Social media: Is social distancing becoming a digital reality?

Joshua Tan
By Joshua Tan | 4 August 2020

Joshua Tan is director of Hello Social.

While the physical world remains in a constant state of COVID-19 limbo, the digital landscape, particularly social media, is seeing its fair share of disruption.

Large corporations are shying away from social giants in the #StopHateForProfit movement and governments are clamping down on social apps due to data privacy concerns.

On the other hand, people are looking to social media more so than ever to stay better informed, entertained and connected.

Despite 64% of internet users expressing their concerns over how companies use their data, GlobalWebIndex shares 43% of users are spending more time on social media with a daily average of two hours and 22 minutes. That’s one-third of their time online!

But what happens when brands and people regain their power from social media giants? What happens if Facebook were to collapse and throws the world into a #FOMO pandemic? Where will it leave brands and marketers?

Here are my views on how brands and talent can adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

If a brand isn’t on social media, does it even exist?

Fortunately, social media isn’t just built around Facebook. The rise of competing platforms like TikTok and less-frequented apps beyond the home screen like Pinterest and Reddit means there are more opportunities for brands to be where their customers are.

How can brands establish a stronger, more impactful social media presence? Classify then diversify. Treat each brand profile like its own digital storefront with unique user experience.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sums up today’s digital age well:

“It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now, with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends.”

First and foremost, brands need to be relevant. Consider your audience’s mindset to the social platforms they’re on. A one-size-fits-all approach will be the downfall to customer-centricity.

If we were to take Facebook and its suite of apps out of the equation: How can you inspire action on Pinterest? How can you stir conversations across Twitter? How can you embed yourself within Reddit communities? How can you tell captivating stories across Snapchat or TikTok?

And for brands to do well on social, they need to think beyond social. Google’s latest ‘Messy Middle’ report shares from the trigger point, consumers ping pong between exploration and evaluation before finally making a purchase.

Google messy middle

Diagram of Google’s ‘Messy Middle’

And social media is becoming a bigger piece to the complex customer journey puzzle with GlobalWebIndex sharing 16-24-year-old females now use social media (50%) for brand research over search engines (46%).

When it comes to building a robust social strategy, the questions I tend to probe are: How can current social strategies complement wider business areas? What online and offline sources are influencing customer behaviours? How can you tell more cohesive brand narratives at each touchpoint?

But how are brands supposed to stay across all the apps, tools and trends amidst everything that’s happening in the world?

A new breed of marketers
Hop over to any job posting today and the requirements of a social media specialist resemble that of a small agency.

A strategist who understands the industry landscape, a producer who can get behind the camera, an art director who designs content, a copywriter who can hook audiences, a paid manager who builds and implements performance plans while being a gun at managing client relationships.

The upside is it gives life to a new dynamic marketer who knows the end-to-end process of bringing brands to life on social. The downside is you get a Jack/Jill of all trades but a master of none.

But the budget scales are slowly tilting with reporting digital spending to supersede TV by 36% in 2020 while Forrester shares social media seeing a growing slice of the advertising investment pie at a 17% compound growth rate from 2016 to 2021.

And with larger honey pots, I foresee investments in social disciplines with dedicated suits, strategists, creatives and performance teams to boast a truly effective social media offering.

Until we reach that point of social validation, here’s what social marketers can do before we get to the proverbial land of milk and honey:

If you love strategy, consider user journeys beyond the confines of the app. How can social feed into CRMs? How can it contribute to offline/online experiences? How can you influence consumers in their exploration and evaluation phases?

If you love content creation, master the art of storytelling. Find the bridge between powerful TV commercials and engaging tricks YouTube or TikTok creators use. Audiences know an ad when they see one. They also know a good piece of content when they see one.

If you love performance marketing, brush up on how other digital channels work. Master the science behind formats, creative, placements and how social fits within broader ecosystems. How can it support search, AdWords or other marketing efforts?

And when you start asking the questions, you’ll start knowing the answers.

Summary in Tweets:

1. Is Facebook the be-all and end-all social solution for brands? The short answer is no. But the numbers still present the biggest opportunities for brands to build stronger communities, foster positive experiences and drive desired outcomes.

2. To thrive in today’s social landscape, brands need to classify then diversify while marketers should specialise and generalise.

3. If the fear of trying to stay across all the latest tools and trends is creeping up on you, don’t fret. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook borrows the features of rising apps or swallows them up whole.

comments powered by Disqus