The first wave of social media platforms—MySpace, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat—created the landscape we all now live, work, communicate and play in. But more and more platforms have been popping up in recent years, outpacing their more established competitors in relevance and challenging the nature of how we experience social media.
“A big conversation seems to be how we’re all losing the ‘social’ in social media,” said Jamie Falkowski, chief creative officer and partner at Day One Agency. “The success of TikTok and now Reels is pushing these channels more and more into entertainment feeds rather than friend feeds. The consumer need to share and to participate still remains, and that’s one reason BeReal is piquing interest.”
Advertisers have had to keep pace with each shift—especially the ever popular pivot to video—to stay relevant and top-of-feed, but that’s becoming ever more challenging. “For brands, the need for video is not going away, but now that video has to feel made for the platform,” said Falkowski. “Unless you’ve got big paid dollars around your creative, those TVC cutdowns just aren’t going to cut it in organic.”
Following the virtual conference Ad Age Next: Social & Influencer Marketing on Sept. 13, we asked agency leaders from the Amp community to weigh in on what’s happening in the world of social media and what brands need to be tuned into over the coming year.
The need for authenticity
Gone are the days of overproduced, airbrushed and autotuned content ruling the day. For brands looking to prevail with both audiences and algorithms, the key theme is authenticity.
So, what does that mean for the content itself? “Lo-fi, mobile-shot videos are winning over audiences because they come across as more authentic in feeds than highly produced video content,” said Kate Newman, associate director of social media at Bader Rutter, who points to the recent success of BeReal, the app founded on that concept. “People want an unperfected, in-the-moment look at their friends’ lives. Brands who figure out how to tap into this trend will win.”
Popular features like “360 view” on BeReal suggest that not only content shifts but also platform and format tweaks are needed to further underscore unfiltered content. “Because anyone who has a mobile device can be a content creator, the speed and volume of social media content production needs to match consumption,” said Newman. “Agencies and clients must consider how to keep up by rethinking the scale of production crews and duration of the internal, external and legal review process to compete with creators’ lack of limitations.”
On the flipside, some brands may be going too far to come off as unfiltered, verging into social strategies that may be unsustainable, ineffectual or both. “One of the most buzzworthy trends of late is brands breaking bad to break through,” said Kevin Miner, digital strategy manager at RPA, pointing to RadioShack’s explicit Twitter account and Pabst Blue Ribbon’s “try eating ass” and Wingstop’s “fuck” tweets as examples. “We're drowning in content, and marketers are increasingly willing to do just about anything to break through. But when brands shitpost, is the attention in service of the brand or a misguided attention hack? Of course, consumers would love for brands to take themselves less seriously, but some brands are starting to experiment with shock value over authenticity.”