“Social Media” as we know it has changed. It used to be disposable, we used to add almost anyone we came into contact with and share ourselves at our best or worst. Look back at 2012 and you will no doubt find something you would never, ever share in 2018. We’ve become used to seeing our friends content mixed with branded content and more recently we have become used to engaging with bots like they are people. Online social is in its third full cycle, we are the activities we engage with in apps and on their websites. I believe we are entering into the fourth cycle, we want to trust that the information we are sharing goes to the people we want it to, as long as we deem every interaction as useful and can weigh up the value exchange.
Social became too many different things to different people, societies started becoming obsessed by the latest trend or how many likes and engagements we received. As Evan Spiegel rightly said, “The DNA of their (Facebook) company is about competing with your friends for attention”, rather than interacting with the people or in some cases brands we wanted to. This is not just down to the social networks and their extremely powerful algorithms but the way millions of us offered up and allowed our data to be used as the value exchange.
Social is not just somewhere we go to to escape anymore. It used to be the place we went to get away from our lives and fight boredom, but I wonder whether that is the case anymore. It has surely become more than habit, it has become a behaviour, and in many cases an addiction. Facebook is so good at predicting our behaviour based on our actions that when it started to own the app stores it transitioned from a place to spy in on and occasionally like or comment on a photo, to a place to wait for the next endorphin rush of a notification.
Humans have always been tribal, it was what helped us survive, thrive, and get to where we are today. By using your connections, your likes, and indicators of your personality, social networks have built complex layers of data to ensure you connect to the tribes you are most passionate about. This ensures you keep coming back, again and again, and will build deeper connections to the network and the different tribes you are connecting to.
Our past informs the present, but more significantly, it influences the future. Regardless of whether that is for a good reason or not, we use the power or usefulness of social media tribes as our guide for future usage or future actions. We’ve become lazy, and for the vast majority, have moved away from understanding how social media platforms work to optimise our experience and get the most out of it. Marketers are no different. As a Marketing Director and someone who’s had to leverage and engineer multiple social media profiles and newsfeeds to make them useful, I have seen the general misunderstanding of how these social networks work first hand.
The Future Of Social
Consumers don’t just want a hyper personalised service, they now demand it, expect it, crave it, and are addicted to it. When a new service, platform, or app, comes out without hyper personalisation or when people like you (your tribe) are not on it, it is more often than not abandoned. We don’t want to force our friends or ‘tribe’ to move onto something new, and we return to the old “trusted” platform. We apply anchoring bias to what we see in newsfeeds, we react to it accordingly and to a level we cannot measure, we act upon it. Due to this phenomenon, we rarely have to search for information as it is often readily available to discover or, in most cases, we are directly served it. We are served so much content, in fact, that we won’t be able to finish scrolling through our newsfeeds….ever. Therefore it is more important than ever for there to be an affinity between you and how your chosen social media platforms personalise content just for you.
Political scandals, such as the recent Cambridge Analytica public outing, and the various issues surrounding the data provided to phone carriers, weren’t enough for users to leave social media platforms, which shows how ingrained it is in our lives and how important we feel our connections to social media are. This is why we have unconsciously started building our individual tribes: 10 to 50, or so, of our closest friends whose updates we spend more time on, have increased social interactions with and their content. This is something we can reasonably leverage as marketing and business leads. We can empower our online communities to discover the content they really want, and become part of their tribe – but keeping in mind that quality over quantity is key.
Recently, the umbrella of social media has broadened to include other categories, namely chat and instant messengers. This change has been driven by our evolving habits and how we choose to engage with each other. We engage less, share less, use less. Facebook noticed this trend earlier than most and offered a more interactive service and journey that brands can be part of, in the way the consumers want.
Newsfeeds have also evolved to adapt to the more personal, insightful, or arguably time consuming format: Stories. Although pioneered to counteract the newsfeed, Stories have become another window into our lives and something that brands rarely leverage (apart from on Instagram). There are opportunities everywhere if you understand how to effectively use the tool provided and how you can stand out from the crowd of brand content.
Social media has definitely impacted and irreversibly changed human behaviour, predominantly by developing to send emotional triggers to our brain to build deep connections. Many of us have attempted to battle this by leaving social media entirely, deleting the apps off phones, building tribes (social groups) to dedicated group functionality by forming social echo-chambers of content, and moving away from traditional social to dark social by way of instant messengers and group chats. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that we want to separate and ‘own’ our tribes.
As businesses we can be part of this fourth phase of social media, but we need to remember that it’s less about creating noise and more about offering quality experiences. Surprising unaware consumers with memorable and interesting content, that leads them to follow your brand, gives you a better chance of engagement than flooding newsfeeds and sending low value ad emails. To ride the wave of change and social innovation, rethink how you and your team are connected to the networks your customers populate, unpick how the algorithms can reward you, look at getting away from being filtered by the algorithms, take yourself into the notifications, encourage deeper conversations, and offer a truly quality experience.
Danny will be speaking at the Figaro Digital Marketing Conference on Thursday July 12th, to give you examples of how to make social networks your best friend and develop real meaningful relationships across multiple social networks.