Over the course of the last few months, we’ve seen a slew of news stories that potentially point the road ahead for digital communications.
I’ve already written about the emergence of so-called ‘dark social’ media usage– people engaging on networks but in a private rather than a ‘look at me’ capacity.
Next up, it was announced recently that Lush, one of the UK’s biggest cosmetic brands, was quitting social media, tired of having to ‘fight with algorithms. And they aren’t the first with Wetherspoonsalso closing down all its social media accounts.
Hot on the heels of this news, was the long-awaited announcement that at the start of April, Google+ was being switched off– another one of their ill-fated attempts at social media biting the dust.
Then we hear that Facebook plan to start mergingtheir family of messaging apps – namely Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
To those professionals who are already undecided about the role of social media in communications and how to build a properly inclusive comms strategy for their business, these snippets of news may make, what is an already confusing landscape, even more complicated.
Yet I think that it just shows a maturing of these channels. Let’s take each of these in turn and try to understand what they mean. Moreover, we’ll see why they are all, in some way, connected.
- Moving to ‘dark social’ shows there is still appetite for communicating online. It’s just that increasing activity now takes places within groups and forums – just as it did before social networks came along. And these groups remain unaffected by algorithms.
- Which brings us nicely to Lush. Despite having a major social media presence - 70,000 Instagram, 200,000 Twitter and 400,000 Facebook followers – they felt they were fighting a losing battle against these algorithms. Instead they’re using traditional communication methods in their stores and the hashtag #LushCommunity. Key here is the word community – a group of people who genuinely care about the brand. Similarly, Wetherspoons understand their customer base and don’t necessarily need social networks to engage with them. (They will undoubtedly still be monitoring #Wetherspoons though).
- The demise of Google+ represents not so much a failure of technology – it did include some great features such as Hangouts and targeting of content to different groups (circles) – but a failure to find a real, engaged community who is prepared to invest their time on the site. However, Hangouts does live on and is a classic example of dark social.
- Finally, the merging of the messaging apps in the Facebook family shows just how important they see the next development of social media – cross platform, encrypted, private and interactive. In essence, they future is ‘dark’, or as I would prefer to look at it, ‘real social’.
Nothing stays the same in today’s predominantly digital world so there should be no surprise when consumption of digital channels changes over time. The trick is to have the strategy to deal with this.
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