What Are Native Social Media Posts?
Sharing versus Silos: The New Native Social Media Landscape
I’ve been using social media since almost the beginning. I say almost because I didn’t really get going until 2008. Back then the social landscape was smaller and, yes, actually social. Still have social media friends (some of which became IRL friends) that I met back in the early days.
Those early days were the days of sharing. You shared your friends’ blog posts on Twitter and Facebook to help your friends build awareness and web traffic, and they did the same for you. Some users built reputations for curating and sharing the best of the web with their followers.
There was just one problem with the social sharing universe. As the social networks matured, they needed a steady influx of real income—not venture capital—to be viable into the future. And that means advertising or sponsorship. They don’t want to risk losing their user base (the actual product they sell) by making users pay to be members. Some have tried (e.g., LinkedIn Premium), but that’s not palatable for many users.
In order to show advertising to their user base, they have to keep users on the network as often and as long as possible. That means that posts sharing links to content that is off the network are not going to be given as much visibility in users’ news feeds as that which is completely delivered on the network. For example, a Facebook Live video on Facebook could receive more visibility over a link to a video on YouTube.
That doesn’t seem like too much of a big deal, except that what’s being created are social media silos. If I create content exclusively on and for one network—what is known as native social media posting—the attention for it stays on the network.
This is today’s native social media landscape, and it presents a myriad of challenges for marketers.
Native Social Media Formats
A native social media post is one that is created to be consumed on a particular social media platform in terms of both form and function.
A video recorded in a landscape position (horizontal width is greater than the vertical height) is considered native for YouTube. Contrast this with IGTV, Instagram’s video sharing platform, where videos in portrait orientation (vertical height is greater than horizontal width) would be considered native. This is because IGTV videos are recorded and consumed by users who are holding their camera phones in their hands in a vertical position.
Here are more examples showing the dramatic and unique differences among social platforms for native posts (as of this writing).
- Vertical images for Stories, square photos for news feed posts.
- Up to 30 hashtags are allowed in posts.
- A photo or image is required for either news feed posts or Stories.
- No clickable links to sites outside of Instagram are allowed except for just one clickable link in a user’s profile bio (unless you pay for advertising).
- Images with too much text may be ineligible for Instagram advertising use, but are okay in Stories.
- While Instagram profiles can be viewed on the web, Instagram is really a mobile app. All posts must look good on a smartphone.
- Photos and images in landscape or square orientation work best, but keep key features of images in the center (for example, pictures of people should have their faces in the center of the image, otherwise you see a lot of headless torso shots).
- 280-character limit for posts, which includes clickable web links.
- Hashtags are allowed, but because they eat up so many characters, they are usually kept to a minimum.
- Text-only posts are still allowed, but can get lost in the now photo-heavy Twitter-verse.
- Clickable links are allowed.
- Can be used on both the mobile app and desktop/laptop.
- Vertical photos and images work best and get more visibility compared to horizontal photos which are shown in smaller boxes.
- Infographics are very popular.
- Images need clickable links.
- Has a mobile app, but the desktop/laptop version shows more content and is can be easier to navigate.
The challenges for marketers, or anyone vying for attention on social media, should be obvious.
Native Delivery of Content on Social Media
In addition to being built for the social media network, native content should be posted directly and completely on the network, in lieu of just posting a link to it.
As discussed earlier, social networks want to keep users on the network as much as possible so that they can show ads to them. Posts that encourage users to jump off the network to view a video or blog post reduce the network’s ad revenues because users often don’t jump back on. As a result, posts with offsite links may be given less visibility in users’ news feeds.
One can easily see why marketers are interested in doing Instagram or Facebook Live videos which are definitely native content. They want to show the social networks that they’re doing what they can to draw in and retain users. Marketers now may even consider simulcasting their live video broadcasts on multiple social channels. I even heard one marketing pro suggest marketers buy multiple phones or computers to accomplish this. That sounds expensive.
Why are Native Social Media Posts Challenging for Marketers?
Native social media content creation can stretch the capabilities and budgets of many marketers because it can require reworking of existing content, or even creation of brand new content, to fit the parameters and limitations of each social media network.
Bigger advertisers may have the content creation talent in house, or may hire marketing agencies and freelancers to create it for them. They may also have staff or outside help to actually post the mass of content to all the different networks because posting, in itself, can take a lot of time and effort.
