Across social media, brands clamour for attention in a vast, dynamic space where the challenge of deciphering the ever-changing attitudes and trends of billions of users worldwide is one faced daily.
However, COVID has driven more people online than ever, and opportunity is ripe for brands to answer these hungry calls for connection. With people spending more time online and social media becoming a substitute for the interactions that were no longer possible in the pandemic, brands are discovering new ways of connecting with their audiences.
As we slowly escape the pandemic, the future of social media and the role brands play in it is hazy. To help us decode the fickle nature of social media, we asked our global Bulbshare community. Here’s what our insight community have to say about how brands need to adapt to an evolving online landscape…
Brands are welcome! So long as they follow the rules…
First, some good news. 88% of Bulbshare users responded positively when asked if brands should use social media to establish a connection with customers. Whether users may actively follow brands or not, there is an expectation that brands will enter these online spaces. However, consumers do have certain lines that they expect brands not to cross. Among the most critical concerns cited by users was privacy. Brands are welcome so long as they respect users’ data and privacy.
“I'm okay with it. Unless they ask for a lot of data.”
Bulbshare user, Male, 20 (UK)
“I do not want any information given to brands.”
Bulbshare user, Male, 69 (UK)
“It's okay so long as privacy is maintained.”
Bulbshare user, Female, 39 (UK)
Keep people up to date
Among some of the most popular reasons cited for following brands is a desire to stay updated on what’s new with the brands they love. For brands consumers already enjoy, following them on social media is an opportunity to be the first to know about new deals and offers, as well as being part of competitions and other brand initiatives. Unique interactions and exciting content from brands can be enjoyable for consumers and is important for building awareness, but when it really comes down to it, consumers often just want to be in the loop!
"I feel much better since I can obtain information that I want on certain brands.”
Bulbshare user, Male, 25 (USA)
“I'm one of those people who love to be the first to try new products.”
Bulbshare user, Female, 46 (UK)
“I like to follow brands to get promotions, discounts, competitions and giveaways."
Bulbshare user, Male, 39 (UK)
Are influencers truly the answer?
Brands have often made influencers the focal point of their online strategies, but with only 8% of Bulbshare users reporting that they primarily follow influencers – whereas 12% primarily follow brands – it begs the question whether influencer marketing is the sole strategy for reaching audiences. Instead, 84% of our insight community preferred the recommendations of family and friends and 85% believed in the power of consumer advocacy. Word of mouth advocacy and customer communities, then, are the future of social media. Check out our blog on influencer marketing vs word of mouth for more.
Social purpose is key
It should come as no surprise that for consumers, social purpose is critical. Brand activism is important to the modern day consumer. And let it be noted that there can be consequences for brands who flout this unwritten mandate in the form of backlash and rejection.
To find out more about the importance of brand’s being involved in these conversations, read our blog with L’Oreal UK & Ireland on diversity and inclusion.
“I like to see they are doing something beneficial for the country and giving back to their customers when they’ve made profits."
Bulbshare user, Female, 50 (USA)
“I want them to promote their products as well as send out positive message to the society."
Bulbshare user, Female, 34 (UK)
“If companies behave irresponsibly I tend to unfollow them."
Bulbshare user, Male, 39 (UK)
Focus on building online communities
Ultimately, users seek online communities with brands more than just benign social media comms. While being on social media is valuable for a brand in increasing awareness and engagement, a holistic online marketing strategy is incomplete without engaging the consumer in an online customer community. In fact, 77% of respondents believe that all brands should have online customer communities going forward and 71% believe that the brands that do are better for it.
For more information on the power of customer communities, head to our blog.