Every sun eventually sets, and it seems decidedly clear the easy golden age of social media has drawn to a close.
For most of the past decade, even having a profile on each of the big platforms, and posting the occasional news update, meme, or cat picture, would be enough to maintain a decent interest from audiences. And even by the end of 2019, some brands had barely caught up to that level.
But attempting to treat social media marketing like it’s a set of keys jangling in front of an infant is no longer going to cut it. The initial novelty wow factor of social media has worn off and audiences are becoming far more selective about how they spend their time online.
However, this does not at all spell the end for social media’s worth to brands, it still continues to be a precious resource. It only means that a new day of better, relatable, curated content for the discerning social user is dawning. And unlike the last time, marketers are starting the era with a base understanding of working within the online world.
Yet, in order to truly hit the ground running, practitioners will need to understand why audiences have become much pickier and what it is that’s now driving their interest and holding their attention.
In this Master Report, Jeffrey Hau, director of PRIZM, offers his expertise and advice on making the most of what your brand posts in the silver years to come.
If we had to vote for one invention that took up the largest portion of our daily lives over the past decade, social media would probably win the crown. Marketers have invested immense effort and resources into building communities, nurturing engagements, and adapting to the rapid changes in gameplay and house rules.
Many of us have been left wondering what is “next” for social media. In my own case, I have more often as of late seen the buzzword “digital detox” appear, especially in the west.
The term has arisen as netizens are starting to feel overloaded by the sheer amount of content they receive on various social media channels. Some advocate that we should shut off our phones and social media once in a while to embrace reality and face-to-face communication.
The resulting drop cannot be merely attributed to users changing their preferred platform (for example, youngsters choosing Instagram over Facebook), rather it is a decline in average time spent across all networks. In 2019, eMarketer noted that – for the very first time – the US recorded one minute less of social activity.
That’s in comparison to the cumulative13 minutes gained between 2015 to 2017. Meanwhile, across the pond, an Exposure Ninja report from May 2019 claimed 33% of UK adults are reducing their social media use. Example actions included the removal of social media apps and suspension of accounts. Some of the top reasons for the reduction included information overload, a perception it was a waste of time, and a lack of trust in content such as with fake news.
Expectations and preparations for the tidal wave
I am not, of course, suggesting to marketers and brands that we all steer away from social Rather, we have to understand both the potential impact of this constantly changing digital world and how current strategies should adapt to it. In brief, the time that netizens allocate to social networks will be at a premium, and thus, content must yield meaningful and valuable interactions to earn every moment.
Building a community, brick by brick, group by group
Thanks to fierce competition and the emphasis platforms have placed on paid advertisements, brands that possess large social media followings continue to grumble about almost non-existent engagement. One of the trends we’ve seen is the rise of community groups or even closed groups such as on various messaging apps. For instance, Facebook recently started to roll out enhanced suites of tools and features for its Group function. Watch Party was launched in 2018 to let users comment on videos simultaneously, further strengthening a sense of close community and shared contribution among members.
Another crucial addition was the added capability for marketers to manage a group and – by installing specific pixel codes – potentially track user actions on their websites after engaging with content within the group setting. This revamped focus on community encourages users to discover more relevant content that will become more personalised the more they consume.
Ask not what social media can do for you. Ask what you can do on your social media channel!
Sophisticated users demand content on social media pages which resonates with the lifestyle they want to live, and they are not particularly interested in solely sales-driven information. They are looking for authenticity in their chosen content and want to know this ephemera won’t be found in other channels either offline or digital. TikTok best illustrates this trend, having attracted a billion users over such a short time by presenting timeless personalised content.
Revisiting the long and short-term KPIs for each of your channels is a must. You should find there is “inspirational content” (stimulating people to know about your products and/ or offers) and there is “aspirational content (establishing a sustained compulsion for and influence on the users). And just as we should be rewarded by the quality of work we deliver and not the hours we work, frequency is not the winning formula of social media. Valueless content – as decided by the audience, not the boss – will no longer be able to beat the algorithm and flood user timelines.
One last point that’s worth noting is that we should expect micro-influencers – ones with a range of say, a few hundred to a few thousand followers – to play a greater role in future engagement campaigns, as users begin to doubt the authenticity and credibility of influencers with massive followings. Additionally, micro-influencers often build a better rapport with their followers.
In short, it’s time to dispose of the “bigger is better” mindset and provide users with content that reflects their lifestyles and to make sure the brand is tied up with that relevancy in their daily life.