This week has been social media week and I have been busy. Partly because Nokia were the headline sponsor, doing lots of amazing things and partly because I have been talking on various panels about the future of social media and such things. here I am with guys from Ogilvy and Yorkshire tea talking about “the battle for attention” (I am on the panel, starting at about 30 mins, but listen to the Yorkshire Tea guy, he gives a good presentation.)
One point I have been raising all week is a trend beginning to unfold among my peers over the last 6-12 months, that of “unfollowing”: Initially this trend seemed to focus on younger females, I noticed a lot of people I went to uni with and people I knew from school begin to reduce their number of friends on Facebook dramatically, independently and from different social groups I noticed a lot of friends reduce from several hundred Facebook connections down to 50-100. – That was early to mid last year. Since then limited profiles have come up a lot more and, in short, people are being more picky about who they connect and share with. This has also been reflected in our industry: In September 2011 Chris Brogan unfollowed, well, everyone, in a “great unfollow experiment” several others did the same.
2 parallel but interlinked trends have driven this in my opinion: Firstly a greater desire for privacy and tales from across the world of people making asses of themselves, losing jobs or even getting stalked or robbed (!) due to a careless use of social networks, in short: People are now more picky about who they share with and what. The second is that as social networking matures people are more picky about what they want to see, do I really care what a guy I used to know in primary school is now doing for a living or that his cat is sick? – No, unfollow / unfriend… We all have too much info about everything anyway, why do I need more?
Now here is my question: When will this spread to brands… If I don’t care what a lot of real people are doing in social, why would I want to hear about a brand? Particularly a brand I don’t really care about, but I have “followed” or “liked” to enter a competition or get a store discount! – Will we begin to see more people clean house in the brands they follow and engage with? How can brands stop this or counter it?
Well, there are 3 approaches in my opinion:
1) stay relevant with content people want: People want discounts? OK, give them more! But wait… Then Facebook just becomes one giant coupon mail list, is that what you want? Is that what the promised land of social media has become?
2) Become a hub of amazing created and curated content: This has to be fun, it has to be emotionally resonant (make me laugh, cry or smile or feel something, so I share it!) and it has to be consistent, a lot of it. – This is nice but it’s a real brand play, how does this drive business value?
3) People: Forget garnering attention for yourselves, focus on your core fans and those people you want to make core fans and use personal relationships, engagements and offline events to build them into powerful advocates – People listen to people and buy from people so make people advocate your brand and you will thrive!
The Answer: At this stage it’s hard to say, but as with so many things a little of each, you drive direct business value with #1, brand value and engagement with #2 and you drive NPS, peer recommendation and all the above with the all important #3…
But most importantly: Ground everything you do (including your social strategy, if you have one) in this: “Does this activity add value to the community?” – Simple, but easy to forget…
As things get saturated it’s going to get tough out there, good luck!