A recent article in The Economist’s The World in 2019 claims that ‘after years of optimising for attention, social media networks are putting on the brakes. Previously every software update aimed to reduce the ‘friction’ of interaction, allowing information to be accessed and spread with absolute ease. These changes, if successful, will mean that the ‘holy metric of engagement’ which has been hailed as the most important measure of success may well be changing.
The article outlines a series of measures from the social media giants aimed, at slowing the exchange of information between the platform and its users, and between users themselves. Some really good examples include:
- Instagram’s ‘You’re all caught up’ feature which reassures users that they have seen all the updated posts from the previous two days.
- WhatsApp’s self-imposed limits on how many people or chat groups a single message can be forwarded to.
- Facebook’s tool to help users measure how much time they are using the social network for which also allows users to snooze notifications for a defined period.
These new features and limits are all ways of slowing down interaction on platforms and could almost be seen as a wake up call to users to reduce the amount of time spent online in order to go and do something else with their time.
We take a look at the implications for businesses that use social media for promotion and the key strategies to ensure long term success.
Focus on quality not quantity
In previous articles we have made the case that what’s crucial in any relationship is quality, not quantity, and the same rules still apply but perhaps even more stringently. It has always been the case that the marketing campaigns and businesses that succeed are those which can build a long-term relationship with their customers. If users are switching onto the negative impacts of social media, then the business that is seen to be positively contributing to the online-network will fare much better than the more ‘spam-ish’ approach of flooding the media platforms with low quality content.
Using video as standard
The successful companies will be those that generate content that is interesting, genuine and aligned carefully with their brand. Content using video is increasingly the absolute minimum standard, unless you are an industry with a long history in photography such as fashion – but the maxim that quality counts remains. Those who can use developing technology such as AI, or use the tools that Facebook provides such as the Carousel Ads, will engage potential customers looking for a much more meaningful engagement than perhaps might have previously been the case.
Genuine human interaction
‘Slow social’ will make interpersonal engagement a source of strength for businesses who can harness it. As the pace of the interaction slows, those companies that are able to link quality content with genuine human contact are much more likely to capture the customer’s attention. Online advisors, staff-generated video blogs and Live chat will, providing they are executed professionally, reassure the customer, and reinforce the brand. There is undoubted risk and provided your staff are adequately trained, there is great reward in exposing your staff directly to the customer, thereby offering the customer human interaction.
Adapt for long term gain
In summary, it’s worth looking at a recent statement from Facebook (now the owner of both Instagram and WhatsApp) saying that it wants the time its users spend on its networks to be ‘intentional, positive and inspiring’ . It’s a recognition that not all the habits and behaviours that we have developed with the rapid rise of social media are positive. Those seeking to promote and advertise on its systems that adapt and echo the changes in usage trends will lead as early movers, adapting and refining their marketing strategy to long-term business success.