Social marketing is still being threatened by a sort of minefield of public controversy. This is a topic we’ve attempted to address before. But we’ve tried to do so without taking too rigid a position on the future of the industry in general, or any of the major platforms it uses.
Maybe this goes against what some readers would expect from social marketing professionals. But the truth is that no one can reliably predict the future when it comes to large-scale online trends. Anyone who promises they can do so is probably blowing smoke. We think it’s much more realistic to acknowledge the uncertainty while also making it clear that we’re monitoring new trends as they emerge, and keeping an eye on the ones that have already been established.
Our updates, like our social marketing itself, are necessarily part of an ongoing service. If you continue to come back to this blog, you’ll occasionally read new takes on the backlash that Facebook and other platforms are facing as public awareness about disinformation and data harvesting continues to grow. None of those takes will be definitive, but we hope they’ll all help you to draw your own conclusions about how the controversy is going to affect the value of your social marketing campaign.
Of course, you can ask for a more explicit opinion from us at any time. And unless some earth-shaking news has recently broken, our advice will probably lie somewhere along the lines of, “Keep doing what you’re doing, but have a Plan B.”
That advice persists in the wake of recent news about the release of a Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma.” The reporting has reaffirmed the problems that public backlash create for the industry. But it has also cast doubt upon the idea that those problems will actually damage social marketing in a way that it can’t recover from.
Supposedly, “The Social Dilemma” has shocked some viewers so much that they have sworn to drastically change their social media habits, and have encouraged their friends and family to do the same. In some cases, they have reportedly even gone so far as to delete their accounts and thus put themselves beyond the reach of social marketing altogether.
It’s very reasonable to be worried about this trend, especially if an analysis of your web traffic shows significant overlap with the sorts of people who watch documentaries on Netflix. But it’s not reasonable to turn those worries into a complete transformation of your social marketing strategy, at least not yet. Many experts have expressed skepticism about the extent of the negative reactions to “The Social Dilemma,” and that skepticism is well-founded on the shortage of serious consequences from past revolts against major platforms.
The overall trends so far have shown that the number of new accounts being created on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are easily outpacing the number of old accounts that are being deleted as a result of privacy concerns. Could this imbalance shift in the other direction? Of course it could. But so far, nothing has been sufficiently alarming to move the needle in the direction of a shrinking audience for social marketing.
This is not to say that you should ignore the negative trends altogether. Once again, our advice for most clients is to always have a Plan B. Furthermore, our advice is to always be ready to implement that plan. Your social marketing company should be prepared to update you at a moment’s notice about changing patterns of engagement and traffic, so you always have a sense of whether your specific audience is growing more wary of existing platforms.
Even in absence of the current controversies, it’s safe to assume that your audience’s behavior is going to change over time. For your social marketing to remain effective over the long term, you have to develop an understanding of how and when that behavior is altered. And you need to be prepared to launch new, innovative campaigns to stay ahead of the change.