Though Facebook — with some 1.3 billion users worldwide — remains the granddaddy of social networks, today’s social media users are migrating away from such big online communities and toward more stripped down, visual-heavy platforms like the photo-sharing site of Instagram, experts say.
One emerging social media application called Jelly allows users to upload a picture of something, say a flower, and ask a question, such as “What species is this?”
Jelly was mentioned at the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin by its developer, Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter and also developed Square, the application that accepts credit card payments over smart phones.
A crowd-sourced search engine, Jelly was released in January 2014 by Stone and Ben Finkel and uses a Jellyfish for its icon (like the blue bird for Twitter). Jelly’s blog explains, “We chose the jellyfish to represent our product because it has a loose network of nerves that act as a ‘brain’ similar to the way we envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other.”
Stone says, “Our aspiration is to create a new way to search and to make it easy for people to help one another.” Jelly describes itself as changing “how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks.”
Playing up visual content
Photos are key. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google all are reworking their respective sites to give more preference to visual content, said Sarah Hoffman, marketing and social media specialist at Oklahoma Publishing Co.
“Attractive content captures the most attention, in the same way your social media platforms are representative of your business,” she said.
Facebook recently acquired Instagram, along with WhatsApp Messenger, a global, cross-platform multimedia messaging service, popular in developing countries, that allows users to send texts, photos and video globally over wi-fi.
Hoffman defines social media as an opportunity for a business to engage with its community and convey a strong voice about the brand. “It is the foundation that allows people to see a glimpse inside your business. Especially with Instagram, they can see the behind-the-scenes of your business.”
As many have observed, it takes the place of yesterday’s front porch, backyard barbecue or office water cooler for exchanging the latest information. Hoffman calls it a “two-way interaction” online. “Social media opens the commmunication between you, your brand and your customers.”
The interchange encourages consumers to interact with brands. As an example, Hoffman said she tagged a photo of herself at a restaurant and got a free appetizer in return.
Cyndy Hoenig, a communications expert with Pure PR, cautions clients that social media is far from free.
“It requires time, energy and effort,” she said. “It’s a never-ending commitment to create interesting content, listen to conversations and respond.”
“Instead of rushing to join any and every social media community out there, choose the slow and steady approach,” Hoenig said. “Pick one or two communities that are important in your market; determine your key goals; and define who will be responsible for keeping activity going day-in and day-out.”