Social media’s teenage crisis

Philip Mattei, Strategy Director from Tribal Worldwide London’s Creative Practice, talks about what impact a series of prominent scandals have had on the social media industry, and how brands can best utilise Social for their brand experience.

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Fun fact: Social recently turned 15. Not-so-fun fact: Like any teenager, it would seem we’re now caught up in those infamous problem years.

When the seemingly never-ending growth spurt finally slowed down late in 2017, we all thought the ride was finally over. By all accounts, it seemed the plaything of the millennial hive-mind would ultimately be a victim of its fleeting attentions and desires.

"Kylie Jenner’s “Does anyone use snap chat anymore?” tweet wiped $1.3 billion off its stock value."

We all rushed to predict its fall, critique its uselessness, blame its frivolity.

Twitter is dead. Facebook is doomed. RIP Snapchat. Has Social Media finally reached its critical mass? Was it all just a fad?

What happened?

Not much, and that’s part of the problem. Social platforms never changed much while a hell of a lot was happening on the real world. We all kept playing the game, connecting with friends and ‘giving Snapchat a go’, all the while building a bubble around us. A community of like-minded people effectively creating a mini echo-chamber of reassuring news and opinions.

Trump popped that bubble. Brexit made sure it was gone forever. ‘Metoo’ showed us that perhaps it was for the best.

The marketing community was one of the first feel the effects of these changes, with YouTube facing serious challenges in guaranteeing brand safety (you may remember Logan Paul’s infamous suicide forest video) and Facebook increasingly under-fire for their inconsistent measurement, viewability and attribution frameworks. It quickly became clear that something had changed.

The result has been a rapid escalation; the likes of P&G steadfastly demanding accountability and transparency from platforms and Unilever threatening to pull funds from those social channels that “breed division” (AdWeek). For consumers, reality hit even harder. We’ve now all been made painfully aware of the amount of personal data and social engineering that is potentially hiding behind every single item — including ads — which we see on our newsfeeds.

Facebook was arguably instrumental in both the U.S. elections and the Brexit campaign, with firms such as Cambridge Analytica able to efficiently abuse the surreal amounts of personal information available to influence opinions and sway votes.

Fundamental institutions such as the free press are now being scrutinised and questioned. 33% of people across 36 countries now say they don’t trust the news and 57% of adults in the U.S. believe Social Media is harmful to both democracy and free speech. (Axios)

We used to think that guy with sellotape over his webcam was a bit paranoid; turns out he was onto something.

With all this incredible tracking and targeting technology being weaponised, Adland’s greatest technological leap in decades has become an ethical mine field. As a result, consumers are now increasingly suspicious of both social media and big tech companies — and as a consequence of brands that operate in that space.

So much opportunity, but seemingly overwhelming risks.

How do brands stand a chance?

With great power, comes great responsibility

Social platforms have arguably failed to recognise the scale and impact of what they have created, and perhaps more importantly have failed to understand how real people where using their platforms on a daily basis. Trump re-invigorated Twitter stock prices thanks to his bombastic and unhinged tweet-storms, meanwhile Social was becoming a noxious battleground of ideological factions.

And it’s not just Twitter. Some reports say that as many as 50% of UK girls are bullied on social media, and some polls have even shown a direct links between use of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter and increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

When Alex Jones’ Infowars came under scrutiny for its unethical reporting and spreading of fake news, Twitter and Facebook finally agreed to step in, in an unprecedented ‘Moderation’ effort. For some an act of civil duty, for others a clear expression of political bias — even censorship. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, the clear outcome is that platforms will no longer be allowed to be bystanders while their technology shapes the world we live in.

Far from being doomed, they have in fact finally realised that they can no longer consider themselves merely responsible for the digital pipework that connects us.

So, while lawmakers around the world try and wrestle with possible legislative scenarios (the UK Government is considering classifying Facebook and Google as publishers), Mark Zuckerberg himself has gone on record stating that even he thinks that Facebook might need some form as regulation.

(Meanwhile, however, Instagram’s founders have stepped away from the company and Sheryl Sandberg is under fire for her alleged abuse of the platform: rare signs of unease coming from within Menlo Park) This means the space brands now navigate on social media is one where they can no longer be blind to the social contract between platforms and individuals, one that needs to be rooted in trust.

"IBM recently published a survey in which a younger “Gen-Z” audience admitted to being comfortable sharing personal information with brands, providing they could trust how it was being stored and handled."

Social is no longer exists in a vacuum, it’s now where the world happens; brands and organizations will be expected to act like it.

Making social part of your Total Experience

Understand Consumers

Audience insights, campaign monitoring, product & category insights, crisis management and competitor tracking are just a few of the fundamental areas that a brand should consider as pillars on which to build their social strategy.

Gathering this data requires the right tools but knowing where and what to look for is often the bigger challenge, one that requires both a scientific approach and a fresh perspective.

Social Listening for example has become a bit of a buzzword, but despite the proliferation of easy-to-use tools it has remained an incredibly hard to master discipline. When applied correctly, it can help understand the current state of a brand, the impact of any activity it undertakes and last but not least spot opportunities and areas of growth as they develop.

Establish the Role of Social for your Business

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, ’Social’ is a deceivingly vague term. Brand building, direct response, content marketing, influencer marketing, customer care, social commerce, internal comms, paid, organic, channel strategy and talent acquisition; these are just a few of the things we could label as Social.

It’s hard to identify success if we don’t know what it looks like, that’s why understanding which of these is a part of a brand’s social strategy — and how each of them should be measured — is a fundamental step that is often overlooked.

It’s surprising how many businesses still consider Social a dumping ground for content.

Create a Brand Playbook

Customers don’t want to just buy a great product or service. They want the entire brand experience to be something that is frictionless and enjoyable.  89% of customers switch brands because of bad experiences, but exceptional customer experiences can lead to brand loyalty (Oracle).

"Since doubling down on their digital and social consumer journeys, KLM have attributed more than $25M revenue to social media." - eConsultancy

At the heart of the consumer journey lie the products, services and customer care that a brand offers. But everything else that elevates and distinguishes a brand — that gels everything together — should be contained in one simple, accessible and easy-to-reference brand playbook.

Tone of voice, Content Strategy, Creative guidelines; these are just a few of the elements that should be contained within a well-crafted Social Playbook. The merits of having all of these things in one cohesive package are self explanatory, but another of the features we mentioned is accessibility. What use is the best Brand Playbook in the business if no one ever uses it? We often hear brand managers reference their Tone of Voice as some sort of sacred codex that no one has ever seen; locked away in a vault somewhere and only to be referenced in passing and with reverence.

Brands should look to not only create well designed and cohesive social brand play-books, but to also make them exquisitely crafted, designed and easy to use & reference. From traditional and handy analogue (i.e. printed) form to digital presentation, easily distributable PDFs or even as a self contained and delightful mobile apps.

Tribal Worldwide

We are the Total Experience Agency. We build experience ecosystems that build better businesses.