Image source: Twenty20.com
For digital marketers, the world of social media has been shrinking for some time now. Yes, you read that right. Brand strategies revolving around thrusting users into call-to-action modes may soon become history. And, if this statement didn’t hit you hard, just read on to find out what all has changed while we merrily followed decade-old practices borrowed from overseas.
First things first though. Facebook made a major algorithm change in 2018 whereby users would see more posts from friends and family and less from brands. So, brands pushing users to like or comment and share posts stand devalued and out goes a much-misused engagement bait that probably promised more and delivered less anyways.
What’s Changed Though?
According to social media examiner, 65% of marketers say their organic marketing is declining. Add to that, user trust on brands worldover is declining too. Surprisingly, India is one of the few countries that still trust brands. The reasons thereof would make for a separate post, though for now suffice to say that we’re a country that learns from WhatsApp University!
Similarly, paid marketing on social media too doesn’t look good. There are 7 million advertisers on Facebook, which works on a bidding system (so does Google) where brands put a price on a limited ad slot. And when supply is limited and demand grows, costs skyrocket, thus making it harder to use paid advertising on social media for lead generation.
Of course, there is also the fact that social media platforms do not take responsibility for any of the campaign’s performance. For them it is heads I win, tails you lose. Marketers spend money on channels where everything is about trying to grab user attention, leading to campaigns often performing below expectations.
And, What Really Works?
For starters, take a look at the list of top apps that were downloaded in June 2020. A closer look at this list is quite revealing as several of them are video applications, be it for creating them, for watching stuff or merely for communicating. In fact, online videos account for three-fourths of all data traffic in india. Video is the new normal for connected indians.
In an earlier post, I had brought out how social media had shifted from being a communications platform to an entertainment destination. The rise of TikTok can be attributed solely to the fact that it’s algorithm prioritises entertaining content and not so much based on who shared it. In other words, it is agnostic to a user’s network and in that sense it competes with Facebook and Instagram as a social platform while taking on YouTube and OTTs as an entertainment podium.
And, this could just be the pivot that marketers are looking for.
Forget about high quality ads. People are looking for information and entertainment on their mobile screens. Brands need to be authentic. They need to be one of the users. Features like Stories (now also Reels) and Live Webcast have allowed us to instantly produce and broadcast videos. Imagine doing the same, just 10 years back.
When we know the stories behind brands, we talk more about them. Think about how Disney creates stories around their original content. Whether it’s the rides at Disneyland or the games, books, radio adaptations etc.
Here’s a good read on how George Lucas seduced an entire generation of kids through content marketing. In India, think about Anurag Kashyap or Anand Mahindra. Fans love them just for showing up and letting their customers see them. The promotion for their next product is half done just by talking to their fans directly because that’s how trust is gained.
As opposed to this easy approach, most Indian CXOs are afraid of being on video. Maybe, they see the big guns such as Sundar Pichai, Elon Musk or Tim Cook confidently engaging from centre stage and look up to them. The need for perfection stymies their efforts and this is where I think that the truth is far simpler. Do not overthink. Just show up!
Why? Because You Get Preference
Social media now gives preference to entertaining content and not followers as much. This is a boon for marketers who just need to welcome the new normal. Forget about the time that you gained millions of followers on Facebook. Why? Because hardly many consumed your content. It’s important to learn new techniques and formats to tell entertaining stories around a brand.
And in case you want to game the algorithm, here are a few quick pointers:
- Social media platforms want their users to stay longer. So, if you create content that is entertaining and follows the current storytelling trends, the platforms will themselves promote you.
- Platforms prioritise their new features. Be quick to use and adapt them for organic boost.
- Put money behind where your quality content is and watch it outperform
And, this brings us to a moot question. How does one tell entertaining stories? Well, that’s the subject of another post. For now, remember that it’s a must — especially for small and medium businesses — to start telling their brand stories via video.
And a good way is to start small but start now.