One person who should be glad to see the back of 2018 is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s fair to say that last year was a catalogue of disasters for the social network with massive data leaks and privacy breaches, fake news and Russian trolls hitting both the headlines and the share price.
So where does that leave us, the users? Well first up, we in the media should be cautious. We’ve invested much time and effort in nurturing audiences on Facebook but audiences are losing trust, giving up and getting out. Anecdotally, and having trained thousands of journalists and other businesses over the years, I’ve heard of an increasing number of people shutting down their Facebook accounts. Others readily admit they don’t trust it and are using it less often but can’t quite #deletefacebook because friends and family are still there and if nothing else, FOMO means they still feel the need to check in from time to time.
Where are they now and which platforms are they using?
The question is if people are moving away from Facebook where are they now and which platforms are they using? Well the answer depends on who you’re trying to reach. Instagram has continued to see massive growth and user engagement especially with a slightly younger demographic. Instagram Stories are huge, unlike Stories on Facebook where the format just doesn’t seem to be taking off no matter how hard Zuckerberg pushes it.
2018 was pretty rosy for Instagram but 2019 could be a year of reckoning for the Facebook-owned behemoth. The founders have left, reportedly unhappy with the relentless ‘Facebookification’ of the site. I tend to agree and personally believe this could mark the beginning of a slowdown as feeds and Stories become infested with adverts, quirks of the algorithm and more Snapchat-like features. I also feel that people will begin to wake up to the so-called ‘Influencers’ accounts, often with heaps of fake followers, that somehow demean the site with grossly inauthentic sponsored posts.
Call me a cynic, it goes with the job of being a journalist, but I still love Instagram and still believe you can genuinely nurture and grow a valuable community; it’s a bit like Twitter in the early days but you need to be strategic and have a clear plan. Niche and micro-niche works far better than a broad brush approach of sticking anything up there.
But the pendulum has swung from a very open use of social networks to a mass adoption of closed networks like WhatsApp and Telegram and with that comes a whole host of new problems including ‘fake news’ and even murder.
So where does that leave us journalists? I have always recommended not putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket and suggest that everyone be far more cautious about personal privacy settings and what you choose to share with any social network. For us, social networks are both a boon and a blight. It’s a great way to find new voices, original stories and to reach audiences but if you do one thing this year, it’s polish up your verification skills and keep your eyes open. Watch how people are using social media, how behaviour and use of technology is changing and be flexible; be prepared to adapt your strategy, try new things and don’t forget to stay curious. Happy New Year!