The rules of social media are being rewritten by giants like WeChat, consumer forces and increased regulation. From public broadcast channels to private communication tools. We took a closer look at the world of social media and how these changes are going to affect brands and businesses.
From the Town Square to the Living Room
Mark Zuckerberg turned Facebook on it’s head with a single blog post earlier this year. What was once an inspired vision for anyone to reach a mass audience, change the world and start a conversation has been thwarted by invasive ads, trolls, data mining and Russian interference. Instead in its place Zuckerberg has proposed a private communication tool, one-on-one messaging and closed groups. This scenario sees ‘disappearing’ or encrypted updates. Instagram is already beta-testing hiding the Like counter on posts, effectively discouraging impulse, viral sharing. Facebook had also decided to enable interoperability between Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, further highlighting the prevalence of messaging in the new social paradigm.
The new social media writing has been on the wall
The exponential growth of private messaging services is currently outpacing traditional social platforms. Facebook-owned chat platforms WhatsApp and Messenger have more users than Facebook itself. The WeChat service in China has over a billion users who shop, post videos and book doctor’s appointments. Not only has this growth precipitated the future paradigm, but so have the privacy and regulatory scandals and consumer preference.
Herein lies the challenge for businesses who have spent years amassing a social following and using the platform to cultivate a brand community. Social media platforms represent a relatively inexpensive advertising medium too.
Beyond the mass broadcast era of social media
Experts predict the change will be a gradual one and that the public platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram will still play important roles. The fundamental change being is that parallel private messaging platforms will evolve and grow in importance.
To stay ahead of the social media curve, here are a few strategies:
1) The culture of messaging
Two-thirds of customers now prefer messaging apps as a preferred contact method – outranking emails, live chat and even face-to-face. In-bound messaging is already happening on Messenger within Facebook. But what about outbound messaging? Do consumers really want to be sold to on chat apps? Well some are using this method successfully in a targeted and relevant way. A good example being H&M who provide individual fashion advice through Kik. While Domino’s helps customers find coupons and place delivery orders via Facebook Messenger.
Both Messenger and WhatsApp offer paid advertising options, however the verdict is still out as to their effectiveness.
2) Customer’s must Opt-In
Increasing concerns around data protection means that consumers are parting with less of their data. So, the social future is going to be decidedly opt-in. Businesses wanting customer information need to be transparent about the returns in order to encourage the volunteering of data. The age old ‘what’s in it for me’ applies here. Do they get special insights, content or personalised recommendations? The new language of social media will be intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpses of people and places. Polished ad copy will be a thing of the past. Then there’s the multimedia stories like those on Instagram that are growing 15 times faster than newsfeed-based sharing. The Guardian is mastering the art of using stories to deliver authentic value for users.
3) AI necessary to scale
The next challenge when moving from ‘mass communication’ to ‘one-on-one’ is how to scale. It’s not possible to communicate with every customer individually using personalised messages, as this will stretch any company’s resources. One of the answers is automation and using ‘Bots’. However, consumers still require human interface. The best way forward is for companies to use automated bots to manage standard queries. For the trickier questions, customers need to be escalated to human agents. Here’s a make-up company Sephora who offers a great model for how to do this effectively.
4) Brace yourself for more changes
Mark Zuckerberg has intimated that messaging is only the start and that Facebook will eventually “build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.” Facebook is being forced to change their revenue model which has become heavily reliant on business advertising. It appears that Tencent in China is his inspiration. With more than a billion users across the WeChat and QQ messaging platforms, they only rely on 17% ad revenue. The rest is garnered from subscriptions, gaming and online payment fees. Considering that 70% China’s Generation Z population buy direct from social media, this is likely the future of an e-commerce based Facebook kingdom. A recent signal of this move is the introduction of the new Instagram functionality Checkout.
The takeaways for your business
Social media rules are changing, but the change will be gradual. We are moving from a viral broadcast model of likes, comments and catchy posts to a more personal social connection with private messaging. However, engaging and relevant content that delivers real value will remain of vital importance. Companies will need to adjust their strategies to keep ahead of the curve.
Creative Imagineering remains ahead of the curve with social media. Let’s manage your social media accounts and ensure we move your brand with the times.
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Original post source: LinkedIN