Is social finally coming of age?

It’s now over a month since Wetherspoons made a sweeping declaration and retracted from social media. Did it start an avalanche? Did social die overnight?

Not really.

It does feel like the world is starting to change, though. For so long, it’s been a rite of passage to have ‘a Facebook’, ‘a Twitter’ or ‘an Instagram’ and of course, it’s been easy: easy to access, easy to set up, easy to run. It’s also been free: free to access, free to set up, free to run.

As an approach to marketing, it represented an unprecedented period — at no other point in history has the tech been available for junior interns to ‘make’ communications themselves with almost no expensive tools or software packages.

It’s led to a lot of work that doesn’t do anything, or has no relevance — like Royal Wedding congratulations, fluffy dog pics to boost engagement and chase likes, reusing of assets without repurposing them and stock, or pixellated imagery to name but a few. But brands don’t seem to care — doing something cheaply seems to be significantly favourable to doing something good.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Marks and Spencer’s made for sharing ‘Markle and Sparkle’ rebrand came only a few days before they announced the closure of 100 stores.

But the times they are a changing

It’s been infuriating for the proper marketer — those of us who prefer to make work that shifts brand equity and changes behaviour — to see so much soulless work. Those of us who know that strategy powers the core of a brand and that it’s touchpoints should feel closely linked to that strategy.

People — real people — are now beginning to expect and accept advertising on social

In a study we commissioned, it was little surprise that what annoyed 18–35’s most about brands on social, the top answer was ‘adverts’.

However, the data told us much more than that when you took out 24–35 year olds. That top answer suddenly changed — to ‘nothing’.

See it’s now expected — the social advertising native is here. They exist and they’re aged 18–24.

We have a responsibility to produce work that entertains

So if advertising doesn’t annoy them, do we all have an excuse to make more crap work?

Of course not. In this new era, there has to be a shift.

There has to be a focus on quality content that entertains, inspires and builds brand equity — and we have to take it seriously.

We have to think about every post, every piece of content and make it count — because organic and paid reach is too high, too broad, too prevalent and too primary, to just make stuff any more.

Here’s three things to consider

1. The primacy of social: social is no longer a channel. In particular amongst younger audiences, it’s often the most frequent exposure a consumer gets to a brand. It’s sometimes the sole exposure. So instead of playing a cut down TV ad, or a fluffy animal that gets a load of likes, decide what your social content is trying to actually achieve. Drive sales? Build equity? See point 3.

2. Brands are built through consistency and discipline: in no other medium would work be activated without an idea. We spoke to a brand recently and their ‘big’ idea appeared approximately once every twelve posts. Brands are built through consistently and discipline, they’re destroyed through dilution.

3. Measure the right thing: we believe Net Promoter Score is the one true measure of a brand’s health. Get that right and ROI follows for a sustained and sustainable future. Social has to be about shifting sentiment. Sentiment shifts behaviour, drives recommendation. So stop measuring the micro impact of likes and start measuring the macro impact of NPS. In an increasingly peer to peer driven marketplace, it will serve you well.

Chris Falconer