A web channel strategy won’t be enough

“There has been no reduction in Facebook traffic to Condé Nast’s brands as a whole.”

If 2022 was the year of the start of the end of the social web, 2023 will be when we all supercharge our off-platform audience strategies.

Meta reps told us in June 2022 that “link posts are trending out of style for user behavior,” the week that Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton summarized: “Facebook was born on a web browser, 18 years ago, which meant that it was at some level built around linking. That made Facebook an incredibly powerful driver of traffic. TikTok, meanwhile, was born on a phone, five years ago, which means old web concepts like ‘sending traffic’ are meaningless.”

Interestingly, there has been no reduction in Facebook traffic to Condé Nast’s brands as a whole. While we’ve experienced some differences between our news brands and lifestyle brands, we’ve seen year-on-year Facebook growth across our brands and markets.

While Meta wants Facebook to be more TikTok, reducing link posts and upping “authentic voices, native to the platform” within its walled garden, the reality is that a typical user’s feed would be pretty quiet without link posts. This has benefited our brands, as has Facebook’s move to show content to “unconnected users,” with such posts making up 15.2% of feed content in Q3. This became an opportunity, enabling us all to reach Facebook users who don’t follow our pages.

And while Meta is divorcing itself from the news and publishers, Twitter is of course in turmoil.

Twitter audiences have grown for many of our markets, but dropped as a traffic source for our U.S. brands this year. There have been notable drops in “heavy tweeters” (myself included) since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, TikTok and Instagram are the only social networks growing as news sources, according to Pew.

Condé Nast brands had an average of 12.3 million views a day on TikTok in 2022. American Vogue had 111 million video views on TikTok the week of the Met Gala, and 382 million views for Met Gala videos on Instagram.

This growth in off-platform requires all of us to recognize that our websites are not the sole audience and revenue drivers.

We must think of each platform and its role in the audience journey, acknowledging that there are multiple touchpoints including social, newsletter, podcasts, video, and site. And we must have a holistic audience strategy and understand how to promote our brands and stories across those touchpoints.

TikTok is, of course, top-of-funnel — but it offers more than brand awareness. It allows us to build community and relationships, with potential for commerce as well as consumer revenue.

Instagram is also toward the top of the marketing funnel, less of a traffic driver than Facebook even for Condé Nast’s highly visual brands. And there are also new opportunities on the horizon, with experiments in subscriptions.

A year or so ago, when I was leading audience development, social, and analytics for Vogue globally, I drew a diagram to show how different stories speak to different audiences.

Going into 2023, we would all benefit from developing a core content model for multiple channels.

For example, what is the story mix that enables a brand such as Condé Nast Traveler or Allure or Vanity Fair to reach a wide audience? And what are the community conversations that will develop that core superfan audience?

With buyouts, pivots, layoffs, and uncertainty at the platforms, news sites and publishers must all have a holistic on- and off-platform audience strategy. A website channel strategy is no longer enough.

Sarah Marshall is global executive director of distribution and channel strategy at Condé Nast.

If 2022 was the year of the start of the end of the social web, 2023 will be when we all supercharge our off-platform audience strategies.

Meta reps told us in June 2022 that “link posts are trending out of style for user behavior,” the week that Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton summarized: “Facebook was born on a web browser, 18 years ago, which meant that it was at some level built around linking. That made Facebook an incredibly powerful driver of traffic. TikTok, meanwhile, was born on a phone, five years ago, which means old web concepts like ‘sending traffic’ are meaningless.”

Interestingly, there has been no reduction in Facebook traffic to Condé Nast’s brands as a whole. While we’ve experienced some differences between our news brands and lifestyle brands, we’ve seen year-on-year Facebook growth across our brands and markets.

While Meta wants Facebook to be more TikTok, reducing link posts and upping “authentic voices, native to the platform” within its walled garden, the reality is that a typical user’s feed would be pretty quiet without link posts. This has benefited our brands, as has Facebook’s move to show content to “unconnected users,” with such posts making up 15.2% of feed content in Q3. This became an opportunity, enabling us all to reach Facebook users who don’t follow our pages.

And while Meta is divorcing itself from the news and publishers, Twitter is of course in turmoil.

Twitter audiences have grown for many of our markets, but dropped as a traffic source for our U.S. brands this year. There have been notable drops in “heavy tweeters” (myself included) since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, TikTok and Instagram are the only social networks growing as news sources, according to Pew.

Condé Nast brands had an average of 12.3 million views a day on TikTok in 2022. American Vogue had 111 million video views on TikTok the week of the Met Gala, and 382 million views for Met Gala videos on Instagram.

This growth in off-platform requires all of us to recognize that our websites are not the sole audience and revenue drivers.

We must think of each platform and its role in the audience journey, acknowledging that there are multiple touchpoints including social, newsletter, podcasts, video, and site. And we must have a holistic audience strategy and understand how to promote our brands and stories across those touchpoints.

TikTok is, of course, top-of-funnel — but it offers more than brand awareness. It allows us to build community and relationships, with potential for commerce as well as consumer revenue.

Instagram is also toward the top of the marketing funnel, less of a traffic driver than Facebook even for Condé Nast’s highly visual brands. And there are also new opportunities on the horizon, with experiments in subscriptions.

A year or so ago, when I was leading audience development, social, and analytics for Vogue globally, I drew a diagram to show how different stories speak to different audiences.

Going into 2023, we would all benefit from developing a core content model for multiple channels.

For example, what is the story mix that enables a brand such as Condé Nast Traveler or Allure or Vanity Fair to reach a wide audience? And what are the community conversations that will develop that core superfan audience?

With buyouts, pivots, layoffs, and uncertainty at the platforms, news sites and publishers must all have a holistic on- and off-platform audience strategy. A website channel strategy is no longer enough.

Sarah Marshall is global executive director of distribution and channel strategy at Condé Nast.

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