Social media trends for energy communicators to anticipate
Almost half of the world's 7.7 billion people are social media users. This impressive statistic implies that we are still only halfway through the story of social media's growth.
As part of my contribution to a meeting for nuclear sector communicators organised by the IAEA, I was asked to present on the trends they should expect in next two years of social media, 2020-2. It was such a valuable exercise for me that I'm glad to share a few of the insights.
Please take a look at my short video here, or read my conclusions below, and let me know what you think. I would love to hear about the opportunities and challenges for you in communicating energy issues on social media via email@example.com
Bigger, better, more
Before we begin on the future, it a good idea to take note of what is not likely to change. Briefly, we can say that smartphone technology plateaued a few years ago and that the main social media platforms are consolidated and insulated against rare newcomers. Against this steady background we will notice an intensification of what we already recognise as social media. I'm excited about that because it means there will be more people involved, more to discover and it will be more useful. However, with a more central role in our lives social media will also be more addictive and at times more confusing.
New users will join in line with the birth rate as the age range of social media users expands by one year every year. Virtually all the young entrants are advanced users, so social media will continue to be driven by the young and the relatively young. An implication is that the pace and creativity of social content will continue to skyrocket throughout the 2020s.
Tools will compete
In the next couple of years a key enabler of this mushrooming creativity will be free and low-cost tools for images and video. On subscription websites and built into every platform, tools will compete to enable your creativity by making filters, stickers and templates as well as stock music and pictures available and easy to use everywhere. It will be simpler and quicker for everyone to produce appealing graphics and video.
Video set to boom
Marketers already use video as much as they can because it generates around 40% more engagement. As the general quality of our timelines rises, competition for attention will heat up and users will increasingly be creating and posting video. Higher bandwidths, lower barriers to entry and the low-cost tools will combine to make video and motion graphics a virtual default. Cisco thinks 80% of branded communication on social media will be video by 2022.
As demographics shift we will see incoming CEOs and department heads who are truly active in social media. That means difficulties of management resistance to social communication will reduce for communication professionals, but it also means that communication heads will need social media policies and strategies ready for a situation where the entire workforce is active online. In the 2020s it will not be uncommon for individual staff to have trusting social media audiences larger than the companies they work for.
With these trends in mind, here are my quick suggestions to energy communicators to prepare for their combined effects over the next couple of years.
Your social reach will grow with a wider age range of users, as well as through video and voice, which will bring in the very old, the very young and the less literate. It will be more and more inappropriate to post the same things on every platform, so content will need to be focused and targeted. It's a good idea to get familiar with targeting – being able to target content effectively will also be extremely useful in a crisis situation.
Getting attention will be more difficult and starting new channels to a good standard will be harder. If your use of social media needs to be stepped up, I recommend getting organised sooner rather than later: Begin using those creation tools, make small investments in equipment, start practicing with video if you are not already. Help for this is available.
Every company will need a top-to-bottom policy and strategy for employee use of social media. There is no single way to manage this and your approach will depend on the kind of organisation you are and the kind of people you have, but it needs to be enabling and constructive - there is no other realistic option any more! As a preparatory step, consider some small-scale trials that build confidence so you are ready to take advantage when your own influencers appear.
What do you think?
I would love to hear about your thoughts and reactions. What are the opportunities and challenges are important to your communication of energy issues on social media? You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org