Social Media Marketing World – Comply or Die

There are, inevitably, both pros and cons to reaching maturity at a time when economies around the world were collapsing a few years back, a time when even the assumed recession-proof financial superpowers in the Middle East were billowing smoke signals for help. So let’s take a closer look at the confessions of Marketers in the Social Media Marketing World – Comply or Die. That’s how it is (they say).

Social marketing has, ostensibly, helped many brands bridge the chasm that can separate consumer confidence and corporate promises; it has added value to products and corporations where value was previously lacking. We have learned a lot from the recent financial and economic crisis.

We have seen relatively run-of-the-mill companies, such as Coffee Grounds and Zappos, leverage social media in ways that have transformed their marketing strategies, revitalized their customer service policies and even enhanced their core business models, turning them into local and global superstars.

With the maturation of the social super brands i.e. Facebook and Twitter, etc, there is an inevitability that this is due to the aging and maturing taste of the consumer. The recent explosion of social media and the seemingly endless list of ‘innovative’ social platforms has been well documented, one only needs to go as far as the Conversation Prism and the changes made on a weekly basis to Brian Solis’s work of art gasp at the accelerated pace of evolution.

However, this torrent of social network offerings has recently begun to slow, with the projected plateau being reached in early 2019. It seems that consumers’ digital taste buds are beginning to have satisfied their curiosity for all things social and have settled on fewer platforms. Yet the time spent on these, fewer, sites has increased dramatically i.e. the average user visits 5 main sites each day with Facebook holding the longest engagement statistics with people spending on average of 85 minutes each day on the site.

So, what does this change in social media consumption mean to marketers? Perceived value is still determined by consumers in competitive markets. Is the growth of Facebook and Twitter the motive for the increase in digital advertising spends? It is, surely, one of the reasons. But one only has to watch an “Awesome Social Media Guru” parody to understand the clichés that have begun to attach themselves to this segment of the industry. Has the work of Facebook, conveniently segregating consumer interests and psychographics, made marketers lazy? Some, of course. However, for social marketing strategists who aim to create memorable and lasting experiences these social superpowers have created a small problem. The key element remains that, of course, the content must be good at all times.

The growth and influence of Facebook, in particular, has seen the platform take on the role of teacher, entertainer, retailer, communicator, organizer and, in some cases, employer. Users might now struggle to find a reason to leave this space. The age-old casino trick of offering players free sandwiches and beverages has the audience in a very favorable position. Parallels can be drawn with the introduction of supermarkets in the U.S.: for the consumer, it’s convenient, for the independent retailer a nightmare.

There is a divide in opinion about the growth of social media and the power of the new Tesco’s of the web. There are those who think it’s a quick win, a holy grail in the form of a strategy that can now satisfy client needs for ROI figures; and there are those who believe it stems creativity and that its popularity has made it a beacon to naive clients and lazy marketers, ultimately devaluing it.

I am drawn between both. I agree that the platform is great in that it offers a space for brands to listen and create relationships, but on the other hand, I feel that the consumer has been spoiled. They want to have their cake and eat it (this includes myself to an extent) at a time that suits them and in a space of their choice. And that is Facebook. So making money online is still possible but it is more and more challenging.

So, sure this creates a conundrum when the brief comes in, for the weaker of the marketers, the ‘Awesome Social Media Gurus’ and the like, simply creating a plan centralizing around a Facebook strategy that a nodding client can sign-off, regardless of the lack of innovation and creativity required, is a good days work (shudder). For the stronger agencies, creating digital spaces the client can own, that bear roots from a creative idea is the real challenge. To create ideas that are not restricted in offering value to the consumer but current and potential business and customer service models is even more so. This way, we keep on learning more and more about how it all should be done.

The future is looking bright, however. Facebook seems to have become conscious of the changes in quality to the user experience and new legal requirements and this can be seen in stringent regulations now in place for marketers to adhere to. For the main part, innovative, engaging campaigns that offer real value i.e. Virgin ‘Frienemies’, Audi crowdsourcing for the future, etc., the crux of these ideas will remain unaffected.

The changes include banning of pushed notifications, pushed ‘share’ boxes and the removal of Facebook ‘boxes’ from the user control panel, among others. Although the seeding for these ideas may now alter slightly, the ideas at their heart are the true drivers of their success, not the blanketing of messaging across the target market, praying that the low click-through-rates (0.3 on a good day) will come good. And the result?

The more generic/traditional/disappointing advertising approaches used by the idle industry advertisers, those that result in merely seeding Facebook contextual ads, spamming news streams whilst begging you to ‘share’ boring content and so on, is to be abolished in the new year.

It can be assumed (dangerous but tempting) that Facebook has finally monopolized this segment of social networks, similar to YouTube, and can now strip back the growing clutter to concentrate on purer consumer experience. This is certainly not a case of leaving us marketers outside in the cold, salivating at the abundance of consumer insights and information of yesteryear, but now throws down the gauntlet to advertisers who relish the Darwinian challenge that only the deserving, most innovative ideas will prevail on this evolving landscape.

So, it seems that while the monoliths may be growing in stature, signaled by the lack of threat from new entrants, with power comes responsibility. With the reforming of rules within Facebook advertising, ethics and value for the customer remain integral to the new plan; and it is a change welcomed by those ready for the challenge in the new year….so only the strong need apply.