Stagnant social: Have brands taken the fun out of social media?


By Steve Cater, communications partner

October 11, 2013 | 5 min read

Social media was supposed to be the exciting one. The new marketing frontier with no boundaries, no rules, immense opportunity and scary repercussions if you got it wrong. How times have changed. For brands it’s become the norm.

Why are they playing safe, playing by the rules and sticking to a one answer fits all solution? Why are brands not keeping to the core idea of social media?

Ask a handful of marketing directors to give an overview of why they use social media, and you’ll likely get very similar, tired in my opinion, responses. What’s your social media strategy? 'We want to engage with our customers on a daily basis to entertain, build our brand and create meaningful real time conversations that ultimately drive wider awareness of our product and service; make existing customers more loyal; and get them spending more money.'

That’s a lot to do in 140 characters.

Brands continue to see social media in a traditional sense - media. Social networks are seen as media channels: whereby brands first assess the platform based on how many of their key target audience spend time on that channel, then assess how they can use that channel to communicate to the audience.

Let’s look at it a different way… rather than thinking channel first, think user first. Let’s think that the user owns the channel, for without the user the channel would be nothing.

When we start thinking about things from a user's point of view, we should start asking ourselves questions like: does the user really want to see an advert for a brand that they’ve never heard of before in their newsfeed? If the user is half way through their 24-month contract, do they really want to see a video about the latest Android phone? Does the user care that their old classmate likes a drinks brand's latest post about kittens? What are the long-term effects of annoying people, everyday?

It’s clear to see that the last 12 months, in particular, have seen UK customers attacked with messages that (let’s be honest) they simply don’t want. It’s no coincidence then that last month Facebook shares hit their highest price since May 2012 and Twitter lifted the curtain on its plans to go public, joining the IPO club. That’s all well and good, but change is afoot, and it’s been a long time coming.

Mainstream social networks are aging. That’s not just because mainstream social networks have been pillaged by advertisers but also because what was once a very fun and personal space is being questioned by many users, especially those in their younger years. AP tech writer Barbara Ortutay puts it best:

“…as they wade through endless posts, photos "liked" by people they barely know and spur-of-the moment friend requests. Has it all become too much of a chore? Are the important life events of your closest loved ones drowning in a sea of banana slicer jokes?”

Once personal streams from friends, family, colleagues and those who interested us has become boring. Users are getting bored. Bored of the mainstream experience. Bored of being sold to. Bored of the paradigm that is popular social.

So what? So do something different. Break the mould. Be innovative. Innovate with the platforms you use, the message that you want to say and how you say it. Make it fun again, BUT, fun with a purpose. Your customers will appreciate it. Your message will cut through.

Facebook is not the answer to the challenge that your business faces.

Engagement is not a strategy.

A great tone of voice won’t sell your products.

Innovation, originality, differentiation and passion will.

Think about the long term, in line with David Ogilvy’s famous belief that every single thing should be an investment in the long-term reputation of the brand. It’s not about the quick wins. Otherwise, your brand becomes another number. One that’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. A brand that is bombarding customers, not with content that gets attention, but with content that is broadcasted into the screens of everyone who just wants to use their thumb to scroll to something meaningful.

It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s an exciting time. A time when there is a real opportunity to be different when everyone else joins the flock. Let’s not forget why social media is amazing… it’s the opportunity to get everybody speaking about your brand through word of mouth. BUT, to do that you need to have a clear insight, a focused strategy and (most importantly) a killer idea.

Steve Cater is head of digital at whynot!


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +