This Election Has Trashed Social Media For All Of Us

Marketing on social media is far more difficult than it used to be, thanks to the presidential election. And, while the nation’s collective nightmare may end on Election Day, brands will be bearing this burden for a long time to come.

The corrosive effects of the past 18 months have fundamentally altered the social-media landscape. As a result, people are becoming far less “social” and far less likely to engage in the behaviors marketers have come to rely upon.

Consider a couple of recent data points.

  • A recent study by Pew Research Center found that more than a third of users have changed their privacy settings on social media to restrict the number of friends whose posts they see. And 27% actually blocked someone out of annoyance.
  • Since 2009, the CMO Survey has projected brands will spend 20.9% of their marketing budgets on social media. As recently as February that projection was holding steady. But in October the survey found brands spending only 11.7% on social, well off the projected pace of 17.5%.



Underlying all of this data is a rapid shift in attitudes toward social media from the youth audience that has been critical to the explosive growth and whose behaviors have typically been bellwethers for older audiences. 

It’s worth reflecting on what built social media in the first place. Initially it was the ability for people to stay in touch with friends and make acquaintances they otherwise wouldn’t make in the real world.

Then came the ability to share items of interest. Suddenly, social media enjoyed exponential expansion as people discovered that a mix of friends could be a powerful force for curating information and exposing us to new ideas, and even products or services.

Now, however, some of those same friends are pissing us off. They’re getting into strident arguments over political and social issues. Brands that venture into current events discussions are finding their digital audiences instantly polarized. Indeed, it seems like every issue has sides. “Safe” topics have effectively been reduced to amusing videos of animals and complaining about Mondays.

For the past five years, so much of the investment brands made in social was chasing that sharing behavior. Every piece of content was launched in hopes it would “go viral,” making a small investment payoff with disproportionately huge returns. No more.

Perhaps the only winners in the past 18 months have been the trolls. Younger users, 16-to-24 years old, tell us that, rather than expose themselves to trolls, they have shifted their sharing to private channels, Snapchat or text messaging, where they know who they’re talking to and can safely predict the reception they’ll get. And it seems that their parents are following their lead.

It’s doubtful all this gets better any time soon just because the election is over. So what’s a marketer to do?

Get real. Quit thinking about social as something that’s best left to the youngest members of the team. Success is going to demand the skills of seasoned marketers. 

Strategies will have to focus on pockets of opportunities. Time is the enemy. 

Successful marketers and their agencies will continually analyze the digital environment, quantifying the opportunities. This will allow them to have reasoned assessments of the likelihood of success and the potential for damage to the brand.

From the client side, it will take a commitment to move fast, take risks and firmly understand where the brand can and cannot go. 

Strategies that are tethered to nothing more than the flow of the moment will lead brands onto the rocks faster than ever before. You can thank our presidential election for that.

4 comments about "This Election Has Trashed Social Media For All Of Us".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 4, 2016 at 12:07 p.m.

    This is all the more reason to register at fpurity dot com. Thanks to this free browser add-on, my Facebook wall is completely filtered from the following words:


  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, November 4, 2016 at 12:08 p.m.

    * that's fbpurity dot com

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 4, 2016 at 3:22 p.m.

    The real problem is how social media is designed. What this means is Facebook, Twitter and others operate under a model that resembles Walmart Super Stores. Facebook and Twitter have created websites that pack in all age groups in their websites and expect them to work smoothly. Both will have problems with this model in the future.

    While we are not considered generally as a social media website, www.sweepstakestoday.com is a social media website in our own rights.  The big differences is we highly target for what our members want. The demographics are much different with a average age is close to 50, middle class, 68 percent female.  What the advertisers want.

    We also have a strick set of rules about politics.  ST is not a political webiste and nothing else but a sweepstakes website.   If you want to talk about politics, there are 100's of websites that do and you can go there.  Simply I don't want to deal with good members throwing mud at each other and I want to keep them focused on entering sweepstakes.  That's how you fix the problem.

    Mr. Sweepy

  4. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, November 4, 2016 at 4:37 p.m.

    This election has trashed reality. Period. 

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