As Users Contemplate Ditching Social Media, So Too Should Brands Tech| Social

Photo by Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This week, social media moguls like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg testified before Congress to explore whether algorithmic censorship is narrowing the window of opinions allowed on social media platforms.

That’s a deep and crunchy issue, and the answer lies most often in the political persuasions of each individual user. But it is also tethered to a larger conversation about how fulfilled consumers are by their experiences and how effective are at injecting themselves into the conversation.

According to Edison Research’s “The Infinite Dial” report, for the first time, fewer Americans are using than were in the prior year—77% in 2018 versus 80% in 2017. This comes after 12 years of year-over-year growth in the user base. Of this overall decline, Facebook appears to be driving the largest portion. According to the report, usage dropped from 67% to 62%. Facebook abandonment, it follows, is responsible for most abandonment overall.

Much ballyhooed tweaks to Facebook’s infamous algorithm have made promoting or advertising a far murkier proposition for brands, as well. As a rule, it has become more difficult to start organic conversations with the public since these changes. This was once the promise of the platform, but it is becoming increasingly pay-to-play and gatekept, with diminishing returns quarter after quarter. Facebook has responded by requiring brands to instruct followers to jump through more and more hoops.

Other cracks are beginning to show in the world of social. Just 2 years ago, brands were flocking to Snapchat engagement specialists and dumping truckloads of cash into filters. Today, following a poorly received redesign and exodus of , the ghost icon social network has become a virtual ghost town.

Instagram—owned by Facebook—continues to be an ascendant platform where users get a clean and minimalist experience, but part of what makes that experience so aesthetically pleasing from a UX perspective also makes it unapproachable for marketers.

Twitter, social media’s home base for snark and sarcasm, can work for certain brands, depending on their brand voice (see Wendy’s), but by and large has mostly devolved into a useful tool to field complaints about your product or service. This is not to minimize these interactions, as they are important and even offer opportunities to salvage customer relationships or forge new ones. But few brands are targeting Twitter as the home of their next big campaign.

So it comes back to the elephant in the room, the social network so ubiquitous that the movie about it is called The Social Network. For brands, the once unthinkable has become something at least worth considering: Should I delete my Facebook? Is it worth keeping all of these plates spinning if the organic reach is so minuscule? Is there a real ROI?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose erratic social media behavior has been documented before in this blog, did exactly that when he removed Facebook pages of Tesla and SpaceX (each had about 2.6 million followers) in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Other brands that either deleted or suspended their Facebook advertising include Pep Boys, Sonos and Playboy.

This doesn’t mean that brands should return to the costly dark ages of mailers and out-of-home driven marketing. In fact, the same Edison Report from March lays out a future for streaming audio and video content as the dominant reach method. Building social experiences around that content will be the key. This actually gets to the intended spirit behind Facebook’s news feed change this year—that brands should make their content valuable to people.

The irony is that valuable content may beg for platforms that haven’t already seen their best days.

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Photo by Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This week, social media moguls like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg testified before Congress to explore whether algorithmic censorship is narrowing the window of opinions allowed on social media platforms.

That’s a deep and crunchy issue, and the answer lies most often in the political persuasions of each individual user. But it is also tethered to a larger conversation about how fulfilled consumers are by their social media experiences and how effective brands are at injecting themselves into the conversation.

According to Edison Research’s “The Infinite Dial” report, for the first time, fewer Americans are using social media than were in the prior year—77% in 2018 versus 80% in 2017. This comes after 12 years of year-over-year growth in the user base. Of this overall decline, Facebook appears to be driving the largest portion. According to the report, usage dropped from 67% to 62%. Facebook abandonment, it follows, is responsible for most social media abandonment overall.

Much ballyhooed tweaks to Facebook’s infamous algorithm have made promoting or advertising a far murkier proposition for brands, as well. As a rule, it has become more difficult to start organic conversations with the public since these changes. This was once the promise of the platform, but it is becoming increasingly pay-to-play and gatekept, with diminishing returns quarter after quarter. Facebook has responded by requiring brands to instruct followers to jump through more and more hoops.

Other cracks are beginning to show in the world of social. Just 2 years ago, brands were flocking to Snapchat engagement specialists and dumping truckloads of cash into filters. Today, following a poorly received redesign and exodus of users, the ghost icon social network has become a virtual ghost town.

Instagram—owned by Facebook—continues to be an ascendant platform where users get a clean and minimalist experience, but part of what makes that experience so aesthetically pleasing from a UX perspective also makes it unapproachable for marketers.

Twitter, social media’s home base for snark and sarcasm, can work for certain brands, depending on their brand voice (see Wendy’s), but by and large has mostly devolved into a useful tool to field complaints about your product or service. This is not to minimize these interactions, as they are important and even offer opportunities to salvage customer relationships or forge new ones. But few brands are targeting Twitter as the home of their next big campaign.

So it comes back to the elephant in the room, the social network so ubiquitous that the movie about it is called The Social Network. For brands, the once unthinkable has become something at least worth considering: Should I delete my Facebook? Is it worth keeping all of these plates spinning if the organic reach is so minuscule? Is there a real ROI?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose erratic social media behavior has been documented before in this blog, did exactly that when he removed Facebook pages of Tesla and SpaceX (each had about 2.6 million followers) in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Other brands that either deleted or suspended their Facebook advertising include Pep Boys, Sonos and Playboy.

This doesn’t mean that brands should return to the costly dark ages of mailers and out-of-home driven marketing. In fact, the same Edison Report from March lays out a future for streaming audio and video content as the dominant reach method. Building social experiences around that content will be the key. This actually gets to the intended spirit behind Facebook’s news feed change this year—that brands should make their content valuable to people.

The irony is that valuable content may beg for platforms that haven’t already seen their best days.

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