My eyes were drawn today by an article in The Drum which said that in a recent survey of over 3,000 internet users across the UK and the US, 63% of people preferred to share content on ‘dark social’ channels. By dark social it meant Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat – all social messaging sites.
Essentially the survey found that although people were continuing to use digital media sites, lots of the key conversations were not being played out in public but in private via messaging, groups and internal channels.
This mirrors my own thoughts on what has been happening to ‘social media’ over the last few years. It is now 6 years since the first edition of my book The Business of Being Socialcame out. My co-author Michelle Carvill and myself then re-wrote 70% of the content for the second edition which came out in 2015.
If the two of us were to update the book for 2019, I think we would probably need to start from scratch and re-think the way in which the media landscape has shifted yet again into some kind of internet/social media 2.0.
André van Loon, research and insight director, We Are Social, who produced the survey, is quoted as saying: “Brands can have a big above the line push, but when it comes to consumers actually talking about the brands they like, the things they want to do or buy, and following others’ recommendations, more and more of that now happens in private apps and by sharing links.”
So where does this leave businesses who are keen to reach out to their customers, clients and stakeholders? Will this make communicating with them even harder?
On the surface, it does seem to pose a greater challenge to organisations. However, DNAsix has been set up specifically to deal with this changing marketplace.
- It is more important than ever to have a proper business plan with an understanding of your customers, how you are going to engage with them plus a long-term strategy for success. Get this right and you will be able to adapt constantly to the changing landscape.
- Think about your company’s approach to the future. Do you embrace change, to you encourage your staff to grow, do you employ mavericks who don’t play by the normal rules, are you a creative hub, do you want to genuinely do things differently?
- The content you create is content that your customers will want to (a) engage with (b) share publicly as well as privately and (c) fits the channel it is featured on. You also need to think about whether the content is static, moving or augmented.
- ‘Being social’ in business can be done in so many ways – face-to-face, over the phone, conferences, WeChat, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Messenger, LinkedIn, email, Twitter and intranets. It all depends on your audiences – both internal and external – how open your communication channels are and how prepared the people within your company are prepared to become ‘brand ambassadors’.
- Perhaps we need to look again at digital advertising, particularly when it comes to Facebook. Rather than spend money to gain access to new audiences, we need to revert to an older-fashioned and nuanced way of using the site – getting real fans and influencers who are genuinely interested in your product or service. Similarly, rather than using ‘bots’ and AI to scour LinkedIn, we need to go back to proper person to person networking.
- Then there is data. You consistently have to monitor your own data – CRM systems, analytics, insights, feedback, recommendations – as well external data in terms of hashtags, trends, competitors, influencers and clients. However, with more emphasis on dark social channels, this may become more difficult and nuanced. However, as ever, listening and understanding what is being talked about is vital.