Small businesses often attempt native social media tactics, only to become overwhelmed at the investment it takes. To give the impression that they are posting everywhere, they may cross-post the exact same piece of content on multiple networks, then wonder why it doesn’t get engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.). For example, some cross-post their Instagram photos onto Twitter, which can create a messy cryptic tweet that’s almost completely a huge string of hashtags without context. Sometimes even the photo doesn’t show on Twitter which makes it worse.
For both big and small businesses, an additional challenge is that these social media networks change constantly. The type of content the networks’ algorithms favor also can change, sometimes swiftly and dramatically. That means content development tactics need to constantly be changed, too, which can be exhausting for both people and budgets.
Challenges in Measuring Native Social Media Results
While many of the social media networks offer good insights for businesses (e.g., engagement metrics), where businesses will struggle is with the metrics for their own online properties such as websites and blogs.
Back in the early sharing days of social media, we watched traffic that came from social media sources. Social drove traffic to us. Now, in the native social media silo era, users are less likely to make the leap to our websites or blogs to consume content or take action, unless we pay for those impressions, clicks, and conversions.
The backlash of this is that it could lessen the importance of self hosted blogs and websites. Marketers may then just shift resources to building their social media presence and not build their own online properties. That presents a huge marketing risk should the social networks change or even disappear.
How Businesses Can Deal with Native Social Media
Concentrate on Content and Platforms that are a Good Fit
This requires a bit of self awareness of what type of native content your business is best at creating, and what’s appropriate for your work and market.
For example, I have a text-centric business (writing and editing). So creating content for heavy visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest is a huge challenge. I’m trying to find ways to make it easier for me, but the time investment is significant and mentally taxing. My work is more suited to Facebook, blogging, and podcasting, and I'm concentrating on those venues.
Go Omni (or Multi) Channel, But Do It Cost Effectively
The social marketing strategy now is omni channel or multi channel, meaning that you’re on as many of the social media networks (channels) as possible. But this can be a trap, especially for small businesses. While it sounds like a complete reversal of concentrating on your best fit networks, it’s not.
As just noted, I’m currently concentrating on Facebook, blogging, and podcasting because those are best fit networks. I simply cross-post on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest just to maintain a presence, but do not specifically create content for them. Instagram is still quite an investment, even though it’s been a great listening tool to learn more about my target audience. I'm considering using a dashboard tool (maybe Hootsuite for desktop?) since the in-app filtering just is awkward on a phone.
Find what works for you, then find ways to easily maintain and monitor a presence on the rest.
Adjust Your Analytics and Measurement Metrics
Realize that social media traffic to your website or blog shown in your Google Analytics may plummet if native posting continues to be favored on social media. The good news is that if users are actually making the effort to visit your website or blog, they are truly engaged and may be viable sales prospects and fans.
Monitor engagement metrics for your primary social media networks. Some have in-app options, others require third party free or paid tools. Both Facebook Pages and Instagram business accounts have pretty good insights that can be helpful (and their ad reporting, in my opinion, is pretty helpful and not too complex). Twitter’s in-app analytics require that you become an advertiser. LinkedIn offers analytics for Pages, but next to zero for personal profiles. Dashboard programs, such as Hootsuite, have great analytic tools, but usually require paid subscriptions to access the more helpful reports.
All this adds time and dollar expense to your social media marketing budget. Therefore, only choose metrics that are actually meaningful and cost effective. For example, on Instagram, I monitor the number of profile visits and website clicks because that represents people who have actually taken an intentional, next-step action upon seeing my content or my profile in their feeds or Stories. And it’s a free insights tool.
Continue to Build Your Owned Online Properties
While current marketing wisdom would advise to go where the attention is, which is now social media, don’t stop building your own online properties such as your website, blog, podcast, and email list. Be aware, though, that your traffic and results may be less than what they were in the past. But should those attention-grabbing social channels go down, you’ll still have a presence.
Similar to the omni channel approach for social media, adopting an omni channel approach for your owned content channels is also recommended. Over time, you’ll find that these, too, wax and wane in terms of popularity. I’ve found that email marketing has become very difficult in the past couple of years for subscriber acquisition, open rates, and click though rates. My blog went through a rough patch, then rebounded. Keep monitoring and adjusting, because what’s working today, probably won’t work next year... maybe even next month!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Heidi Thorne