Everywhere you turn, there’s new advice about what to do on social — and a lot of it’s contradictory. “Post exclusively on Twitter!” “Abandon Twitter!” “Share at least 10 times per day!” “Stop overwhelming your visitors!”
After enough of these recommendations — some of which just don’t pan out — many marketers opt to stop listening. But this carries a second risk: falling behind the curve and allowing competitors to get a leg up. Whether you’re running advertising for a big-name brand or managing your own career as a microinfluencer, the possibility of being seen as out of touch is too big a risk to take.
Instead, it’s important to evaluate social trends with a critical eye. Determining what’s valid for your brand, as well as where sea changes are happening, will allow you to make choices that line up with the image you want to convey.
Here are a few to turn your critical eye toward:
- Be selective about the platforms you use. While YouTube usurped Facebook’s title as the most popular social media platform in the U.S., that doesn’t mean it’s the right outlet for every brand. If a company doesn’t record a lot of videos, it’s unlikely that a sudden shift to video production will result in an automatic increase in viewers. Each type of production takes time to get right, and it’s best to keep honing your skills where you excel while you experiment with new platforms (not buy into them wholesale).
And the platforms you use need to line up with the audience you seek. Snapchat, for example, was lauded for its success in connecting with younger social users. After reaching what some called “peak social,” however, Snapchat’s stock dropped multiple times this year after a redesign and the platform’s first user decline. Many point out that part of Snapchat’s problem is that it appeals to an audience base that doesn’t have as much disposable income yet, which will inhibit its reach in terms of revenue (at least until they come of age).
- Social needs to become a big part of your event strategy. If you host events — whether it’s something as big as a festival or as small as a pop-up shop — social should be a key part of your marketing. In the past, experiential marketing was often treated as a focus on the event itself: filling seats, preparing for presentations or performances, handing out swag. While those remain essential components, it’s now clear that filling seats and providing content happens before, during, and after the event.
Social platforms offer opportunities to whet consumers’ appetite, showing them what to expect. Building that buzz can extend to the consumers themselves. Surkus is one data-driven platform that uses the information it’s gathered to match its members and its client brands, ensuring the people who attend the events are predisposed to engage with the artist or brand in question. Surkus then incentivizes members who’ve earned opportunities to attend events by asking them to do things like post on social media. It’s a win-win social media play.
- Be careful with the data in your hands. If the Cambridge Analytica situation taught us anything, it’s that consumer information needs to be as treated as carefully as any other data we wouldn’t want competitors to get ahold of. Social platforms inadvertently create forums for people to steal users’ data. “Social media sites generate revenue with targeted advertising, based on personal information. As such, they encourage registered users to provide as much information as possible,” Entrepreneur Organization Portland’s Kent Lewis explains. “With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives…users are exposed to identity theft and fraud.”
To build trust with your audience, make it clear what you will — and won’t — use their data for. Think through what you actually need to know as well. A lot of third-party data won’t give you what you need, so you may be better off directly asking consumers about their motivations and needs. Declared data — “first-party data that has been willingly and explicitly shared by an individual consumer, often about their motivations, intentions, interests, and preferences,” according to declared data brand Jebbit — is both “opted-in” and more accurate.
- Skew positive. If there was one thing voters agreed on after the 2016 election, it was that media coverage of the race was overwhelming. Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy studied the media’s coverage of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and determined that each candidate received press that was “overwhelmingly negative in tone and extremely light on policy.” But that’s not the only place where coverage is skewing negative: tragic news reports, shocking stats, and threatening headlines fill newspapers and cable news.
To counteract the harmful impact on consumers’ mental health, resolve to be a bearer of good news. The positive association with your brand will not only be a boon to business, but it will also keep visitors coming back. Highlight the benefits of different products, changes, or services. Give credit to great content others have posted, and then build on it. Sarcastic comebacks have served Wendy’s and White Castle well, but positivity has to underpin the effort to make it lasting.
- Vary up your approach — but watch your tone. Just like platforms, not every approach is cut out for every user. While Twitter may not be your bread and butter, you’d surely attract visitors there that you wouldn’t draw in via Facebook. Experiment with different types of messaging on each platform: You want to attract people on their most engaging platform so you can transition to the highest-quality interactions.
That’s important, explains Sapper Consulting’s Jeff Winters, because an integrated approach gets the most attention. In discussing people’s desire to have a cold calling template, Winters pointed out that tone plays a big role — and it applies to social, too. “You have to approach it like someone who writes movies or TV shows or does improv — an entertainer perspective will win a lot more responses than a business perspective,” he says. “Entertainment writing — and comedy writing, in particular, is about aggressive specificity: People don’t laugh at vague jokes they don’t get.”
Not every social media trend is worth your attention, but by taking these five into account, you can figure out what will work for your brand. Being out of touch is bad — but so is failing to capitalize on your strengths.