What the future of social media means for the brand strategies of Vice, BBC and Salesforce
The end of the manufacturing economy and the rise of the network economy
The social media phenomenon is spurring the digitisation of popular culture at a time when everything is information enabled. Companies like Airbnb, Uber and Netflix have mined this shift to create smart networks that understand supply and demand better than most 20th century business ever did. It’s how Vice’s senior vice president of innovation Mark Adams describes what he calls “the end of the manufacturing economy and the rise of the network economy”. Ultimately, it means that companies that keep “supplying where there is no demand” are going to get “disrupted”, claimed Adams, before observing how marketers are yet to comprehend the “profound” impact social media is having on the way people behave, especially when it comes to content.
The advent of the news feed has paved the way for a culture of curation, shifting the onus on creating content that “humanises why anyone should care about this”, said Adams. “Vice works because it goes into spaces where there is cardboard on your plate and gives you a four-course meal,” he continued. For example, the publisher’s female-focused hub – Broadly – launched this summer after it noticed a dearth of quality content for them. The fact that Broadly has become Vice’s biggest launch to date is testament to its understanding of how content works in a shared ecosystem.
“Through social media, we’ve literally unleashed the laws of nature on businesses and I think that speaks a lot to this theory of everything that underpins these network economies,” claimed Adams. “It’s about making content that humanises why anyone should care about this. And then we’ll put it into the system and if it’s sensitive to that environment then it will work. Just like a living organism, things move within these network economises because they are nutritious and provide a value.”
Engaging your fans and building a community are two separate things
Marketers have muddled the concept of a community. It’s not about chasing likes or racking up high follower numbers in a controlled environment, said Salesforce’s head of strategy Jeremy Waite. Instead, a brand community relinquishes most of that control and pushes a “bigger purpose that stands for more than it sales”. And with a job that includes masterminding the social strategy’s for a host of global brands like Nike and Playstation, Waite is best placed to shine a light on where marketers are going wrong at the moment.
“The business world is still a bit obsessed with the transactional side [of marketing] because what we’re trying to do is buy peoples’ attention,” he added. “It’s not that social doesn’t work, it’s just that people haven’t figured out the value yet.
The observation brings into sharp focus the issue that despite being at the perfect intersection between humanity and technology, many marketers aren’t building their communities with a long-term view. “What we forget is that idea that a social business was originally describing a community that loves itself,” Waite continued.
Another hurdle to building these hubs is dark social; 77 per cent of brands in 2015 say consumer behaviour tied to anything emotional in their lives happens within private messaging apps where brands can’t measure, according to Waite. The concept has been around for some time but the rise of messenger services like WhatsApp and Facebook rebuilding its own Messenger app, signal a bigger problem for brands.
“Marketers haven’t been able to go in a boardroom and attribute the value of social marketing. It’s not the value of a like but how do you put a value on an audience or a community and understanding that just because you can measure everything, it doesn’t mean that you should,” claimed Waite.
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