The Future of Social Media

The future of social media: creating a futureproof strategy for social success

This time on Lab Leaders, Faye speaks to Olivia Wedderburn, Social and Influencer Director at TMW UNLIMITED, co-chair of DMA’s Social Media Council, and the mastermind looking after 20 social and influencer clients at TMW. Faye and Liv talk all things TikTok, influencers, and how brands can understand where social media is heading.

What kind of social trends should brands be thinking about?

There’s a bit of tension in social between what customers want and what platforms are trying to push. A strong example of this is info social, which is people accessing long-form text-based information on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. People are finding resources around topics they might be scared to ask about or news they want to unpack, from LGBTQ+ education in schools to racial inequality and politics.

A catalyst for this was probably the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, where people were trying to quickly spread information in unregulated areas. This meant adding resources to Instagram carousels and stories, so others could understand what was happening in real-time. It also provided a way to show allyship with causes, which looks set to continue in the future.

Has the balance of power shifted between customers and social media platforms?

What’s become increasingly clear is that while the power of the community is important, it’s been exacerbating over recent months.

Instagram, for example, wants to be more like TikTok and as a result are changing how they operate. They recently announced an algorithm update to move away from statics and still imagery to video creators, shopping, and messaging, which is at odds with the info social and political platform it’s becoming.

Platforms are also terrified of spreading misinformation, which has manifested in lots of content being flagged so as not to get called out. This is a somewhat understandable tension, but platforms must make sure that people can still use their interfaces for that primary function of conversation.

How do marketers get the right results for their brands?

Ultimately, a lot of social can seem random, but if you have the data, you can identify patterns and understand what’s going on. It’s where social leads into the creative, data, and strategy to produce a perfect content blend. Then it’s a case of testing the boundaries with new ideas to see what sticks.

Trends and algorithms change, as do platforms and priorities, so having annual KPIs based on business objectives keeps everything aligned. It’s also important to optimise these KPIs monthly or weekly to keep up with quickly shifting landscapes.

What toolkit items would you recommend for brands to get the right content?

At TMW, we combine a neuroscience perspective with an understanding of human behaviour, the psychology of what makes people engage, and ortho-creative excellence. The neuroscience aspect means ensuring all content works as hard as it can against psychological indicators that make people engage.

When we create or review content from a client with a view to optimising it, we think about five key areas:

  • Brand consistency
  • High levels of creativity
  • Benchmarking against industry peers and competitors
  • Content that’s holistic to all digital and non-digital touchpoints
  • Applying neuroscience and a human understanding perspective

There’s such simplicity in movement, but equally you can also tick all the above boxes, which is why video is huge at the moment. We’re also seeing a resurgence of human faces on social platforms, with anything featuring a human face outperforming anything without, for the most part.

Can you help explain the emergence of TikTok, and how brands can capitalise on it?

Today, if you think you’re not consuming TikTok, you probably are. Whether it’s WhatsApp family group chats or cross-sharing on Twitter and Instagram, everyone’s consuming it and loving it, and it feels addictive and new. But really, it’s not completely unique, it’s more of an evolution.

The fact you can do all kinds of editing from your phone makes its software incredibly clever, alongside the music aspect which associates videos with movement. Then there’s the fact that it’s mobile-first with humans at the heart of it all. This offers lots of simplicity and humour, but it can get more complicated.

Utilising tension between image and word to get messages across is huge with TikTok, and you’ll find a lot of closed captioning with high amounts of supporting copy to help you understand content very quickly.

So, while it’s different, rules still apply, you just need to be more relaxed about them. You also need to trust your brand or agency, even if their ideas seem crazy. It’s about trusting, testing, and seeing how things go, because the basic rules of good content haven’t changed, it’s just how you consume it that has been slightly adjusted.

So would you encourage brands to embrace TikTok?

Absolutely. It’s not a flash in the pan or exclusively for young people. In fact, for the first time ever, the age group flipped last year from predominantly under 24 to over 24, and that number constantly shifts.

It’s also hugely persuasive, consumers can shop directly, and you can make amazing content. All of this has changed the pace of how we approach ecommerce and influencer marketing, and it’s a huge opportunity.

What would your advice be for a brand trying out TikTok?

TikTok is the home of niches, so think about your company’s niche or what it’s known or loved for. If you’re a B2B brand, think about being educational, because it’s being used in the way YouTube is used for information, but for shorter attention spans.

TikTok’s search and algorithms are advanced, so it won’t take long to find your space amongst competitors by searching some keywords and seeing what’s out there.

Do you see influencers still being popular in the future?

Definitely. In 2020 people said the influencer bubble will burst, but if anything, it was reinforced during the pandemic. Now, influencers are seen as extensions of brands’ creative content teams, so they play a vital role.

This is shown with Twitter’s introduction of the tip jar, the rise of Patreon, Mark Zuckerberg’s $1 billion creators’ fund on Instagram, and TikTok’s creative studio.

So, if you’re a brand, why not invest in influencers and hijack their reach? Why not get them to create some amazing content for you, and see how it’s received? It’s a great way to test something new and talk to a new audience, and it’s also a great way to build brand advocacy and authenticity.

What advice would you offer around investing or areas to focus on for brands?

Don’t be afraid. Lean into it.

Facebook and Instagram realise they’re fighting a losing battle against new platforms, so think about how you can adapt and how they can work in your strategy. Also remember that community is key, so make sure you’re creating content that’s useful and beneficial to your customers. Data is important too so listen to it, and constantly test and learn from what you post.

And finally, there’s no excuse for making inaccessible content in 2022. The future of social will look down on or penalise those who haven’t thought about accessibility with their content.

Decode the Future of Social Media

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