My husband and I recently had an eye-opening conversation with a 21-year old niece. We were discussing social media channels that her friends and she commonly used (Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine and GroupMe) and realized there was little overlap with the channels we typically used (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter).

By the nature of social media, nearly all channels provide constant content and instant gratification; two hallmarks of Gen Y and Gen Z. But some of the channels favored by these newer generations are rising more quickly than their “elderly” counterparts.

Take, for example, Snapchat, the fastest growing social media platform since 2014. It has reached the same number of daily active users as Twitter in just three years (versus the nine that it took Twitter). In 2015, Snapchat became the third most popular social media platform amongst millennials after Facebook and Instagram, according to Business Insider.

With such rapid growth, brands are forced to adapt with lightning speed in order to capitalize on new platforms’ appeal. As PR specialists, while we often caution our clients about the “shiny object syndrome” (or SOS) approach that they ask for as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest social media trends, it will help to also understand how we can leverage new platforms to increase appeal to specific target audiences and offer higher message reach and penetration.

Let’s consider a few examples of how PR campaigns and platform offerings have evolved in the past year:

  • Our recent campaigns have used Thunderclap to create a virtual flash mob to raise awareness of a disease condition.
  • We increasingly use Facebook live interviews with many celebrities vs. pitching traditional media channels.
  • This Snapchat PSA on smoking cessation has gone viral. While it remains to be known how effective it was, it did win a good deal of attention, especially considering it was one man’s personal call-to-quit campaign.
  • The Snapchat app now offers Geofilters, which allow marketers to sponsor all content in a particular area (for example, at a launch event or a medical meeting).

We also need to work closely with our digital teams to understand and leverage such channels, especially if we are talking to young adults/millennials (e.g., working on disease campaigns such as meningitis, certain auto-immune diseases etc. that affects this age group).

Emerging platforms such as Snapchat still need to build in measurement tools so marketers can gauge reach and penetration of messages. However, 2017 could be the year when healthcare campaigns more widely use Snapchat, so we need to understand and embrace these platforms for wider usage and more effective reach. Unless of course, VR (given the Pokémon Go craze) has already become the next SOS?


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