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Why should you care about social media’s impact?

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Why read this? : We review social media’s impact on your brand’s interaction with customers. Learn how it fits into what customers want online. And we share our thoughts on what each of the 4 biggest social media players has to offer. Read this to learn how to maximise social media’s impact on your brand. 

There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And there have been many things that have ‘gone’ as we’ve lived through these weeks of lockdown. Things we’ve all missed.

We’ve missed shopping trips that don’t involve searching shelves for pasta and hand wash. We’ve missed the noise and bustle of pubs and restaurants and having friends round for drinks and dinner.

But as restrictions start to ease and the “real” world comes back in to play, where does that leave the “online” world? You know, the place where we’ve all spent the most time over the past few months.

Social media's impact

In particular, where does the changing world leave social media?

That noisy, chaotic, exciting, frustrating problem child of your marketing plan? Because let’s face it, social media hasn’t distanced itself at all during this pandemic crisis.

It’s right there in front of you, every single day.

People are clearly spending more time online while stuck at home.

And how do we know this?

Because every other Tom, Dick and Harry on social media keeps posting about how digital marketing and e-Commerce are booming.

How social media is your opportunity to grow your brand with millions of customers just waiting to hear about your special offer. Just sign up for this email newsletter or that webinar and this course and all the secret of social media success could be yours. 

Phhhhht.

We don’t think so.  

Digital marketing was already booming

Because you know what? Digital marketing, e-commerce, and digital media including social were already booming. And had been for a long time. 

It was only the older generation of marketers who weren’t up to speed on what digital and social has to offer. Savvy marketers who work like digital decathletes were much more up to speed on what these new channels can do to connect with customers and boost your brand. 

Yes, Covid-19 has created a unique set of circumstances that’s pushed more people into new behaviours, But it’s really only accelerated a trend that was already there.

The average Australian was already spending 6 hours a week on social media back in 2018 according to this Roy Morgan report. And that’s just the average. Women in the 14 – 24 age group were at almost 14 hours a week, just on social media.

That’s 2 hours EVERY day.

So if you own a business, it’s important for you to care about social media. To consider social media’s impact on your brand. It’s where your audience spends a lot of time.

In our digital media guide, we cover the role social media can play for your brand.

Social media has a unique double ability. It’s an incoming source of feedback from customers when they contact you. And a way to send outgoing communications directly to those same customers.

This two-way communication is a big part of social media’s impact. Traditional channels like advertising and sales promotion really only let you communicate one-way.

Remember social media is two-way

But that’s only the benefit for you and your brand. You also need to think about what social media does for your target audience. And so, by association, the role your brand should play in their social media world.

That’s usually about content and experiences. Creating something that customers can enjoy and get value from. Focussing on creating enjoyable and valuable content raises your brand’s social media impact. It makes customers welcome your brand into their social media world.

Is your brand's social media a welcome guest?

It’s clearly vital to think about your target audience before you think about what you want social media’s impact to be on your business. 

Think about the context in which your audience see social media content. Think about where and when you see social media content. 

Most social media content is consumed on mobile devices ,and in small snack-sized chunks.

A 30 second video, A few lines of text. An image.

It’s consumed when people are waiting for the coffee to brew. Sitting on the bus. In between meetings or on lunch breaks. Watching TV. And yes, even on the toilet.

It might exist on a screen for your brand. But for each person who sees it, real life is going on around them when they see it.

Social media happens in real life

Your social media content planning should start with the idea that it’s real people interacting with your content as they lead their real lives.

So, back in 2015, this video from US comedienne Jena Kingsley was doing the rounds of those who worked in social media. It’s pretty spot on. 

What if all those things we think of as “normal” online behaviour were brought into real life?

It’s a fun way to point out how these ‘normal’ behaviour online seems insane when you look at it from a “real life” perspective. It’s a lot of fun. We “like” what she did there. Thumbs up. Smiley face. 

