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Ben Cooper
| 25TH JAN 2024

Zeno Thinks: Platform Panic

For those who have been playing it on their mobile phones for the past decade, Platform Panic is quite simply a fun, curiously addictive game. But if you work in communications and are struggling to keep up with the social media swirl, the phrase sums up an all-too-familiar feeling of bewilderment.

But as you will have observed from the first three essays in this collection, social platforms are no longer an addition to the media: they are essential infrastructure. Social and editorial are mutually influential – so much so that they cannot be separated.

And there is a lot to digest, starting with the fact that Gen Z audiences are increasingly consuming their news through social media. Instagram tops the list with 44%, followed by Facebook (33%), Twitter (31%) and TikTok (29%). This has prompted increased regulatory pressure on platforms to counter the spread of hate, misinformation and disinformation.

While much negative attention has been paid to Elon Musk’s rebranding of Twitter to X, Mark Zuckerberg’s much vaunted alternative, Threads, is struggling to make a dent in its dominance. While Threads signed up more than 100 million users in less than five days when it launched in July last year, it has since seen mammoth drops in usage and is trying out all sorts of different techniques to revive itself.

Decentralised social media platforms such as Mastodon, Diaspora and Hive are capitalising on the big guns’ struggles. All have enjoyed a surge in monthly users, with audiences turning away from ad-based models, seeking out more transparency and control of their own data. The BBC’s Research & Development Team is even exploring how they can establish a presence in the Fediverse.

There have also been some joyously unexpected developments in recent months, such as the extraordinary vision of a movie in 23 parts. Film company powerhouses such as Paramount are capitalising on the rise of audiences consuming films and TV shows on TikTok by releasing popular films across multiple small clips.

Instagram has even confirmed that it may soon allow users to publish Reels up to 10 minutes in length, competing with TikTok, X and YouTube. That’s right... long-form video is back.

So what’s a brand to do?

With so much social media instability, salacious news stories and “best practice” changing on a weekly basis, it’s trickier than ever for brands to identify which platforms to engage in. To help set yourself up for success, it’s important to go back to the foundational elements of a good, sustainable social media strategy.

A strong channel strategy and focus should always be built on insight, data and auditing, well ahead of skipping to the content part. After all, you wouldn’t move in your brand spanking new furniture before you'd finished the hardwood floors, would you?

To help clarify matters, here are five trusty Ps (principles) which can alleviate your brand’s platform panic:

  1. PLAY – Is TikTok or Snap where your audience is playing? Dive into where your key audiences are – they should always take priority
  2. PARTICIPATE – Do you have the resources to ensure that you’re regularly engaging, posting and growing on this channel? Why not try conquering a few primary channels, ahead of trying to have a presence across every new platform?
  3. PERFORM – Is the type of storytelling, content or messaging going to perform on the channel? Remember, not every piece of content is fit for every platform or format.
  4. PROTECT – Are the right processes in place on the platform of choice to protect your brand? Do the platform’s values and advertising practices align to those of your business?
  5. PAUSE – There’s nothing wrong with taking a “wait and see” approach. With new platforms emerging all the time, it’s important to see how they roll out, evolve (and how other brands follow suit) ahead of investing budget, time and resource. Who remembers Clubhouse?!

Keep these principles in mind and you won’t go far wrong. And don’t expect the pace of change to slow down any time soon.

Full report here