Brands need to love social media platforms for their unique features
Often bundled together as, simply, 'social media', Anthony Macro, Head of Display, Video & Social at Croud, argues that Facebook is not like TikTok is not like Instagram... That being the case, shouldn't marketers approach each platform differently, and with more precision?
Social media has an intriguing part to play in brand building and e-commerce, though only if marketers stop using it as a blunt tool with no sense of the power of individual platforms and their respective audiences.
There needs to be much more subtlety at play when it comes to looking at social.
In many cases, marketers or their agencies seem to be chasing the lowest priced CPMs or tick-boxing because social media ‘needs to be on the media plan'. They are failing to get under the skin of what social media can really offer, viewing it in too reductive a light.
Brands and their media agencies wouldn’t treat commercial radio station audiences, for instance, as a homogenous mass – radio offers stations devoted to news, talk, music and entertainment. There needs to be much more subtlety at play when it comes to looking at social – where the thinking mainly seems to go along the lines of ‘young people/Gen Z are all over social media, therefore it’s for reaching this audience alone’.
Above: Brands don't assume radio listeners are all the same, so why assume social media users are?
Social media is not a homogenous bundle of platforms; each has unique features (despite their best efforts to copy each other - hello Instagram Reels and TikTok). The platforms - including Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok - serve different audience needs, and people come to them for different purposes. To obtain real value from their social media ad spend, marketers need to start understanding what each offers.
Look for the particular in the platform
To break things down in a simple way, TikTok is a video entertainment platform, YouTube also claims this role but leans to longer form content, and Instagram is trying to muscle in on the action. Snap positions itself as a camera-first app, and the once all-dominating Facebook has become best associated with a thriving marketplace.
Twitter is a car crash – sorry – I mean Twitter is a microblogging site that certainly punches above its weight in terms of the influence its users wield.
Pinterest is an image-sharing site that exists for ‘discovery’, and Twitter is a car crash – sorry – I mean Twitter is a microblogging site that certainly punches above its weight in terms of the influence its users wield.
What matters to marketers trying to plan campaigns for maximum effect are the audience behaviours, and these change rapidly. Google, the granddaddy of search, recently revealed that 40% of young people are using TikTok or Instagram to search for places to eat, not Google maps.
Above: Social media is not a homogenous bundle of platforms because each has unique features [Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash].
Gen Z-ers are individuals
In terms of demographics, yes, millennials and Gen Z use some of the platforms in vast numbers. TikTok had 1.5 billion monthly active users in Q.3 of 2022 and more than 60% of these platform users are from Gen Z. Thanks to its fiendishly clever algorithmically curated video clips TikTok does appear to have a lock on a sizeable slice of this desirable audience.
Even TikTok struggled and closed down its live shopping plans for Europe and the US, proving Western mainstream audiences still need to build up confidence and trust in livestream shopping.
But that means there are 40% of users who are not in Gen Z and, given the size of the audience, that’s huge numbers. Also, we shouldn’t forget that demographic cohorts are individuals; a shared age does not mean a shared set of attitudes, interests and values. So, a ‘one size fits all’ approach – whether in terms of creative or media planning - could be a false economy.
Social commerce still needs refining
One thing the platforms do share is their desire to close the loop by selling products and services (the platforms take commission on all sales) and social commerce should also appeal to brands. Why invest all that marketing spend in paid social only to send users to another channel to clinch the sale and risk many potential purchasers falling away in this extra step to conversion?
All social media platforms are trying to develop a seamless e-commerce process, and some have enjoyed great success, but making headway is not easy, especially via live shopping which is seen as a Holy Grail. Even Amazon is stepping into the ring with its own TikTok-style short form video shopping feed, called Inspire.
But even TikTok struggled and closed down its live shopping plans for Europe and the US, proving Western mainstream audiences still need to build up confidence and trust in livestream shopping. Behaviours need to become normalised for this particular shared goal between platforms and advertisers to pay off.
Above: Brands need to imagine a time before anyone knew what hitting a 'like' button meant.
Time to review social with fresh eyes
So, how should we approach fashioning a robust social media strategy? It may sound radical, but maybe we need to reset the clock and imagine entering the social media landscape for the first time. It’s the moment to interrogate the platforms and their offerings with no preconceived notions. Imagine you’d never hit the ‘like’ button before, seen a tweet or downloaded TikTok’s app, bringing a media neutral mindset to the challenge.
It’s time to step back and reevaluate where people are genuinely spending their time, and how they are using the platforms.
We don’t have to junk the historic performance data and the benchmarking targets accumulated from social in the 18 years since Facebook was founded (they are very important) but isn’t it possible we’ve become too attached to the platforms? We’re too comfortable with the way we produce the assets and our knowledge of what the platform of choice will produce?
It’s time to step back and reevaluate where people are genuinely spending their time, and how they are using the platforms. We can park the accumulated data and previous insights and return to them with fresh eyes once we have thoroughly examined social through a new lens
Social media can definitely be used more effectively and this will get a big tick from the C-suite when discussing budgets (not to be confused with Twitter's Blue Tick - still subject to the whims of Elon Musk at time of writing). It just needs us to think how we’d use these platforms differently if we started from scratch today.