Sophia Kenvold is head of social at TBWA/Raad
Social media is not a box to be ticked, a department to be manned or even a campaign to be launched. It’s about thinking differently about marketing, customer service and the entire company.
Unfortunately many don’t see it that way, which is why the networks have become a junkyard for poor content and creativity. But don’t we owe it to ourselves, our industry and the brands we promise to strengthen to change that?
Social media should be viewed as a gift to brands that are looking to forge deeper and more meaningful connections with their target audiences.
Although social media was not created to help brands sell their goods or services, networks such as Facebook, YouTube and SnapChat have become well versed in linking commercial interests with the original purpose of social media: connecting people.
However, as we commercially led marketers celebrate additional revenue streams, it’s quite worrying to see how the general level of creativity has been declining. It is as though it is not acknowledged as a proper communication channel.
Now, with the demand for more video content to break through the clutter, the level of creativity and quality has hit a level where we as an industry should be ashamed of ourselves. While social media marketing can transform the way in which you connect with customers when used strategically, incorrect use can be detrimental to your business. A poor caption or a dull image is more likely to be forgotten than poorly executed videos that can create chatter, get shared and generate negative brand sentiment.
To turn this around and raise our creativity we need to understand why social media has become a junkyard for poor content and creative executions.
Social media: earned or paid?
The notion that social media is free and is “earned” media rather than “paid” – which it to a larger extend has become – is partly the reason for its devaluation as a respected communication platform. As services, yes, many social networks are free to join. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t cost anything. They are still a resource investment. They also require a considerable amount of expertise to be used effectively. This notion has had a major effect on brands’ willingness to invest in good creative work, which in turn has become highly visible when video content is produced without any form of distribution.
It’s easy – let’s shoot it with an iPhone
A common misconception is that good content on social media is always “handheld”, produced with an iPhone and therefore more trustworthy and in line with the platform where it appears. And the dream of seeing content “go viral” is still alive and part of brands’ briefs and requirements. This is like wishing to win the lottery.
Social media might look easy to master because everyone, including your 10-year-old daughter, seems to be on it. Where it might seem simple, effective social media marketing is actually an art form. Producing random content does not equal quality on social media, and your audiences expect high-quality content, tailored to their moods and needs, before they will spend three seconds on your video and brand message.
The 24/7 epidemic
It’s become normal to constantly be present on social media – if we don’t post several times a week we are no longer relevant to our audiences.
But posting 20 times a week isn’t likely to impress your audience. This might actually become annoying and tiresome, and the demand for more video content means budgets are squeezed and quality is low. The amount of noise on social media is already tremendous, with more than 5,000 advertising messages sent to us each day. So focus on quality rather than quantity.
Too many juniors
A lot of brands have bought into agencies’ safeguarding and community management retainers. To them this is ticking the box of social media on the marketing plan.
Others have hired community managers in-house to take on the job of creating content. However the challenge here is that often these positions are filled by juniors. But while marketing and communications degrees are great for communicating and engaging with audiences, they are less relevant when high quality content is to be developed, when video is part of the content mix. This requires specific skillsets; when you try to develop such content without them, you are bound to fail.
Until we change our habits and organisational structures and get rid of all the misconceptions, social media will remain a junkyard for poor content and creativity.
As an industry we should look inwards and make a conscious decision about whether the level of creativity in our current output should be the benchmark for all future communication online.
Social media is not a curse; it’s a gift. We are given direct access to our customers’ most personal platforms, and our current way of thanking them is at best to provide them with irrelevant content, and at worst to devalue the brands we have promised to elevate. So let’s start treating social media with the respect it deserves.