What if the social media realm were a real city? If we were to look at it through the lens of psychologists — who claim that social media users are feeling psychological distress — we might encounter visibly sad citizens walking its streets, hiding their misery behind a smokescreen of VSCO-filtered selfies.
Facebook, along with other social media companies, is taking the blame. In response, they have begun rethinking their features and introducing new campaigns. One of these happened in November 2019, when Instagram began hiding the ‘likes’ count from posts in a bid to “depressurise” the platform and turn it into space where social media users can see good things.
But advertisers and marketers, whose content is consumed by millions of users thanks to social media marketing, have a responsibility, too, to make their social media content an advantage, not a threat.
By posting positive and authentic content
Not only will marketers associate positivity to their brand when they post positive content on social media, they are also increasing their likelihood of going viral. A University of Pennsylvania study revealed that surprising, interesting, or practically useful content is positively linked to virality. This underlines the importance of taking individual-level psychological processes into consideration when targeting collective outcomes through social media marketing.
Samples of “positive posts” that people prefer sharing online, as shown in a New York Times study cited here, are as follows):
• Posts about advocacies 84% of participants reported that they “share information as a way to support causes or brands they care about.” For marketers, this could mean crafting content that focus on causes that their brand cares about.
• Posts that improve people’s lives A staggering 94% said they share content that they believe will make people’s lives better. Therefore, marketers can add helpful content to their social media marketing to improve the lives of their audience.
• Posts that define users 68% of participants said they share content that align with an “idealised online persona” of themselves. In other words, consider creating posts that aligns with your audience’s personalities.
The last bullet point speaks about authenticity, a value that is hard to come by in a social media world full of pretension. Being authentically positive isn’t skin-deep. The positivity must radiate from the marketers themselves. Only then will they be able to communicate this on social media as authentic, positive content.
By not exploiting user’s anxiety
Marketers who are authentic and positive will not turn to morally dubious means to gather attention from their target audience.
One of the morally dubious social media posts is those that exploit people’s anxiety through FOMO, the (millennial shorthand for “fear of missing out”. Make a quick Google search of the keyword “FOMO marketing” and you will be bombarded by marketing pages that claim you can boost sales by leveraging on consumers’ FOMO. Take this with a grain of salt. FOMO has been shown to trigger negative emotions and a sense of unease in people. Studies show that FOMO triggers envy in 39% of people and sadness or disappointment in 21%.
Deliberately triggering these emotions can cost social media marketers more harm than good. Campaigns of this type are manipulative on a certain level, and using these tactics are risky, especially if marketers underestimate their audience. The audience is not the enemy: keep their best interests in mind.
By being inclusive
One of the reasons why social media is so addictive is because it bridges geographical gaps. As much as this is beneficial for brands—they can now reach audiences that they otherwise couldn’t reach through print or television—this also means increased diversity in the target market, some of which could be prone to microaggressions.
Musician Rihanna’s widely successful beauty brand Fenty Beauty, which managed to bring in a staggering $100 million in sales in its first 40 days of operation, is one of the brands that have earned the title of “inclusive” without necessarily using the word “inclusive” in its messaging even on social media.
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Instead of going the usual route in cosmetics retail, it used an approach that is authentic and meaningful to consumers of different races. Its foundation, for example, is offered in 50 different shades, making them a bona fide industry disrupter. Its marketing ‘showing, not telling’ … sharing authentic stories that are rooted in culture and are emotionally meaningful to consumers.” In a Think with Google piece, the brand’s chief marketing officer revealed: “Our approach to inclusion marketing has always been about ‘showing, not telling.’ In fact, we never once used the word ‘inclusive’ in our messaging. ‘Inclusive’ is how we were defined by the press and consumers. The marketing, social, and creative team prioritizes and engages in this conversation on a daily basis with the Fenty Beauty community.”
The urgency to be more sensitive to diversity is emphasised by pages that call out advertisers who fall short of being inclusive. Collectives such as Estée Laundry and Diet Prada use their Instagram point out brands that have, say, a simplistic definition of a woman, as portrayed in their ads that portray only slender, white women, thereby completely neglecting the existence of other types of women: brown-skinned, chinky-eyed, or plus-sized. In this day and age, a brand can be more successful if it is inclusive, and if its advertisements represent reality with responsibility.
All these tie together in the end. If brands want their audience to stay on social media, they have to give them a pleasant experience filled with positivity and authenticity, without forgetting that social media posts are also a form of activism for causes that brands and audiences alike can care about.
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