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Future of social

Recently, I attended a BIMA event with an esteemed panel of experts from the social media industry. They openly shared insight and trends outlining their views on the future of social.

I think it’s clear to say that social has evolved significantly but something often forgotten is that there was a time before social media. It just didn’t exist!

Clear trends have seen businesses merely jump on board the social bandwagon with their only justification being “we must be on social”, regardless of whether it is effective or beneficial for their business.

As consumer behaviours changed it was clear that social was –  and still is –  a useful tool.  However, businesses needed to become more approachable through their social activity; they had to combine their business objectives with a human face.

A key theme from this panel discussion was ‘‘meaningful interactions”. A lot of us have been living in the short term, rather than concentrating on the micro-moments. We should be looking to combine quick interactions with the long-haul relationship.

With the recent changes to Facebook’s algorithms (which we discussed in one of our previous posts), we need to be stimulating a conversation and making it meaningful and engaging for the audience. Overt advertising through social engagement is easily spotted and poorly received. Hence why Facebook Live has to be used more to drive conversation.

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So, there is no real new platform or concept lurking in the background to throw a spanner in the works for social. What was resonating and confirmed by all the panellists is that there will be a change of mindset.

Rather than relentless bombardment of social posts, we will revert to what we know social was intended for; ‘conversation’, that again is meaningful. There must be value in the information given and it needs to be utilised long term.

Social has helped brands to be more transparent while allowing them to build communities and be more cooperative with them. Another important factor is dictated by the audiences, they want to see that brands have a conscience, which in turn helps to provide certainty and connections for audiences.

By no means has everyone mastered this concept. More work needs to be done with networks. It’s about consumers being able to read between the headlines. Trust on social networks is at an all-time low. The concept of ‘Fake News’ has led to mistrust, misinformation and multiple mindsets, directly affecting brands and business, even if that could be seen as unfair. Brands are not news outlets after all. This means honesty in tone of voice is paramount.

Additional future concerns that the panel raised included the idea of younger generations taking their first steps on social media platforms. Inevitably, this highlights bigger issues, for example with Facebook the age restriction is 13 years of age but, it is clear to see a high volume of 10-12-year olds with profiles, which is something that has to be regulated. This certainly highlights the fact that that social needs to be better regulated and adhere to its own restrictions. This would help to set out guidelines to help measurement and ROI, as it does seem the industry is constantly changing what we value and how we measure on social.

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To summarise, it’s clear that brands and businesses need to be conscious of the rise in mistrust amongst audience’s barriers and the need for conscious marketing. People have now found their voice and are happy to challenge your party line if they don’t believe what they’re being told. We’re living in a world that needs to future-proof glass houses, meaning what you’re saying inside must reflect externally. The next big banana skin for social is of course GDPR (but, let’s save that for another day).

What I believe will be the future of social….

  • VR- Oculus Connect from Facebook is where Zuckerberg himself sees social going. In the future, people won’t have profile pages, but they will have profile rooms. You pop on a VR headset and visit someone’s carefully designed space with their photos hanging on a wall, posts on a blackboard/message board and the messenger service being replaced by face to face VR chat through the colourful avatars shown in this demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuIgyKLPt3s

  • WhatsApp – or peer-to-peer messaging. As a continuation of the theme of social media becoming ever more fake and stage managed- people effectively put their best foot forward on social channels. They don’t ask silly questions or risk sending out information that may them look foolish or lacking in knowledge. People are having the most meaningful conversations – that are most relevant to brands – on networks like WhatsApp. Twitter has roughly 330 million active users, Facebook has 1.1 billion users (but definitely not all of them active or regular), and 1.5 billion people use WhatsApp every day. It’s no surprise that Facebook bought WhatsApp. The future of social for brands lies in finding meaningful ways to extend the conversation into the “Dark Social”arena and provide honesty and expertise to an audience that is more vulnerable and in search of advice than the old guard of social platforms. Smart organisations are already seeing a way in. Check out this excellent campaign from South America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozFLRwzyO6Q

"I think it’s clear to say that social has evolved significantly but something often forgotten is that there was a time before social media. It just didn’t exist!"

I believe with the expansions from various social platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook VR space, we’re going to be more focused in driving engagement – and more virtual –  controlling the conversation and what you see.

Watch this space!

By Ryan Curtis-Johnson - Head of PR and Marketing