Here’s the thing though. A few years on, and all those ‘cringe-y’ behaviours still happen all the time online. 

And if you think about it with a business hat on, the picture gets even worse. 

Look how intrusive it is in real life when a brand advert on social appears on your feed without any warning. And they ‘poke’ you into paying attention (and yes, we know nobody has ‘poked’ someone online since the noughties, but still …).

Yet that’s what many brands still do on social. 

Advertising that says look at me, look at me, look at me. While you try to watch your aunt’s cat video on Facebook. Or check out that cool graphic designer you follow on Instagram. Or read the article from that guy who actually knows what he’s talking about on LinkedIn. (There’s no such guy, we’re just kidding).

Social media is full of intrusive junk nobody wants or needs. But millions, billions gets spent putting it out there. So, for brands, what is social media’s impact, really?

What do people actually want online? 

Well, knowing what people actually want online is a good start. And luckily, there’s research that’s been done into this very topic. TNS do a great digital life study which shows there are 6 main online needs :- 

  • information
  • entertainment
  • social connections
  • communicate with others
  • shopping
  • productivity (think online banking or creating documents, images, videos etc).

Social connections are one of the the 6 core online behaviours. That’s great.

But where does your brand fit in? Let’s look at some of the major social channels and see how they do against what people want online.

Facebook 

Facebook can do all of the above with maybe the exception of productivity (in general social media is not a great place for productivity). 

It’s main role for real (non-marketing) people though is a place for social connections. 

But let’s face it, Facebook is not what it was. 

It’s like one of those TV shows you enjoyed the first few seasons of. But it started to go a bit stale around Season 4 or 5. It seems like it’s running out of ideas and trying a bit too hard.

Facebook icon pin buttons

And now you feel a bit stuck with it because you invested all that time in it before and don’t want to write it off. (a great example of sunk cost from behavioural economics).

We’re looking at you Dexter, The Walking Dead and Ray Donovan among many others. That’s what Facebook feels like. 

Facebook has clearly positioned itself as an advertising channel. It plays to the media part of social media for brands and advertisers.

While news about your aunt’s cat or what that guy you haven’t seen since school has for dinner will still clutter up your news feed, it’s mainly adverts and content now. The one’s who do the best share information or entertainment content first. And then advertise off the back of it.

Information or entertainment

We watched the founder of I Fucking Love Science post this morning on Facebook about the decision to change the name to IFL Science having stubbornly refused it in the past. What she said and how she said it are a great example of how Facebook can be used to be authentic and create connections with consumers. Great information approach to online marketing. 

We’re also big fans of the work that Viva la Dirt League, the Kiwi gamers, do on their Facebook content. They create a constant stream of funny and relevant content that always makes us smile. And if they make some advertising bucks off the back of it, all power to them. Great entertainment approach to online marketing. 

Not hard sell or irrelevant content

But contrast these examples with the majority of what brands clutter up Facebook with these days. It’s hard to find good information and entertainment. 

Hard sell adverts offering services we’re never going to buy. 

People we don’t know or don’t care about telling us how many years they worked in “x” category. SEO, Facebook advertising, e-Commerce, Copywriting, Graphic Design. The list goes on and on.

We struggle with who these types of ads are meant to appeal to. They’re a constant list of features, not benefits. All sausage and no sizzle. 

Why should we care? And why would we share?

Answer those questions, and you might just have a rightful place in your target audience’s Facebook feed. 

If you’re throwing money into these types of ads for your business, we hope someone somewhere is buying. But we reckon you’re probably wasting a lot of your money. And annoying a lot of potential customers. 

Instagram

Facebook’s younger and more charming cousin, Instagram, has managed to keep itself a little more restrained on the intrusive advertising front.

That’s a good thing. 

But.

There’s the challenge of everything looking a bit the same. And / or looking a bit shallow.

This is especially true in the professional or semi-professional influencer side. 

