Consumers have never been more suspicious, but it’s also a great time for marketers to experiment, experts say

Discourse on social media is changing for everyday users and advertisers alike, and social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok continue to face scrutiny. The Facebook boycott and the trending #StopHateForProfit stems from the lack of monitoring hate speech. While advertisers make U-turns, social media consumers are also becoming increasingly suspicious about data controversies as well, especially with TikTok as users are concerned about potential vulnerability to data being accessed by the Chinese government. The skepticism and consequences are a challenge to navigate for advertisers and users.

“When users do not engage as much because of privacy concerns, that reduces the quality of the data and interaction that contribute to the platforms which makes it difficult for advertisers to reach the exact audience they want to reach,” says Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd, the director of Ryerson University’s Social Media Lab.

Among growing tensions with Facebook and TikTok, marketing spending is giving advertisers opportunities to try something new, says Stacy DeBroff, founder of Influence Central, a social media and digital marketing company. First is the powerful alternative of influencers. “Influencers prove a powerful driver of consumer shopper marketing,” she said. 

A recent study at Influence Central found influencer marketing leads to a 400 per cent increase in purchase intent. The trick is to produce authentic and passionate storytelling by influencers that can strengthen brand loyalty, DeBroff explains.

Brands are also starting to experiment with alternative marketing budgets and investing more into shopper marketing with Google, Amazon, Pinterest and Snapchat, she adds. Others are testing email ads with Gmail or podcast advertising, and making connections with other websites and incentivizing them with commissions to drive sales.

Ongoing experiments

Social media marketing is an experimental process, according to Corey Shelson, president of 44 North Digital Marketing. “People need to stop thinking about it as a one-time activity,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges companies are seeing right now is low user engagement with social media advertising posts. “When it comes to organic content it’s very hard to make a splash with your standard post a few times a week because people are just not seeing the post,” Shelson said.

One possible solution is posting to LinkedIn, which he explains has a much larger organic reach than Facebook and Instagram. “For a B2B play, LinkedIn is 100 per cent where you need to be because you are still getting a lot of eyeballs on your posts,” Shelson said. Companies need to be very selective on the platforms they are using and consider the time investment they are making and how much the return is, he adds.

High-quality, easy-digestible content

Even when social platforms have the firepower to bring more brand awareness, businesses struggle with controversies surrounding data integrity. TikTok is brewing up controversy as users are split on just how safe the platform is with its open-ended permissions. So far, 15 per cent of online Canadian adults have a TikTok account, according to a recent report by Ryerson’s Social Media Lab.

Nevertheless, some businesses are taking advantage of TikTok’s 800 million active users. “The organic reach is very very large. If companies are using TikTok effectively you can actually reach a huge number of people without having to pay to do so,” Shelson explained. However, he says 44 North Digital Marketing is still not using the platform for clients.

Shelson is observing lifestyle brands making waves on TikTok and channels with funny, engaging, lighthearted content. “Social media moving into 2020 and beyond is about creating very high-quality engaging content that people enjoy watching,” he said. Businesses need to harness the potential of video and portray them as entertainment brands, he adds, rather than just a business posting about what they are doing. 

TikTok may host considerable potential for businesses; however, users should take caution, says Dr. Barbara Rembiesa, president and CEO of IAITAM. The app has been found gathering data that includes the user’s clipboard history, location and GPS data.“You have a perfect storm for sensitive data to be placed into the wrong hands,” she says. 

Rembiesa says that allowing TikTok in or near your organization’s environment is not consistent with maintaining data integrity and that there needs to be large importance on ascertaining potential data risks where such software should be managed by IT managers. Amazon recently released an email telling its employees to delete TikTok from their phones, before walking the statement back the next day. But it shows there is a severe concern in the enterprise world about hosting these types of apps on corporate devices.

Changing online behaviours takes time, but companies should beware of the trends going forward to adapt, says Ryerson’s Gruzd. 

He says that businesses concerned with security or suspicious of social media platforms should be cautious with TikTok. Still, He agrees that “it is an interesting time to visit organic and native campaigns.” 

Through recent research, Gruzd has noticed how people under 25 have lightweight interactions where they click, like and share but not much post original content. People from 25-34 are the content creators focusing on pictures and videos, the rest largely consume the information.

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