Combatting The Negative Effects of Social Media
There are a million reasons to love social media. It provides us the ability to stay connected with friends from our past, entertaining memes and videos that make us laugh, the ability to interact with our favorite brands, or the opportunity to learn almost anything in a matter of minutes. For brands seeking to sell goods or services, social media provides an opportunity to interact with consumers, invite real-time feedback and create community and loyalty.
But, as we’ve seen in recent headlines, social media can also have a dark side. The negative effects on users’ mental health are legitimate concerns. Fake news can spread like wildfire, “doom scrolling” is an easy pit for social media users to fall into, and frequent posts depicting unattainable lifestyles and promoting unrealistic beauty standards can lead to feelings of inadequacy for the average social media user.
So does the good outweigh the bad? Can brands maintain a positive online presence without adding to the negative effects social media is having on their most valuable assets – their consumers? Some brands are taking a page from Lush Cosmetics’ book and leaving social media altogether. But this action presents its own set of problems. It leaves social media with only brands that aren’t considering the impact they have on the average user.
But there is an alternative. Marketers have a chance to bring truth back to social media. There is a way to change social media for the better by intentionally bringing authenticity and positivity to our consumers’ timelines and news feeds while actively working to remove as much of the negativity as possible. There are changes marketers can make to social media strategies while waiting for the dreaded algorithms to catch up.
Leaving is Not the Answer
Removing yourself and your brand from social media might be a tempting consideration given all of the recent news regarding its negative mental health implications. Add to that the whistleblower claims that Facebook knowingly and intentionally designed their algorithm to amplify negativity and misinformation, and a boycott may seem like a legitimate strategy. But is it the only answer? What is left after the outraged brands leave in protest?
If consumers are still using social media, then they are left with an even darker newsfeed. Instead of deserting audiences on social media, take steps to change social media for the better. Lean into the benefits of social media while intentionally working against the negativity. Commit to a social media strategy purposefully designed to combat the dark side of social media. This cultivates a healthy and more helpful presence on social media, which is good for the well-being of your target audience and your brand’s social presence.
Truthful Content Creation
In order to truly change the effects social media has on your audiences, keep in mind that a complete overhaul of your brand’s social media strategy may be necessary. When creating content, the impact on consumers should be top of mind. Are images heavily Photoshopped? Do they create an unrealistic expectation of how your product or service exists in the real world? Is your copy hyperbolic? Ask yourself why these things have become the industry standard.
If your product or service will truly benefit your consumers, then why not let it speak for itself? Your social media presence can convey your brand’s truth and still appeal to your audience. In fact, a 2019 study found that 90% of consumers say authenticity is an important factor when choosing which brands to support.
There are many methods brands can employ to create authenticity and positivity on social media while meeting their brand’s marketing goals.
User Generated Content
If content is king, user-generated content (UGC) is an emperor. 88% of Gen Z and Millennials reported that they learn about products they are interested in buying on social media. Over 80% of this same demographic trusts their friends and family to give good advice about brands they love. This makes UGC one of the most valuable endorsements of your brand.
Encouraging consumers to post content featuring your product or service not only provides you with a plethora of content to repurpose – with the creator’s permission of course – but also invites your audience to engage with your brand by tagging your brand on their posts. What’s more, when consumers see their own content posted on your feed they are more likely to engage with it.
When selecting UGC to share on your brand’s social media accounts, authenticity should be top of mind. Select UGC that shows your brand in a realistic light without altering your product or sugar-coating your service. Heavily filtered or edited UGC doesn’t convey your brand’s truth and only adds to the negative effects of social media.
Influencer marketing is clearly here to stay. While some aspects can add to the negative effects of social media, there are ways to combat this. Running an authentic influencer marketing campaign that is helpful – not harmful – to your target audience is possible when done intentionally.
Be intentional with the influencers you choose to work with. If you have committed to showcasing your brand authentically on social media, the influencers you work with should do the same. Ask your influencers not to Photoshop themselves or your product. It is also important that the influencers you work with are authentic in their other posts. Select influencers whose profiles reflect reality instead of an unattainable idealized life. Encourage your influencers to acknowledge when pictures are filtered or Photoshopped, or not to enhance their pictures at all. Support influencers who reflect your brand’s values and commitment to depicting truth and reality on social media.
Working with influencers who genuinely love your product can also add to the authenticity of a campaign. Social listening tools can help you discover influencers who have mentioned your brand organically in the past. Collaborating with an influencer who has previously complimented your brand lends credibility to your campaign. A superfan with an established audience who already loves to talk about your brand is the jackpot of all influencer marketing campaigns.
Paid Social Media Ads
Now that you’ve crafted your organic social and influencer strategies to intentionally create a safe and positive presence on social media, what can you do about paid social media ads? For some brands, such as Patagonia, the choice is clear – they won’t allocate any budget to paid ads on the platforms they deem irresponsible and damaging to users. Brands that choose to go this route have numerous other options for their advertising dollars. They can utilize other social media platforms, Google keyword and display ads, podcast ads, or more traditional advertising mediums such as print, radio and television.
Other brands may choose to commit to authenticity in their paid ad strategy. Another option is to reallocate the budget for paid social media ads into your influencer marketing budget. This allows brands to continue to increase their visibility and exposure on social media platforms through larger influencer marketing campaigns, without directly spending money on social media platforms. There is no right or wrong answer. Only careful consideration of your brand’s values and objectives will determine which route is best for you.
Like most things in life, social media is multifaceted. Without a strategy intentionally designed around authenticity, it is easy to inadvertently contribute to the negative effects of social media. Marketers have a choice to make. They can continue on with the status quo and ignore the negative effects of social media on users, or remove their brand from social media until the platforms and algorithms change in ways that promote positivity.
Even better, take control now and make intentional changes to your social media strategy to protect your audience. Contact Brandware’s experienced social media team for help crafting a social media strategy intentionally designed to positively impact your audience.