How many ways can you pose in a bikini / with gym equipment / with your pet / with that cake you made for heaven’s sake? 

Brands that have a regular stream of visual content or have messages that can be brought to life in interesting visual ways work well on Instagram.

We only ever use Instagram to share fun designs from the T-shirt side of the business. Fashion works well on Instagram. As does the odd creative piece that makes us think or smile. 

Instagram is good to get some coverage of your brand without having to pay for everything like you do on Facebook. 

And it’s a useful source of seeing what’s on trend in your category, either from your audience or from your competitors. 

As long as you don’t expect too much depth from it, you won’t be disappointed using it as a channel. 

Twitter

The lunatic asylum of the internet. 

Seriously, Twitter is like stumbling into the world’s most random party because everyone is talking about everything at the same time. 

It’s dominated by political and social views. If your business touches on those areas, it can be a fun place to jump on. 

It’s a great place to keep in touch with live trends and thought leaders. You can gain followers with content that’s clever or funny.

Twitter logo on a mobile phone

Twitter’s core audience is the 18-49 age range. Difficult as it may seem to believe sometimes, it also tends to pull in more educated users than other social channels. If this sounds like your target audience consider putting together a Twitter marketing strategy.   

But remember, Twitter’s fast moving and often chaotic. You have to be prepared for anything. There’ll always be people who’ll disagree with what you say, no matter how reasonable you sound. 

You want to drive follows from genuine users. And definitely, avoid schemes that involve buying followers. Those never work out well

But most ‘normal’ consumers treat brands and companies they see on Twitter with some wariness. The same way they stay away from that crazy drunk guy shouting at everybody on the way home. 

He might actually say something interesting. But it’s also as likely he’ll spew a lot of vomit over you.

Linked In

And at the other end of the spectrum, the much more polished but oh my god, it can be sooooo boring, LinkedIn

There’s something about having all those people you used to work with seeing your content, that makes you hold back slightly. 

If Twitter is like a crazy tequila fuelled party where anything goes, LinkedIn is the polar opposite. Like an awkward office party. 

Everything is polite and nobody dares fart. 

The words "Welcome to Linked In" embossed on an office glass window

If you have educational or news content about your business, that can be a good fit. But it’s a really sterile environment. And it’s a challenge to add warmth or humanity to your brand in this channel.

We ran out of time and space in this article to cover our other favourite social media channels – Pinterest, Tumblr, You Tube and Reddit. However, if you want to read about those channels, check out our follow-up article where we reconnect on social media

The best advice on social media

The best advice we ever heard on creating great social media content was to ask yourself this :-

Would you be confident to present that content face to face in the customer’s house? 

Social media can seem like an unreal space. You create your content, jump into the overly complicated advertising back-end and push your message out into cyberspace. 

But put yourself in the shoes of the person who gets the message. 

If you know that person well, if it’s someone you have an existing relationship with, you have a lot of freedom.

They already know you and will be open to listening to you. They’ll care about social media from you because it informs or entertains them.

If you want your message to land with humour and be more provocative, fill your boots. You can fucking love science all you want with those guys.

Conclusion - boosting your social media's impact

But if you’re a new business or putting out content to a new audience, don’t go straight for the hard sell. Ignore what those start up gurus online tell you. They’re snake-oil salesmen. 

Instead, introduce yourself. Ask customers what they want. Tell them why they should care. Create content they’ll want to see and you gain their trust. 

Yes, your ultimate aim is to convince / sell to them. But you also want them to become loyal customers too. 

Wearing them down with a barrage or irrelevant bullshit isn’t the way to go. Like the charity tin collector or the Jehova’s Witness at the door, you’ll soon find customers will start socially distancing themselves from you. 

Check out our digital media guide which also cover’s social media’s impact in more detail. Or contact us (you can also find us on the social media links below), if you need more specific help. 

Photo credits

Feature Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Facebook Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Instagram Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Twitter Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

LinkedIn Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

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