Last year, drama seemed to follow Facebook’s every step. Choose your favorite episode. There’s the one where Facebook and Cambridge Analytica broke up following Cambridge Analytica’s wayward use of personal data. There were all those times Mark Zuckerberg did or did not appear before Congress, the Senate or Parliament to answer hard questions or deliver reassurances. And while Facebook grabbed more than its share of headlines, there were plenty of other social media platforms under fire. How about the Russian spy novel where foreign entities attempted to tamper with U.S. elections, vis-à-vis Facebook, Twitter and Google? Or the proliferation of Brazilian fake news on WhatsApp and the massive Google data breach?
We’re not making light of any of these issues. Nor are we attempting to minimize the many times an organization did not adequately monitor its protocols and third-party users. Whether you count by volume or scope, 2018 felt like a year of crisis on top of crisis for social media platforms and online engagement.
No wonder celebrities jumped on the publicity bandwagon to announce they were leaving social media or closing accounts forever. Eighty-eight-year old billionaire investor George Soros even went so far as to call Facebook and Google a “menace” to society.
Clearly, 2018 was a lousy year for social media engagement. …Or was it?
- Facebook user accounts grew to a record 2.27 Billion as of Q3 2018, logging a 10% increase over the previous year, with growth both in number of active mobile users and active daily users.
- Facebook ad spend more than doubled in 2018 vs. 2017, and Instagram ad spend tripled in growth rate during the same period.
- Instagram added shoppable media and is already reporting some 90 million accounts using tags in shopping posts every month.
- Instagram also launched IGTV, an app that permits longer videos and may put a dent in YouTube’s dominance of online video.
- Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest grew their ad business in serious ways. Snapchat’s advertising revenue hit record numbers. LinkedIn retooled its campaign manager and added dynamic ads, while Pinterest hired its first-ever Chief Marketing Officer.
- Reddit, a site that may not even be on your radar, rolled out its first major overhaul in more than a decade. Reddit ranks fifth among most-trafficked websites in the US, according to Alexa rankings, and chalks up average daily use time that is over four minutes longer than the top four websites ahead of it in the rankings. The redesign is credited with enhancing engagement on Reddit by up to 7 percent.
In other words, platforms forged creatively ahead, users embraced them and businesses, recognizing the trend, spent just short of $50 Billion on digital advertising in the first 6 months alone of 2018 .
Here’s What Resonates Above the Noise
Account users are justifiably unhappy when social media platforms fail to protect their privacy or to anticipate all the ways a scammer or hacker might misappropriate personal data. But online engagement, whether it is strictly social, strictly commerce or a blend of the two is ridiculously convenient. It lives at your fingertips, is infinitely customizable, and is the flat-out easiest, fastest and cheapest way to engage, inform or conduct business.
Countless hoteliers, airlines, cell phone providers and retailers have found themselves in the undesirable position of having to tell the marketplace that client data has been breached. Yet, consumers continue to book travel, shop and conduct other types of interactions with these brands. We complain and voice indignation, but in our gut, we understand the challenges of uncharted waters.
No matter how hard we try, no one will be able to predict and prevent all the pitfalls that may pop up as we collectively navigate through cyberspace using digital engagement in new, exciting, and yes, profoundly convenient ways.
The bottom line is simple. We’re all going to continue interacting online. And if the digital marketing ad spend was upwards of $100 Billion in a chaotic year, can you imagine what it will be if 2019 is even slightly less eventful?