“Don’t get too comfortable” should be written into the job description of anyone who works in social media.
Without question, social media is the fastest-evolving medium that agencies and brands have ever had to accommodate for, and at the break-neck speed at which things shift, change, and evolve, it can be tricky to figure out what “new” thing will make a real impact and what buzzing development will fizzle into the background.
Every little thing feels majorly consequential.
And sometimes it is—though too often marketers busy themselves with the minutiae of platform changes in ways that prevent them from meaningfully evaluating what it means for the medium (or their strategy) as a whole.
Losing the Forrest for the Trees
If the work you put into staying on top of the latest developments or features comes at the expense of losing a meaningful understanding of the platforms as a whole, then what, in the end, does maintaining similar engagement metrics over a few months really do for your brand?
Somehow, Facebook’s announcement—that the platform will throttle organic content from brands and publishers while amplifying “conversation generating” posts from friends and family—seemed to blindside marketers across the industry, even though the writing had been on the wall for years. Perhaps strategists were too deep in the weeds (contemplating 360° video, Canvas Ads, live video, or whatever new trend du jour was making headlines) to meaningfully assess what what they were using the platform for in the first place.
They were chasing fleeting, buzzy clicks instead of building a more substantive and considered approach.
Back to the Basics
Now more than ever, it’s imperative that marketers re-evaluate how they are leveraging social media. Not in a “the algorithm changed again” kind of way, but in a “let’s start from square one” kind of way.
That means thinking bigger than “what is changing?”—instead zeroing in on “why is it changing?” Because when you look past the latest shiny toys social platforms have to offer, you’ll see that heading into 2018, social media is a surprisingly unwelcome landscape for many brands.
Twitter has long been on the decline and is an increasingly difficult place for brands to communicate effectively. Snapchat has been locked in a year-long struggle against Instagram while simultaneously dealing with its own failures, and Facebook is actively fighting branded content’s place in users’ news feeds.
It’s hard to imagine “more, constant, and always” is the best approach to tackling it.
While there isn’t a single scapegoat for these trends, experts in the field increasingly point towards “infobesity” and content fatigue as major (if intangible) factors that are turning folks away from branded content.
In his book The End of Advertising former Droga5 CEO Andre Essex addresses how brands and digital publishers have become part of the problem by creating “a storm … of dubious content” which is “competing to be seen amid a historic amount of clutter.” He continues, outlining a “denominator problem”—the idea that the amount of content one sees in a day is greater than the time one has to consume it all. As a result, people tune out everything and anything that isn’t seen as incredibly interesting or important.
This idea is echoed by Mashable writer Kerry Flynn, who notes that Facebook’s change is aimed at combating “passive consumption,” in which “users scroll mindlessly [through their] News Feed.”
The too-muchness of an always-on content cycle has stripped content of its meaning and value—no matter how many clicks or likes a brand’s daily Facebook posts or tweets may earn.
When you always have something to say, it’s hard for any of it to carry much significance or urgency.
Rather than relying on publishing sustained, always-on content across channels that are either actively fighting brands or that are being shirked by consumers in droves, it is time for marketers to approach content strategies with more focused intentions.
Post less, but with greater purpose. Focus on major events, key activations, and opportunities to grab your audience’s attention, rather than maintaining a droning drumbeat of forgettable noise that can be effortlessly tuned out.
In his big announcement, Zuckerberg envisions social media at the center of meaningful relationships. While most of his manifesto reads more like saccharine than substance, one sentiment rang true:
I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.
Our job as marketers is not to figure out how to work around an increasingly restrictive algorithm. It is to figure out how to make sure the time our users spend engaging with us is valuable.