The Future of Social Media is about being Real, Bold and Defined

I’ve presented on the Future of Social Media at a couple of conferences recently. This is a summary of my discussions @ #gov3conf April 2016 & #contentconf in May 2016.

As I always do I spoke about how the Audience is King and First, knocking the crowns from content and mobile – they do have hugely important roles in the court that is Marketing, but none are as important as the audience.  While developing my view of the future, I looked at trends, research, data and innovative, successful government and Not For Profit social media campaigns globally. Through this research I found 3 consistent themes, which I believe are universally applicable. The future of Social Media has 3 foundations, it will be

Real, Bold and Defined.

The Future means being Real:
Real People (your Audience)
We will, and need to, know and understand our audience – their likes, interests and behaviours – much better than we do now ( not just by demographics and sociographics). We need to understand them more as people, not data sets. This will allow us target them more effectively, and create more relevant and engaging content and messaging. Some are doing this well already, but they are very few.

I hope that in a not too distant future demographics and targeting like “women 25 – 54” or “dads”  will finally be retired. Simply because we have the ability to do better.

Real Stories ( the role of Influencers)
 Adweek reported in Sept 2015 that 81% of brands already using influencers were satisfied with the results. Word of mouth has always been the strongest form of marketing, and now our “trusted friends” include Bloggers, Instagrammers and others we’ll never meet. We connect deeply with, and are influenced by, them because they are real people, sharing their own real stories and experiences.  

To be more effective in the future, we will know who our audience listens to – both people and other brands – and we will partner with them more often. Influencers can give your message greater credibility simply by telling it through their real life story, not through a marketing message from a brand. They also make it easier to reach and engage existing, new and greater audiences.

Real Time (Live Stream, Live Chat, Messaging etc)
From serving a message via Snapchat, to delivering press conferences or taking scenic tours by Periscope, and having a complete customer service experience through Facebook messenger, the growth of real time opens endless, exciting opportunities. We’re yet to see the true impact that real time will make, but, with 13M social media users on mobile in Australia, it’s starting strong and likely to be big.  

Case Study: Pretty Shady is a great example of being Real.  Tailoring every detail of the campaign to its audience’s interests, and using a variety of  relevant influencers to engage them, Pretty Shady delivers a fun, fresh, audience first campaign that succeeded in its objectives. 

The future means being Bold:
When it comes to content and strategy, we need to think, and do, things differently to really stand out, be memorable, reach our audience, convey our message and succeed.

Bold doesn’t have to mean big budgets or expensive campaigns. It’s as simple as remembering that you don’t need to do things the way they’ve always been done, and you don’t need be like everyone else. Being bold requires us to push the boundaries, think freshly and try something new.  

Bold is about bringing creativity into your problem solving, planning and development – along with data and analytics to guide and verify your decision making. 

Case Study: #whowillyouhelp is a great example of Bold, creative thinking.  From the Ontario Women’s Directorate, this anti violence against women campaign tackles the problem by confronting and activating an unexpected audience. The success of the campaign was demonstrated by substantial lift (20%+) in the target audience’s willingness to intervene.

The future means being Defined:
We will listen more, and more effectively, to better define our audience, and understand their needs and interests – these listening insights will inform more targeted strategy and content.

The channels we use, and their purpose, will be better defined – we used to think we had to be everywhere, we actually only need to be in the right place/s – and have a defined purpose for being there.

The objectives we set, and how we measure performance, will be better defined – We’ll plan and deliver more effective campaigns with stronger and more unique objectives, analytics, reporting and insights.

Paid social media activity means that a page with no likes can deliver greater engagement on a budget of $500 than a page with 10 000 relying on organic traffic. Vanity metrics like Page Likes still have a role, but they must be down weighted – and with broader goals like site traffic, downloads, purchase or fundraising, to a degree the role of likes, shares & comments in measuring performance need to also be carefully considered. Simply, there is no “one size” measurement set, it has to be tailored to the activity.  

Case Study: Know The Real Cost is a great example of a well Defined campaign. Targeting smokers, 13 – 17, the campaign message seemlessly integrated itself into the type of content its audience engaged with most, on the channel they were most active on. Social listening provided valuable insights on popular conversations, content and channels, these insights informed a well defined and highly targeted campaign and content strategy. Succeeding in it’s objective to engage young people in quit messaging and end their smoking habit, this Tumblr campaign won a Shorty Award in 2016

I strongly believe that the Audience is King and First– content, mobile, strategy, UX and all else should serve them. Treat the audience as King, and you’re likely to be rewarded. The Real, Bold & Defined future of social media leverages current trends, technology, insights and capabilities to deliver results that are truly relevant, tailored and valuable to your audience, maximising your ability to succeed.

Case Study: The recent marketing for the movie of DeadPool is a great case study of an integrated marketing strategy that highlights all three points. 
Inside DeadPool’s marketing strategy

My complete “Future of Social Media in Government” presentation is available on SlideShare

Research for this presentation is available here on storify

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