Current State Of Social Media
As I write this it seems that all is not right in the social media world. Facebook has recently lost 20% of its shares, worth almost €103 billion. Twitter, not to be outdone, lost 27% of its share value over two days. SnapChat is also struggling to regain its share value after a dodgy redesign. Now I realise those of you who are reading this are most likely not market investors and care little of the trials and tribulations of big businesses on Wall Street.
The reason I am telling you this is because it is the symptom of the loss of users and the market’s uncertainty over the popularity and direction of social media. Markets and users do have reasons to worry. There is a rise in the dark side of social media. Bullying, depression, fake news, analytics and hyper-targeted posts have all contributed to souring many people’s opinions on it.
These problems do exist and I’m not going to deny that. What I aim to do in this blog is to steer you away from the darkness and into the light. My advice is intended for both personal and business social media use. I’ll guide you in actionable steps what you or your business can use to regain the magic of social media and build relationships with an engaged community.
Where’s the magic gone?
The rise of social media has been well documented, and in today’s society, it is now omnipresent. Its prevalence has undoubtedly been an extremely useful tool for people to connect with one another, and for brands to connect with their consumers. However, some of that early magic has been lost. There has been a prevailing jaded attitude towards social media platforms. A quick glance on Google or YouTube and you will see articles and videos outlining the various gloomy opinions on why social media is bad for you and why should you quit.
Businesses and individuals alike have misused the power of this wonderful tool. I’ve seen businesses who treat their platforms as a box-ticking exercise. They post what they have to say and then walk away expecting huge engagement and sales as a result as if it’s some kind of ‘get rich quick scheme.’ Social media is not the issue here. It is just another way for people to communicate with each other. Something which we’ve been doing for thousands of years. The problem lies with us, or at least most people’s misunderstandings of what this powerful tool is capable of doing.
How to reignite the magic?
Social media, for the time being, is going nowhere. Instagram recently reached 1 billion users. Despite Twitter taking a beating on the stock market it also published revenue growth of 24%. Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram so you know they’ll be alright for the next while. So what does this mean for you and your business and how can you bring that spark of magic back to social media? There’s no shortcut answer to this question. It will take time and effort and a change in how you view social media. Below I’ve listed 4 changes you can actively start integrating into how you use social media.
- Build a community, not an audience.
Social Media platforms are currently viewed as only an economy of attention, and many companies and people have fallen into the trap of quantity over quality, turning social media into a numbers game. This leads to brands dominating their consumers by churning out posts and ignoring comments and responses. This is not how a healthy relationship works. Over time this will lead to fewer engagements as your community is turned off your brand. A good relationship involves giving and taking. Make responding to your community part of your strategy and schedule time to respond. You need to change the way you see yourself within the community. You are not their overlord. You are a facilitator. Your role is to create engagement around content that interests your community and to guide their interactions.
- Get to know your community.
Companies spend massive amounts of time and money trying to understand their consumer. Social media provides a great way to understand yours. Live stream where possible and engage with the comments. Use polls, like the Twitter poll, to gain a better understanding of their needs or reactions. Ask permission and share user-generated content as much as possible. Don’t get much? Actively ask your community to submit, you could be amazed by the response.
- Be You.
Companies, like people, have become addicted to chasing likes and following what other big brands are allegedly doing. Companies and people are of different backgrounds. You are not them. Learn from what other big brands are doing but be true to you and your brand. The story behind the things are interesting not just the things themselves. If your content is truly meaningful to your brand, people will be interested in it. This is a very important point, especially for teens and young adults.
For example, they can fall prey to the false narrative presented by Influencers that they have the perfect life and body. More than half of 18-34 year olds in a ComRes survey feel that reality TV and social media have a negative effect on how they see their bodies. You reading this, you can help change this. Be who you are through your social media. It is an extension of yourself. Represent yourself in an honest way that people can truly connect with. This will not only be a reward in itself, but you will find that that positive engagement will grow around your activity. Show others the way.
- Be Curious
Be curious and find out what’s happening in you or your brand’s area of expertise. Find topics, conversations, articles, videos etc that you can engage in. Avoid content that is constantly aimed at selling. Provide value to your followers and you will become a trusted and valuable resource, strengthening your bond and connection. Buzzsumo is an example of a tool you could use to find topics of interest to your brand. By actively seeking out areas of interest for you it is a great way of diversifying your feed. With more areas you actively engage in, the more types of media you can share/create and the more creative you’ll become.
While ads and advanced targeting are useful for gaining exposure to your targeted consumer, the social aspect, when used correctly, of social media can be a magical tool to maintain the most important relationship that you or your brand has, its consumers, and can also help cultivate new relationships going forward. For individuals, social media is a way for people to communicate across the world. Friendships and relationships can be maintained from long distances. People of similar interests can form groups or communities where they can share ideas, tips, feedback and support to one another.
Armed with these actionable steps:
- Build a community, not an audience
- Get to know your community
- Be you
- Be Curious
You can start to change the tide of negativity around social media. You can help be a positive influence on the faith of social media.