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Is social media on the way out? Perspectives of marketing and adaptability

Written by Roshni, Global Human Resource Management MSc.

Introduction

It is estimated that the total number of people who use social media in some type of way is 3.96 billion, just about half of the world’s population.

However, with enforced regulations, concerns around data mining and privacy, I’ve speculated if social media will continue to grow, or if it will eventually fade away.[2]

It can be argued that social media started to fall out when it stopped being social and became a marketing tool; we might be more likely to consume more advertisements than social content. All in all, I am more comfortable accepting that social media isn’t leaving, rather, transforming.

With the help of local student interviews, business publications, and commentary from marketing strategies, I’ve set out to find perspectives of this question: “Is social media dying?

What do students think?

I was lucky enough to interview three students and ask them a few questions about their opinions of social media and social media marketing: Stephanie, Abby and Sarosh, all students at Newcastle University Business School.

  • Steph is an active social media user, both for personal and business reasons. She thinks positively about social media, nor does she mind advertisements too much, as it has benefitted her personal and business career.
  • Abby is not a large user of social media and has only created a few accounts to keep in touch with friends while at university. When asked why she necessarily didn’t engage with social media as much as others, she responded: “My friends lived close to me and we spent all day at school together, so we always knew what each they were up to and I guess having social media didn’t interest me.”
  • Sarosh does identify as an active social media user to keep up with friends but prefers to not publish too much about his life. He views social media as a great tool with pros and cons and finds the spread of false information on social media concerning.

Steph and Abby did express that they have been concerned about targeted advertisements on social media, stating that it can be unsettling when they receive an advertisement for a product they were recently having a conversation about.

Additionally, all three students believe that some social media platforms may become inactive if they cannot keep up with competitors and continue to innovate with consumer expectations; this is what happened to some platforms such as Vine, Myspace, and Friendster.

The students also recognised that today’s popular platforms such as Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, YouTube, and Snapchat have the tendency to update their platform to better suit consumers.

How do businesses adapt to consumer needs?

Social media is a great digital marketing tool for business owners looking to build their brands. As Steph and Sarosh mentioned to me, it’s cost effective, has the ability to reach out to highly targeted demographics, and businesses can see exactly when their marketing strategy is working since they have the ability to use data and online activity to tailor ads to the consumer.[3]

A boycott held against Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica breach in 2018, conveyed a large message that consumers do not want their privacy breached for the sake of targeted ads. Almost 1,000 brands paused their advertising on Facebook in protest of “Facebook’s aid in spreading misinformation and using consumer’s personal data for profit”.

This led to a new movement demanding that social media platforms hold themselves responsible to monitor misinformation and data mining whilst allowing consumers to completely opt for personalised advertisements.[4]

Connection is the new loyalty

New regulations on personalised ads did not hurt advertisers; they became more creative and sought out new ways to reach their target audiences. The goal was not to leave social media but to find new ways to meet people where they naturally are. A natural way, meaning to align with consumer’s values.

As Tiktok grew popular amongst younger demographics, popular content creators on Tiktok started to receive deals to market products and companies created “trendy” content that related to young people’s interests. When the popular Nintendo video game Animal Crossing was released, KFC Philippines and the Joe Biden Presidential Campaign created a presence on the game; consumers could interact directly with the brand via the video game, share those moments on social media, and create even more media buzz.[7]

I personally believe that these were brilliant marketing moves since over 11 million people are active users of Animal Crossing.[8] Neither organisation was approved by Nintendo to release these marketing campaigns, but it did successfully connect with young people and create media buzz on the internet. I believe it was an extremely intuitive marketing move by the brands that recognised the trend and opportunity to connect with young folk.

Businesses and marketing professionals state that when consumers feel more connected to a brand, they are more likely to refer the brand to a friend, choose the brand over a competitor, and have high loyalty to the brand. Additionally, consumers would still engage with the brand even after a bad experience.[9]

Consumer engagement is achieved by communicating with them directly, acting as positive contributors to society and demonstrating to consumers that the brand cares about consumer’s values just as much as the consumer does. High levels of consumer engagement result in increased brand loyalty, which then results in increased business performance.

As long as businesses continue to adapt their brand to consumer expectations and remain relevant, I don’t believe we can expect social media to be leaving any time soon.

Concluding thoughts

Similar to how human connection is intertwined in our daily experiences, social media is integrated into our everyday uses of technology. Marketing is most effective when shared with targeted demographics, so it only makes sense that we find advertisements where the people are: social media.

I find that consumer’s needs and opinions are volatile, and social media companies are getting better at recognising how they need to adapt to consumer needs. I still contemplate what types of social platforms will exist in the years to come; I accept that the future is hard for me to predict, but I have a strong feeling that as long as our society depends on the internet, social media will continue to exist and thrive.

 

[1] Statista. (2020). Number of social network users worldwide from 2017 to 2025 (in billions). Statista. Statista Inc. https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

[2] Woodhouse, J., 2021. Regulating online harms. House of Commons Library. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8743/

[3] Investopedia. 2021. Tailored Advertising. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tailored-advertising.asp

[4] Likeable. 2021. Everything You Need to Know About the Facebook Boycott | Likeable. https://www.likeable.com/blog/2020/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-facebook-boycott

[5] https://www.eci.com/blog/16055-what-is-a-cookie-impact-of-accepting-or-declining-those-cookie-popups.html

[6] https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/

[7] https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/18/business/biden-animal-crossing-island-trnd/index.html

[8] https://www.thedrum.com/news/2020/04/21/animal-crossing-emerging-media-channel-brands-lockdown

[9] https://sproutsocial.com/insights/data/social-media-connection/#connection-is-the-new-currency

 

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