In the week that Forbes reports Katy Perry has the most twitter followers in the world - 90 million - The question is what does that mean? Where is the value, who benefits? Is it relevant? Yes it is a ‘follow’ but what does that action mean - what is the end result for Katy Perry or any brand?
In many ways consumers and brands have been overwhelmed by social media and it can be quite unsettling. Technology is changing the way we consume and understand brand messages. In response brands need to think again about the segmenting of product messages, the encoding of the message and the delivery. The platforms they are delivered upon have narrowed while the market they are going to has been atomised.
We are in the age of destructive social media bubbles - unbalanced and cognitively displaced. So doing the same old SEO and outreach and counting the Bots following you on twitter or the people who don't spend more than 5 seconds reading your post is not going to benefit the brand. To balance this the suggestion is move to images, put everything on instagram - why is gained by that strategy - More people reading less, less comprehension of what the brand is about and what they are selling.
Brands get unsettled when they receive negative comments on their Facebook pages. Individuals get unsettled when they don’t receive enough likes and retweets. Millennials live their lives sharing 'extreme' experiences online in the court of social media approval. Depression sets in when these efforts go unnoticed or 'unliked'.
This creates and interesting paradox and and is a reflection of the impact limiting social media bubbles which are the now normal. Brands and people desire and want to get their own thoughts reflected back to them. That is they want positive affirmation on their views and promotions and will ignore the negatives. To achieve the positive input the choice of groups that are in the reference group is continually selected upon the basis of sameness and positive feedback. It is as if the brand or the consumer is talking to themselves.
The paradox with this developing trend is the increased level and high volume of information available online. Initially one would think surely this is good and leads to open dialogue. Instead this has lead to less trust in experts and data being shared (think of the #brexit debate). Its as if the more data that is provided to the market the more is rejected. People make their decisions based purely on emotion as a reaction to a narrow number of opinions of peer groups or like minded members of their group. The tsunami of information and product reviews enforces this cycle. Brands move to colonise more of the online segment related to them - consumers move into a more reinforced bubble of sameness. The disparity and gap then grows.
Theres no obvious solutions for brands in this social media space. They fall prey to two challenges: they try to do the right thing and be open and engaged with their customers. Then they overload there customers with too much information. This leaves their customers overwhelmed and unable to engage or understand the key messages. Alternatively brands don’t engage and leave the customers in the narrow social media bubbles create the information and the judgement on the products.
Balance is what is missing. A more nuanced Facebook Feed, Twitter Feed, comment boxes would reflect more accurate what people think and feel of a company or a product. Ideally there would be a mix of various opinion points on any product or brand. However one instruction of all corporations is to delete and block any critical commentary. Agencies are employed to correct online comments and reviews of products. If this is the method then can brands ever be called true social media engagers. But then again does anyone really think Katy Perry has talked to even 9 of the 90 million people she following her online !
The choice brands need to make is between the definition of engagement and authentic dialogue. This needs to be followed with digital strategies which avoid the destructive social media bubbles which capture brands and keep them away from their customers. At the core is the need to be original authentic and believe in the rule of 80:20. Less is more - avoid the overload.