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What the future of social media means for the brand strategies of Vice, BBC and Salesforce

Social media is constantly changing but unlike other marketing disciplines there’s no theory of everything that defines it. If marketers are to understand how to properly tie these communities together then there are five issues Vice, BBC and Salesforce outlined at We Are Social's Think Forward event that brands must address.

The end of the manufacturing economy and the rise of the network economy

The social media phenomenon is spurring the digitisation of popular culture at a time when everything is information enabled. Companies like Airbnb, Uber and Netflix have mined this shift to create smart networks that understand supply and demand better than most 20th century business ever did. It's how Vice’s senior vice president of innovation Mark Adams describes what he calls “the end of the manufacturing economy and the rise of the network economy”. Ultimately, it means that companies that keep “supplying where there is no demand” are going to get “disrupted”, claimed Adams, before observing how marketers are yet to comprehend the “profound” impact social media is having on the way people behave, especially when it comes to content.

The advent of the news feed has paved the way for a culture of curation, shifting the onus on creating content that “humanises why anyone should care about this”, said Adams. “Vice works because it goes into spaces where there is cardboard on your plate and gives you a four course meal,” he continued. For example, the publisher’s female-focused hub – Broadly - launched this summer after it noticed a dearth of quality content for them. The fact that Broadly has become Vice’s biggest launch to date is testament to its understanding of how content works in a shared ecosystem.

“Through social media, we’ve literally unleashed the laws of nature on businesses and I think that speaks a lot to this theory of everything that underpins these network economies,” claimed Adams. “It’s about making content that humanises why anyone should care about this. And then we’ll put it into the system and if it’s sensitive to that environment then it will work. Just like a living organism, things move within these network economises because they are nutritious and provide a value.”

Engaging your fans and building a community are two separate things

Marketers have muddled the concept of a community. It’s not about chasing likes or racking up high follower numbers in a controlled environment, said Salesforce’s head of strategy Jeremy Waite. Instead, a brand community relinquishes most of that control and pushes a “bigger purpose that stands for more than it sales”. And with a job that includes masterminding the social strategy’s for a host of global brands like Nike and Playstation, Waite is best placed to shine a light on where marketers are going wrong at the moment.

“The business world is still a bit obsessed with the transactional side [of marketing] because what we’re trying to do is buy peoples’ attention,” he added. “It’s not that social doesn’t work, it’s just that people haven’t figured out the value yet.

The observation brings into sharp focus the issue that despite being at the perfect intersection between humanity and technology, many marketers aren’t building their communities with a long-term view. “What we forget is that idea that a social business was originally describing a community that loves itself,” Waite continued.

Another hurdle to building these hubs is dark social; 77 per cent of brands in 2015 say consumer behaviour tied to anything emotional in their lives happens within private messaging apps where brands can’t measure, according to Waite. The concept has been around for some time but the rise of messenger services like WhatsApp and Facebook rebuilding its own Messenger app, signal a bigger problem for brands.

“Marketers haven’t been able to go in a boardroom and attribute the value of social marketing. It’s not the value of a like but how do you put a value on an audience or a community and understanding that just because you can measure everything, it doesn’t mean that you should,” claimed Waite.

The balance between attention and authenticity

Social has always been about authenticity whereas advertising is a means to get peoples attention. Content in the social age “maybe” needs to be a balance between the two “because if you just have authenticity and no attention then you’re probably not going to stand out enough and that won’t earn enough of your earned media for it to be worthwhile,” posed Nathan McDonald, co founder at We Are Social.

He pointed to the agency’s work with Adidas to emphasis how brands are attempting to do just that. The sportswear maker has been running episodic shows for the Champions League, fronted by a young host and with an informal style. Adidas realises the audience is a “shifting ground” said McDonald and what marketers need to do exploit that dynamic is “find the right thread that’s an essential part of the brand and come up with the right strategy”.

“The other thing is to try and be authentic in a shifting ground,” he continued. “What’s authentic today may not be tomorrow or next week so you need to keep tracking it and listening to your audience. That’s the great thing about social media is that you do get that feedback.”

Experiences are the new currency

People want to increasingly show rather than tell when it comes to sharing content online, a shift reflected in the rise of social networks like Instagram alongside the video boom. Some marketers believe this is creating a new currency in their relationship with customers – experiences. While “brand experience” has become a more frequently used marketing term in recent years, the fact that people can do far more with audio visual content while their on the move is changing how many interpret what the experiences are and where they come from.

This type of thinking dovetails with the notion that the advent of social media will spur the democratisation of media and services. Vice president of revenue development and operations at BBC Worldwide Tom Bowman summed it up with the view that “more democracy will make more things valuable to more people because software and chap apps aren’t going to be just for Porsche drivers”.

Star power: The rise of the five star consumers

Content marketing won’t just be about the consumer getting all that they want all the time and brands having to be even more careful about those interactions, according to BBC Worldwide's Tom Bowman. Instead, it’s going to be underpinned by the power of recommendation. It best sums up what the “five star consumer really is”, Bowman continued, which is giving the power of recommendation to both brands and consumers and highlighting the benefits of incentivising the five star rating.

It’s tipped to be one of the key trends of 2016 with brands now flipping the rating dynamic that’s been tipped toward the consumer for years. The likes of eBay, Uber and Airbnb are leveraging peoples’ borderline paranoia of their ratings within their peer-to-peer networks to help convince people to contribute to creating a better experience – whether its getting higher ratings for being a good seller or not being drunk when calling for a nearby cabs.

The Drum Market Insight Report - Personalisation Edition, in association with Tealium is now live. This is the second Drum Market insight report which will help us understand the biggest opportunities and strategies employed for personalisation in marketing. You can see the launch story and survey here but it would be great if you could share this across your networks. /news/2015/11/30/drum-launches-research-personalisation-marketing

Seb Joseph

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