Today is Social Media Day, a global awareness day that recognises the impact that social media has had on communication around the world and the digital landscape overall.
During lockdown, social media users grew at the fastest rate in three years to 4.20 billion. In response to this very strange time, communities, brands and social media platforms were forced to adapt to a wealth of new content and features, reassess their content and engagement strategies and rethink their creative initiatives.
As a result of this digital reaction, our relationship with social media has undergone prominent transformation. So, in celebration of this Social Media Day, we look at how audiences navigate this new social media landscape and how brands can adapt to the new normal.
It’s all about the simple life
If the global pandemic taught us one lesson, it’s that the simple things and pleasures in life are often the best. During the last year or so, we have all had the time to re-evaluate the things that are most important to us. This notion of ‘simple pleasures in life’ has translated into our actions in the digital space.
Lately, we’ve been seeing a shift in the type of content being shared on each platform, with more people using social media to connect with global communities of like-minded others (by posting content that showcases their newfound hobbies and passions). From the Cottagecore movement and banana bread baking, to the TikTok gardening craze, social media users are moving away from individualistic content and using social media platforms to reconnect with their core values.
We have seen more and more platforms meeting people’s needs for smaller and more intimate connections, with the likes of private Facebook groups and Instagram’s option to only share stories with users listed as close friends. We have also seen a change in the way that people engage with their feeds, shifting away from public feeds to more intimate spaces like closed groups, to seek that community connection and support.
Tip 1: recognise the importance of simple things
Brands should celebrate the simple pleasures in life, not just the big things. Include daily behind-the-scenes content that’s more relatable and authentic. Find out what your audiences are passionate about, what drives them and what matters to them. Then celebrate it together, with them, and, in doing so, build stronger brand loyalty.
Tip 2: humanise your digital interactions
Audiences are seeking more intimate connections, so it’s a good idea to rethink your engagement strategies and learn how to connect on a smaller scale. Aim to facilitate intimate discussions and interactions through private groups and humanised customer service, to provide the feeling of community support.
Create, don't just consume
Community building and interaction has always played a prominent role in the social media landscape. However, with social media platforms and tools evolving and encouraging collaboration, the process of content creation has become more communal than ever.
Spearheaded by Generation Z who see collaboration as one of the cornerstones for self-expression and creativity, we’re seeing audiences engaging with more collaborative forms of content creation. That’s why it’s crucial to give your audiences the tools they need to be content creators, and invite them to become part of your brand narrative and consumer journey.
TikTok gives its users the option to take video content posted by other people and use it to create new, fresh content. This is at the heart of this idea of communal collaboration online. Even Twitter, a highly individualistic platform, has launched Co-Fleets, a feature that allows its users to collaborate on public streams.
Tip 1: don’t be a gatekeeper, foster creativity
Discover ways to facilitate creativity within your audiences. Give them the tools and guidance for content creation. Instagram’s Guides feature is great for this, as it lets you publish ‘how to’ guides and encourage content sharing and creation.
Tip 2: don’t underestimate the power of community management
Learn how to use the conversations that are happening on your social channels. Engage in discussions and conversations with your audience. Use your post comments to inspire new content pieces and facilitate more collaborations.
Giveaways that encourage entrants to share what they like about your brand can potentially be turned into great testimonial or review content. Asking open-ended questions encourages conversation which, in turn, drives engagement.
Beyond simply asking people to share their thoughts on you as a brand, you can also capture their interest with questions about relevant or trending topics (as long as it feels relevant and appropriate to do so). Well-known drinks brand, innocent, does this particularly well, by live-tweeting major events like Eurovision. By involving themselves in the big conversations that people are already having on social media, they see their engagement levels go through the roof.
There’s also huge opportunity for brands to build relationships with each other on social media. When Weetabix tweeted a photo of their cereal covered in Heinz baked beans earlier this year, it sparked a flurry of hilarious tweets from a whole host of other big brands. It goes to show that having a bit of fun and taking chances on social media can pay off!
Tools are evolving
Many platforms have introduced new features and changed their roles to adapt to ever-changing audience needs. With emerging platforms like Clubhouse, and features like LinkedIn voice notes, Instagram Reels and live-stream shopping, the way audiences interact with brands on social media has evolved so much.
From live content, to audio and text-based communication, brands need to rethink how to use each platform (and their various formats) in their consumer journey. For instance, we have seen Instagram’s role start to change as a result of a shift towards text-based communication on the platform. This comes in the form of slideshows that share educational and informative content around social issues, aka “PowerPoint Activism”.
Tip 1: work smarter not harder
It’s always good to try out new things and experiment, especially when it comes to social media content, but do it wisely. The culture of any social media platform is shaped by its community. In this landscape, brands need to reassess their use of each channel and its features, and look at how it fits and benefits their consumer journey and overall engagement.