February 25, 2021|
Finding the Good in Social Media
In the last few years, a lot of us have started to rethink social media. We once said it was going to be “the great equalizer,” giving us all a platform to speak up and be heard.
But we’ve slowly realized it can also do a lot of bad things. Algorithm manipulations can control the slant on messaging, topics and then people. Unhealthy even dangerous ideas can be pushed forward. People form echo chambers. And since social media platforms are private corporate enterprises, all this is encouraged, so long as it drives clicks and profit.
Our every move is watched, our data sold, and misinformation and clickbait run rampant. Bots and others might even be responsible for “hijacking democracy.” There are certainly case studies being aired to suggest that less and less what is being pushed at us is legitimate and trustworthy.
In short, it’s pretty far from the utopia we all had imagined it could be. However, if we dig into the subject there is some bright spots and even some good.
1. Solving Problems—Together
Look at how the community leveraged TikTok to redesign pill bottles. It started when an elite athlete with Parkinson’s posted about how difficult pill bottles can be to manage. They demonstrated how tough it can be to remove just a single pill to take the right dose.
The video circulated on social media, and a self-taught designer took up the cause. Within a few days, he posted his own video and invited people to message him for the documents to 3D print prototypes.
He expected just a couple responses. Instead, he got many more offers, people offering to help tweak the design to continue improving it, and more messages from people saying they knew someone who would benefit.
From there, others took the tweaked designs and put them into production. In a matter of weeks, a problem was brought to light, and the community had rallied to solve it.
That’s far from the only example of social media doing good this way. And it’s all thanks to social media giving people who normally wouldn’t have “a voice” access to an audience.
Social media provide a platform. Years ago, seeking a platform was through the government or a journalist in the hopes of nationwide press. Social media provides instant access and hopefully a faster solution….and is so much easier.
2. Raising Awareness
That’s another “good” for social media: it can and does raise awareness about ongoing issues. It can and does create a forum for a dialogue vs. waiting for news reports on TV or the radio or in the paper. Now we can hop on Twitter and find an activist live-tweeting from a pipeline protest or an Indigenous youth speaking out about schools on reserves.
Social media makes it easier for these people to get public attention—much easier than in the past, at any rate. Before, that Indigenous youth would have had to get the ear of a reporter. They might have had to campaign in their community, their school, or even on the steps of Parliament. Today, they can take a picture of their schoolroom and put it on social media and say, “This is our learning environment.”
And as difficult as social media is for “the little guys” these days, it can also help Marketers raise awareness. Being on social media can help us connect with our customers and build a dialogue and relationship. Previous communication was on way and a shotgun approach to try and connect: flyers or signs in front of stores, mass mailings, getting coupons into stores, or buying ads in magazines or newspapers or on TV.
A lot of these channels have shifted online, but social media is a bit different. It gives us a direct line to consumers who are already present on the platform. It’s true that it’s getting harder to reach people, but it is still possible. Before, we needed an address or a phone number or for somebody to walk into our store.
3. Creating a Sense of Community
Finally, social media can still help us create a sense of community. That’s been especially important during the pandemic. Social media lets us connect with other like-minded individuals.
Yes, it’s tough to get eyes on anything, and it can be difficult to grow an audience. But this is an opportunity like we’ve never had before. When else have we had a chance to interact with our customers so freely? We can get input from people all around the world if we want, and we can do it in an instant.
From there, it’s easier to create a real sense of community, to connect with each other. In some ways, we can see the Parkinson’s pill bottle story as a story of community too. That community included disabled people, as well as designers and people with access to production systems. And they worked together to solve this problem.
There’s no reason to suggest our brands can’t also be involved in these kinds of communities. What can we bring to the table? When our customers point out a problem, when they offer us solutions, or insights on how they are using our products….what can we do to address these ideas? We might have the means to access production. We have the funds to help them get the word out about something or donate to a cause that's important to them.
How do we discover our customers on social media and make sure we can reach them? We can look to our brand essence for guidance. What do we value and support? And where does that intersect with what our customers turn to us for, the causes they’re likely to rally behind? When we know our brands, we’re likely to find the communities that we’re, in some ways, already part of. And we’ll likely find our customers there too!
Using social media is tough, and it’s likely going to get tougher, especially since there is so much communication that perhaps cannot be trusted. But if you are clear on your brand values and stay true to what your brand stands for, it is still an important asset to build a strong relationship with your customer. Just remember to start with the why as the framework to get the messaging right!
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