Social Trend Watching: April

Michael Oelschig Submitted by on the 19th of April 2016

Welcome to April’s edition of social media trends to watch out for. If you missed last month’s post, take a look here. This month, we think about being a little less nice, blocking digital ads, and creating multiple social media profiles for brands.

  1. Radical candour

Many of us were raised in a culture that preached niceness as a core component of being a good person. In the world of business, though, being nice at the expense of honesty and authenticity results in blissful, dangerous ignorance.

We live in a commoditised world. Most marketers don’t have the luxury of marketing brands or products with any real differentiator from their many competitors. They have had to differentiate in other ways, but even these tactics are becoming commoditised. If every detergent brand is trying to be disruptive, are any of them achieving it?

This is where radical candour can and, in my opinion, should fill the gap. Having honest conversations with customers on social media is possibly the only thing brands have left to stand out from their competitors.

When Adidas posted an Instagram image of two women embracing on Valentine’s Day, the inevitable trolls came out. Adidas’s response was simply telling them to take a hike – as long as it wasn’t in Adidas shoes – and people praised them wholeheartedly. Why is this so hard for brands to understand? People demand honesty, dammit! Even if what you are saying might give the Corporate Comms team a collective heart attack.

Will we see this trend take off a bit more? I really hope so. But it all depends on that elusive quality of most brands: bravery.

  1. Ad blocking and its impact on social media

While ad blocking is not entirely new, Apple’s foray into this space has recently brought with it a tonne of attention. While brands and marketers have largely failed to react to this trend, this is set to change as ad blocking reaches critical mass.

Why is this important? For social media marketers, ad blocking is actually a good thing. In a purely financial sense, ad blocking means that as interruptive pop-up ads become less effective, more of the digital marketing money pool will naturally be funnelled towards social media and content creation. And, for purists, a far more important shift will happen.

Let me illustrate with an example. Bank of America announced at a recent marketing conference that they are “steering away from an outdated, interruptive ad experience by connecting with consumers on social media, bringing valuable content to ongoing conversations”. This means that (hopefully) ad blocking will force marketers and their clients to shift focus to better, customer-centric content as opposed to just advertising to them on digital channels. When brands start focusing more on quality content, everybody wins.

  1. Dedicated customer service Twitter handles

As social media continues its upward trajectory towards owning a seat at the table of marketing and company execs, more budget is being directed to social and the teams that run it. Running a brand’s Twitter account is no longer left to the intern that “gets social”.

Secondly, more and more consumers are defaulting to social as their preferred method of customer service. As a result, many brands’ channels are becoming inundated with customer service queries, in many cases drowning out their content and messaging.

Brands are starting to make the move to splitting out brand channels and customer service channels. Is it a good thing? It depends. Some brands have made a huge success out of it and some haven’t. It’s vital that each brand does the necessary work to figure out whether this is the right option for them. But a caution – make sure this is done right and don’t rush it because once this route is taken, you can never really go back.