Commentary

Social On The Upswing

Ironically, social media is a pretty lonely place — and it’s kind of advertising’s fault.

Platforms originated as digital hubs that brought people together. Today, feeds are more like subways: ad-cluttered environments where everyone is essentially ignoring each other.

Studies link social media to depression, there’s a constant stream of data privacy scandals, and 74% of consumers complain there are too many ads. The pay-to-play model most of us subscribe to still drives sales (that same study found marketers investing 89% more budget into social advertising). But the efficiencies are coming at the cost of what made these platforms special in the first place.

And now, the channels are rebelling by regressing. Recent platform features show the pendulum is swinging back. Here’s what marketers need to do to adapt to the shift:

Champion groups (even if it’s just as a silent partner). Facebook is reprioritizing Groups. Several are sprouting to connect people geographically (NYC Moms - UES), by shared activity (Women Who Travel), and common interest (GoT Theories). Brands are exploring Groups: Glossier owns the Into the Gloss group. “Owns” is a loose term, though, one that marketers need to get comfortable with. Members are fiercely dedicated to preserving the environment and protecting the community. You may not want to advertise here. Instead, use Groups to hear from consumers firsthand and apply learnings.

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Lean in to 1:1 messaging (AIM was onto something). While groups are growing, so are updates to 1:1 communication and connection of users to each other, but also to brands. Facebook’s F8 2019 just revealed a slew of updates to Messenger and WhatsApp that allow businesses to be more accessible, while LinkedIn is planning to roll out Conversation Ad updates in 2H 2019, allowing brands to use messaging with guided replies to connect with users at every stage of a buyer’s journey. Test forms of advertising that can spark a 1:1 connection with your audience to drive them down the funnel.

Redefine positive engagement. Instagram is exploring cutting likes. Despite its name, this type of engagement is shown to have negative connotations as users feel emotionally invested in the total count they receive. Select brands are using likes, reactions, and visible engagements in general as performance indicators. As the platforms adapt to become more self-esteem-friendly, you should explore revising your reporting to reflect these changes.

Celebrate similarities.  As platforms recognizie the divide in social, platforms are promoting engagement features that can actually help drive this desire to make social feel more true to its name again. Among these are Instagram Stories polls, which are now available both as organic and ad units and Twitter polls. New to these scene are Instagram Story quiz stickers and Facebook in-feed video poll testing as well.

These features show you your results in relation to other people who responded, allowing a low effort engagement (e.g., not as strong as a share) to show you that others share your opinion, thus validating it. Tap into these features to elicit positive responses from your target.

Since the Mad Men days, advertisers have found themselves moving too far on the spectrum from providing value to driving sales. You can accomplish both if you find the balance. To do so today, though, means you need to be aware of platform shifts that signify bigger changes.

And maybe turn down those frequencies, too.:)

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