in which you and your neighbors are expected to behave or risk people thinking you’re odd or rude. For instance, in most communities, if you saw your neighbor in the morning maybe you’d wave and say hello, or maybe you’d do nothing… but if you were in the habit of flipping off your neighbors every time they saw you, they would think you’re rude. You would be breaking the unwritten rule – the norm – that neighbors are expected to at least be cordial to each other.
Understanding the norms of social networks is a key part to understanding how best to use and leverage those networks.
Similarly, it can be extraordinarily valuable to understand not only how to use a social network, but how it’s changed over the years and therefore how it may change in the future. The evolution, if you will, of social media.
Which brings us back to box turtles.
Last Spring, our first Spring in our new home, my girls and I went out back to do some exploring. Our house is right on the edge of a patch of woods that I’m able to look out upon from my office window and lovingly refer to as Sherwood Forest. These woods are protected in that none of our neighbors in the area are permitted to build or disturb the trees or underbrush in any way. As a result, we often have a flurry of wild animals ranging through the woods, including deer, fox, all manner of birds, squirrels, coyote, opossum, snakes, raccoons, and even lizards. On this particular day, as my girls and I wandered among the trees and fallen leaves, we stumbled on what at first we thought was a rock, then as we uncovered leaves and brush we realized it was a turtle shell.
And then it moved!
My daughters promptly named it Marvin and we proceeded to fully uncover Marvin and brought him over to a clearing where we could see and marvel over his existence more easily. When it came time to go back inside, we left Marvin where he was, really not that far from where we originally found him. But now, looking back, I have to wonder if we might have over-stressed him.
I’m sure you can relate. As of the time of this episode, Facebook has rolled back Page Likes and recently changed the very layout of business Pages. Other apps similar go through changes that can sometimes be quite jarring and frustrating the first time we encounter them. Like box turtles, we’re creatures of habit and when our environment changes on us, without warning or pretense, we experience stress and anxiety.
But that’s not our only similarity to box turtles. Like box turtles, we feel like we’re the same as we have always been, that our use of social media has always been what it is today. While we know that the platforms themselves are constantly updating and changing and evolving, it’s more challenging to see the evolution of the micro-culture that has and continues to develop on social platforms.
But the reality is much different.
A few minutes ago I shared how TikTok usage has skyrocketed this past year. If you’ve been using TikTok yourself, I’m sure you didn’t start out spending many hours a day on the app. No, I’m sure it was far more gradual. Personally, I tend to spend about one hour a week, according to Screen Time, on TikTok. It’s usually a few minutes each evening scrolling through a few funny videos. When I first downloaded the app months ago, I know I hardly touched it as I hadn’t yet found the appeal.
But the evolution of social media, and our usage of social networks, is more profound than that.
Ten years ago, social network capabilities and adoption were vastly different. Far fewer people were using the apps that were available – partly due to the newness of the apps and partly due to the reality of smartphone and Internet access. And for the people who were using Facebook and Twitter at the time, it was largely a text-based form of communication. Widespread sharing of images and, particularly, video, came later.
As the years have gone by, more people got smartphones and Internet access and Facebook profiles, and the apps evolved and changed and inspired additional apps and options. Apps like Google+ encouraged sharing collections of images as albums and live streaming video, while apps like Vine sparked short-form videos. Those social networks were followed by and in some cases replaced by others like Blab, Periscope, Instagram and TikTok, while more mainstream networks like Facebook mirrored capabilities like CVS moving in across the street from every Walgreens.
Snapchat created the Story – a vertical image or video that is automatically deleted after 24 hours – and now virtually every other social network has Story capability.
Clubhouse has focused on networking around voice-only communication, and Twitter is already building a mirror capability called Spaces.
Where you once might have had just one or two social media profiles, each with very different purposes and capabilities, the average person now has 8 social profiles! That’s up from 6 in 2015 and will likely continue to rise. That’s a lot of apps and profiles as a consumer to manage but more importantly to us here, what lessons can businesses take from this?
First, it’s important to recognize that as new capabilities are invented and become popular, we can expect to see versions of those capabilities adopted by existing apps in order to stay relevant. Private messaging, live video, vertical content, shopping… if a new app has a great idea or a new approach on how people can form community and communicate in an exciting and different way, you can bet that other networks will adopt that same approach. While we’ll save the debate of whether that’s stealing ideas or not for another day, the fact remains, popular capabilities become ubiquitous.
Which means there’s tremendous value in marketers and business owners to learning how to best leverage these new features. Maybe you don’t need a presence on TikTok for your brand, but… it might be extremely valuable to learn how to create vertical, short form video that furthers your brand message. You could be posting to Instagram Reels. Maybe you didn’t need to use live video when it was just Hangouts on Air or Blab conversations, but now brands are live streaming to Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, and even Amazon!
Maybe the idea of group phone calls on Clubhouse doesn’t appeal, but how does networking and establishing authority jive with you? Right now, Clubhouse is excellent at facilitating those aims.
You don’t have to jump on every new platform, but you should definitely pay attention to what’s trending and make sure that you’re positioning your business to take advantage.
Which brings us to the second lesson and yet another way we can view social media from the perspective of the box turtle: go slow.
We all know how long it took the tortoise to run the race. The same lesson of slow and steady applies 100% to social media marketing. Unless your full time occupation is talking about and on social media, there’s very little benefit to you being a first adopter and jumping on every new platform.
Remember Tsü? Or Ello? Of course you don’t. My friend Mark was quick to learn Ello and wrote the Ultimate Guide to Ello which won him a lot of praise and attention initially. But ultimately it didn’t matter because Ello as a social network didn’t catch on. Yet it’s unlikely my friend could have predicted that in 2015. Will Clubhouse last? Who knows. Many smart marketers are investing heavily in Clubhouse right now because it is popular and different and that sometimes can be enough to drive a network to mainstream adoption.
Other similarly smart marketers are taking a wait and see approach as they see evidence from past networks that suggest it’ll be a struggle for Clubhouse to evolve.
The best approach then, for business owners, is to notice when new networks and new capabilities become popular, and pay attention to adoption. There may come a time in the near future when it will make sense for most business owners to be on an app like Clubhouse and have scheduled clubs and activity. Today though? Probably not.
Be a box turtle.
This week we have a ton of great resources for you below. Until next week!