With a certain congressional hearing still ringing in the ears, there may be a collective feeling that it is business as usual when it comes to social media marketing, even while a long tail of questions will likely swirl in the media.

While a lot of soul searching about how we handle data as marketers is certainly appropriate in the current climate, especially with GDPR about to come into force, many brands will be back to the day job of building connections with their audiences – which they increasingly do through social media. Don’t ask me why they keep blinders on to it all, but they do.

Yet the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal uncovers a bigger issue with many of the preferred social media channels – they are not designed with users’ best interests at heart, serving up intrusive and distracting ads and disquieting users with the level of tracking and targeting. That’s troublesome for marketers as well as consumers. Social media as a channel is not learning the lessons that befell online ads by taking the user experience more seriously and tackling poor ads ushered in by the programmatic shift. Ultimately that led to ad blockers, declining CPMs and publisher revenue, and the fertile ground for social to grab those ad dollars.

The targeting that social media advertising offers is unprecedented and the community engagement opportunities that are inherent in organic channel management on social are unique. Clearly social networks need to be a part of a solid digital marketing strategy, regardless of what Wetherspoons says! But does that truly enable holistic marketing opportunities for brands? I don’t believe so, and here’s three reasons why:

● We don’t spend that much time on social anymore – Most users do not spend as much time as they used to on common social media platforms. See previous paragraphs for some reasons why.

Users usually have over 20 apps on their phones, but will only use a handful of them on a
regular basis. The ones they do use and are using more and more frequently are
messaging apps as opposed to social networks.

Think about what that means in terms of engagement and activity on these sites as opposed to other apps. Brands can guarantee targeted clicks and impressions on social media at a certain cost, but in a broader sense, how engaged is the audience with that platform? That has a bearing on how the product or brand is perceived as it’s reviewed.

● Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me – A primary reason for the decline in time spent on social media is likely a reflection of how people’s use of technology to communicate via mobile has evolved, arguably coming full circle to how we are hardwired as human beings.

On social apps, you’re sharing to a community of users. Initially, that felt like a tight-knit community. However, as our individual networks have grown, from those who you are/were at university with (with the original iteration of Facebook) to almost every passing acquaintance you’ve come across, it has felt vastly less personal.

On messaging apps by contrast you are communicating only with specific people you want to communicate with and therefore more likely to do so throughout the day, as opposed to at specific moments when you want to “broadcast” something.

Again, in terms of active engagement and the mind space consumers are in when they interact with a brand, there are a lot of question marks that arise with the leading social media platforms.

● People do not buy on social – On the whole, “on platform” purchasing has quietly faded into the memory after never really gaining a foothold. Twitter disbanded it’s commerce team and deprecated its buy button. Facebook struggled to get large brands using its button. Pinterest has struggled to prove that commerce is impactful on a large scale. However, Instagram seems to be the exception and is upping its game in all of the Cs’.

True, you can use social media to drive eCommerce traffic to in-app browsers or external sites, but the fact that a real shopping experience isn’t happening on social media again indicates flaws that should make brands consider whether they should be quite so “all-in” with their social strategies as many have.

Social media will remain a part of most digital marketing strategies, yet brands need to look further afield for opportunities at fostering good long-term relationships and brand affinity, while also maximizing revenue opportunities. Holistic digital marketing strategy is about content, conversation and commerce. Organically, these tend to work best where the end user is put first. Advertisers, as well as platforms, need to think carefully about the experience and usage of apps, not just the top-line CPM and click metrics.


By Sally Burtt-Jones, global business development director at Viber

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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