For many practitioners and brand owners, going social seems like the most logical thing to do after the slow decay of mainstream media, where more and more people are shifting their reading and viewing habits away from traditional media, into the arms of mobile entertainment. And yes, that pot of gold at the end of the "social" rainbow did not materialize.
For many brand owners and communication practitioners, the reality of the decay of mainstream media is in full force. And increasingly at an alarming pace, the decay of social marketing seems to be setting in too.
With the decay of organic reach on Facebook, which are echoed by many analysts and practitioners (including this on Venturebeat), the only way to fight the rapid loss of outreach is to advertise. The more money you throw at the platform, the more you can reach those fans you already have, and hopefully some you do not yet have. But the numbers are not happy numbers, and increasingly, clients and their management are grilling everyone on why they aren't reaching out to real people, and why social conversations are abysmal. Occasionally, you do get conversations it seems. But when you dig deeper, many of these are fake or clone profiles of the same few people, often hankering after freebies or contests. Real conversations are becoming rare for commercial brands, and going controversial to get conversations is obviously not an option.
So, with the death of organic outreach and the fading of social conversations and mainstream media due to the changing habits of viewers and readers, what can brand owners and practitioners now do to reach out to people?
In a nutshell, start writing, start filming, start chatting.
It is no secret that content is still king. He who owns content that people want and need, will get the slice of the pie. Brand owners and practitioners need to work harder at developing their own web properties based on educational and entertaining content, that the public will be interested in. Leave out controversy just to get quick views, because the current generation is much more vocal behind keyboards. Instead, develop genuine, enriching, uplifting content, that people will be happy to share with at least their families and friends. And write short articles that readers can read within a minute, not long discourses that the impatient new generation will ignore.
Writing is like martial arts. The more you write, the better you get.
Video, like the YouTube phenomenon, is the new thing. More and more people are searching and viewing videos on their smartphones or tablets, when they are traveling in transit trains, sitting back in cafes, or even at home. The decline of cable and terrestrial television is partially attributed to the rise of mobile streaming and on-demand video content.
Video is a medium that is much more complex to produce. It is easy to type out this article with nothing more than a simple computer or equivalent device, or even pen it down on paper. It is very easy these days to use a digital camera or a smartphone to shoot a still image and upload online. But it is a lot harder to shoot a video that has a good storyline, decent audio-visual quality and playback. The barrier to entry is much higher.
And yet, brand owners and practitioners have no choice but to embrace video. It is the current new media.
Some of the most viewed online videos are simple home videos shot on smartphones, with no post-production. What worked for these videos are their human quality, and usually a good dose of humor. Brand owners and practitioners can explore this kind of video within reason and context.
To go a step up, is to have videos shot on modern mirrorless cameras with good video quality, such as the Panasonic Lumix GH3/GH4, have decent quality audio recorded with appropriate microphones and recorders, and then have internal or outsourced teams use the minimal resources to put together documentary-style videos or short films. These kind of films should not be too glitzy or polished, but just enough to have a similar feel as news stories. It is important to have good narratives and stories that engage people's attention. These should not be blatant advertisements, as they won't work. Think like a filmmaker, except that your films will be short, from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
And shooting video grows on you. Try it.
No, I do not mean the usual chatting on your regular social media platform. I am referring to creating conversations elsewhere. For example, there are many forums that value good quality conversations. It may be good for brand owners and practitioners to start exploring such options.
For example, if you are a content expert, you may consider lending moments of your time to share your expertise and opinions on the likes of Quora, a question-and-answer platform. There are many emerging sites similar to this in concept.
You may also explore setting up your own blogs to propagate and invite discussion, whether self-hosted on your own servers, or on platforms such as Medium.
You may also explore stepping out of the virtual world altogether, and start chatting with real people, face to face. You may participate in public forums, conferences and events, as speakers, or even guests, to voice valid and valuable opinions. The advent of livestreaming makes participation in such "live" events more interesting.
Share and learn with people. Real relationships are formed face to face.
With the last dotcom crash in 2000, many previously innovative technology firms collapsed and faded into oblivion. Digital technologies have evolved much faster than other technologies such as medicine or engineering, and obsolescence will invariably set in much faster too. Therefore, it is not necessary to fear the death of social media platforms in due course, as long as we are always prepared and ready for the next new wave.