Social Media Returns to its Roots

Nicole Vandenbergh, Social Media Coordinator at CGI Communications shares her insider insights on what it takes to make it in today’s social media society. Nicole will be featured as a panelist for AMA Rochester’s lunch seminar: Positive Customer Experience through Social Media.

A few weeks ago, Snapchat unveiled an update that sent users into a frenzy. The story quickly spread across every social channel, but for many of us, it was nothing new. Do you remember when Facebook changed its layout every few months? I’ve gotten more than a few Facebook “On This Day” memories featuring a cheeky status about how much I hated the new update.

At this point, I’ve been on Facebook for over a decade. Before that, I was the queen of MySpace. In 2008, when I was a sophomore at Syracuse University, I created my first Twitter account. One of my very first tweets was: “Seriously, I want @taylorswift13’s hair.”(Pretty amazing how Taylor’s evolved but kept the same Twitter handle. And I still want her hair.)

In those days, it was acceptable to make simple, genuine updates on social media. Real, raw, and authentic–that’s how we posted before we were concerned about playing by the rules or appearing clever.

A year later, SU introduced its first official social media marketing class. I attended SXSW and the schedule included multiple panels on what we now call content marketing. Experts all agreed: Facebook, Twitter, and a growing number of other platforms were great venues for developing personal relationships with customers and fostering brand loyalty.

At its core, this has always been the value of social media marketing. It offers something that most other media can’t: a direct, two-way conversation with consumers. You can’t ask a TV commercial about the product it’s promoting, but you can ask a Twitter account. And when that conversation is publicly viewable, it offers businesses a priceless opportunity to put stellar customer service on display for all to see.

Of course, we’ve gotten away from that in recent years. My feeds are now full of social media marketing “experts” who claim they have the “secrets” to crushing at content marketing, which they’ll share with you if you just buy their ebook for $99.99. Blogs are littered with posts explaining content marketing “hacks” that can be used to generate those ever-elusive leads. Landing pages and video views and retargeting, oh my!

Don’t get me wrong. These are all great tools. Digital marketing has evolved in amazing ways, and a smart strategy is still crucial to campaign success. But in another way, we’ve lost what used to make us great: real, authentic connection between brands and their consumers.

On January 11th, Mark Zuckerberg opened the door for a return to our roots. He said: “We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” Social media marketers went into panic mode as Zuckerberg continued, “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

This seemed like a death sentence to most people in our field.

I read it as an opportunity.

Especially in conjunction with Zuckerberg’s next line: “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

It should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

Isn’t that what this has always been about? While we’ve spent the last ten years getting caught up in hacks and bidding strategies, we’ve lost sight of what made social media marketing special in the first place: meaningful interaction.

Going forward, we’ll all be held to a higher standard when it comes to the content we post. Quality will start to outweigh quantity. That is a good thing. These changes will challenge us to go back to our roots: posting what we really mean, when we really mean it, in an effort to connect with our customers.

Brands who have relied on plug-and-play content marketing will struggle.

But those of us who dare to pay attention and get real may soar higher than we could’ve imagined.


For more on this topic attend our seminar: Positive Customer Experience through Social Media.