Bad news tends to grab attention. That's why we don't see enough good news covered in the world today.
Trends related to AI and rapid change create plenty of doom and gloom themes. And content creators seem to be sharing their own doomsday proclamations.
The most recent example comes from a Hubspot article that wants us to consider if social media might be dying.
That's right. Dying.
Not changing... Not evolving...
Is that the right word? Or is it the best word to grab attention?
If social media is dying, what does that mean for marketers?
Let's take a closer look at the "symptoms" of the potentially deadly situation.
It's a Reaction Based on Research From GWI
GWI is an excellent resource for insights and trends, and they conducted some research in 2022 on how much time people spend on social media.
It showed a global decline in the average daily time spent on social media, resulting in reduced organic reach for brands and creators. According to GWI, the majority of people use social media for:
Connecting with friends and family (54%)
Staying updated on news (27%)
So, should brands worry about consumers doing these things instead of paying attention to sales pitches?
If so, social media marketing could be in trouble since this creates a disconnect between users' desire for social interaction and marketers' need for profitability through advertising.
Other symptoms included:
Close Friends on Instagram - Instagram's Close Friends is a private, ad-free space for controlled sharing. Does this diminish the relevance of public feed posts?
Sales Fatigue - Users increasingly tire of "selling" on social media, especially on TikTok Shop. If they don't like it...should you even sell there?
Ad-Free Subscriptions - Privacy laws prompt TikTok and Meta to test ad-free subscriptions. What are brands relying on paid ads supposed to do with this?
So what's the prognosis?
Well, let's ask a couple of experts.
As a digital marketing futurist, Mark Schaefer usually recognizes a trend before everyone else.
So, if social media is a dying platform for marketers, he would know it.
He doesn't see it.
"The Hubspot article is pure clickbait nonsense. There is nothing in the GWI research to indicate that social media usage levels are in decline. Online connecting, sharing, and collaborating are at an all-time high," he said.
"The author is making a point that social media marketing is "dead" because research shows that people don't want to be "sold to" on social media.
Well...duh. That's not exactly earth-shattering news."
Mark's right. The fact that people don't want to be sold on social media isn't anything new.
In fact, my master's degree includes a focus on professional communication in social media and one of the key academic studies I wrote about found that consumers not only dislike selling on social media - they don't like to be told what to do.
That study was released in 2019.
Mark went on to say, "Nobody likes to be sold to. Social media as a marketing strategy has been over for a long time if all you do is sell. I recently wrote that social media is not a sales strategy. It is the beginning of a process to create a lasting emotional connection to your audience."
However, despite the studies and research over the years (including one that showed what brands get wrong about why consumers follow social media), you would think some marketers just don't want to hear about it.
👉🏻 What's dying is old behaviors.
Social media engagement isn’t dead; it’s evolved," she said.
"The shift marketers are feeling with the social media landscape is leading to a lot of “social media’s dead” talk. And yes, over the past few years, social media has witnessed a fundamental shift. We’ve seen engagement numbers decline year over year. However, the number of social media users increased by 6.5% for 2023.
So, on the surface, it may seem like fewer people are using social media. However, when we looked deeper, we discovered that users are engaging – they’re just doing it in more selective ways. Today’s social media user is more discerning. They are:
Lurking over liking
Seeking value and authenticity
More inclined to engage with those they trust – brand advocates, micro-influencers, and peers."
Consider some of the common themes from Brooke and Mark's responses:
Social media as a "selling strategy" has been over for some time.
Social media has evolved.
Social media behaviors have changed.
Even with all of the changes it's gone through over the last several years, one thing that has not changed in social media is the word - SOCIAL.
Who Really Wants to Be Sold?
Imagine if you went to any social gathering and people were walking through the crowd trying to get you to buy something. It would likely frustrate you, and you might want to leave or move to a better spot.
Well, how do you think consumers feel on a social platform when they have to deal with bombardments of ads, sales pitches, and selfish content?
I can't imagine marketers feeling much different when they're scrolling through social media as a consumer.
Even the Hubspot article that asked about the death of social media pointed out that businesses on social media may benefit from focusing less on engagement and the hard sell and more on generating conversation among potential customers and getting potential buyers to engage offline through in-person communities and experiential marketing.
So the truth is, research continues to show that if all you want to do is sell, promote, and automate on social media, the results will be less than ideal.
👉🏻 However, it would be best if you didn't view that as a reason to quit.
👉🏻 Instead, view it a reason to learn more and utilize what works.
You could spin any research as a reason to stop using social media, or you could let success stories and practical advice provide you with a modernized roadmap.
Here are a couple of examples:
In a recent episode of The Marketing Superpower Hour, we learned how even the most unexpected company page can create a multi-beneficial presence on a platform.
John Gonzales shared how they initially re-posted formal announcements and press releases on X for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
💥 Everything changed after evolving their approach to include conversations, humor, questions and insights.
"The fact that we were putting information out didn't mean that we were relevant to our customer's experience," he said.
"So, over time, we realized that the social media space allowed us to be conversational in a way other mediums had not provided. So, we began to change with that and began to make our voice on social media much more human, much more conversational, and much more real for our customers."
John describes their content creation approach as combining:
A sense of humor
A sense of humility
A sense of humanity
He says it's critical to understand the audience and tailor content to their preferences because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to recognize and address the priorities and needs of the audience and demonstrate a connection between the provided product or service and the value it brings to their daily lives.
👉🏻 By the way, Taco Bell's social media made similar game-changing adjustments on X/Twitter back in 2015.
A humanized and conversational approach to social media works then, and it works now. This will also be true for social media marketing strategies in 2024.
Using social media as a one-sided promotion and one-way communication tool has been challenging for several years.
As consumers seek experiences that involve less marketing and selling to filter out, social media platforms will help them do it.
After all, they want to stay relevant and survive.
Marketers can also help improve consumer and customer experiences by evolving their approach to communications and content on social media.
Let me know if I can help you evolve your social media marketing content to be more modern, engaging and human.