Social Media — A Boon or a Bane?

August 3 2020

There’s been no shortage of discussion about social media’s seemingly endless potential to bring people closer together.  Clearly, it is a powerful tool that can efficiently provide information to the masses and create stronger bonds in any number of communities.

However, along with these positive opportunities come threats to all entities, especially in today’s “new normal.”

The dramatic evolution of user behavior on social networking platforms has created a new environment where targeted fragmentation is the go-to mechanism for social media marketers. Targeted marketing in social media is now the primary conduit to funnel specific information to specific users at specific times. Over time, this has resulted in organic, well-meaning content being edged out of the social media sphere in favor of pay-to-play advertising on the major social media networks. Now, the user’s journey through social media, from start to end, can be bought and sold, programmed and engineered away.

The digital empowerment sought by the networked masses in their endeavor to seek out content or data beyond the immediate horizon can now be molded with targeted content from advertisers. To the unknowing individual at the mercy of advertising by corporate giants, what they have left is merely an illusion of control.

A lack of norms guiding the development of the social media sphere has made platforms susceptible to abuse. Information and disinformation campaigns of both political or marketing nature are common. Lax regulations to enact enforcement and regulatory tools do not substantially curb unaccountable advertising patterns via social media targeting mechanisms.

On the ethics front, the marketing of products to young children, the vulnerable or the elderly via social media is highly contentious, for these groups of people are susceptible to being manipulated or misled by ads targeted at them. This has, unfortunately, not stopped some social media marketers from doing so.

Tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter, and the newer entrants such as ByteDance’s Douyin (TikTok), allow immense coercive power to be brought upon brands. The social mediascape is now a relative gains scene because marketers are focused on getting the product or service to the consumer by edging out key competitors on social media. Effectively, it is a zero-sum game. Whoever has the highest advertising budget wins. The development of complex analytical tools to analyze, track and tweak consumer behavior on social media have been an incredible boon to marketers that have jumped on the digital bandwagon. To the end-user, the empowerment to purchase a product or service is predicated upon information asymmetry — a knowledge, or lack thereof, of the product or service.

To the digital marketer, it is imperative that social media marketing be conducted appropriately, for it is now central in getting the targeted message across to the user through what can be a very cost-effective platform. Actionable social marketing goals must be set by pegging their output to metrics via data analytics software. Social media marketers would be in a good position if they conduct adequate competitor analysis, create and curate engaging content, and subsequently analyze and optimize the work that has been carried out.

Market research on the social front is important because ultimately, the target audience needs to establish a link to the product or service. In the current social media environment, brands and agencies can turn data-driven insights into engagement opportunities. Automation and artificial intelligence-powered analytic engines allow owned and earned data points to be pitted against contextual insights and methodical predictions — and all of these drive stronger marketing decisions.

Through their journey navigating the social space, consumers highlight their user experiences across the mediascape (social chatter) which impact brands, products and industries. Monitoring social media for relevant mentions and insights will allow social media marketers to ensure that their brands stay ahead of the game. As targeting on social media is a zero-sum game, the engagement potential for any brand is limited. But powerful social analytics and engineered research can quickly make sense of the massive amounts of user-generated social chatter, surfacing only the important insights that make for better, data-driven decisions.

Prior to releasing a statement through social media, marketers need to listen to their audience. While millions of social conversations happen globally, marketers need to tune in to the relevant ones in order to be part of a substantive dialogue. A social listening tool which analyses competitors will allow for the benchmarking of performance against the range of competitors. Measurement metrics share the voice across the industry and help build the brand’s digital health, enabling the monitoring of consumer perception trends, patterns of user interaction and news coverage. For the marketer, a greater understanding of how campaigns and products are seen through unprompted engagements. This is especially relevant during a crisis, as artificial intelligence-powered automatic alerts can deliver insights for marketers to act quickly and protect the brand’s reputation.

A simplified monitoring workflow can assist in the alignment of social messaging as producing content and effective campaigns across multiple channels is complicated. The complexity of assets, text rules and changing paid and organic content requirements call for a deft and adept digital marketer who can manage brand voice through appropriate content scheduling. For all of this to work smoothly, planning and execution of marketing campaigns via social media should rely on a centralized content calendar and asset repository. Ultimately, this will allow the marketer to unravel top performing content and assets from the brand and quickly distribute it in other regions or through marketing teams working on traditional channels.

By filling bandwidth within a growing spectrum of online mediascape, social media simultaneously empowers and disempowers every single digital user. With all the advancements in big data and analytics software, social media marketing presents a huge opportunity for the digital marketer when the entire social media marketing strategy is played well. Payoffs can be significant, but in cases where the product, service or brand is edged out by competitors, a reduction of brand equity or low consumer awareness of a product or service may result due to the nature of the zero-sum game of information asymmetry. To the average user of social media, true digital empowerment is merely incremental, for the information provided to them via social networks is ever-increasingly filtered through marketing and analytical contact points.

Boh Tiong Yap
Managing Director, Sample Page
Before starting Mileage Communications Pte Ltd, Boh Tiong Yap worked with a number of leading Singapore companies in senior public relations and marketing positions. These included The Straits Times (Journalist), Singapore Airlines (Marketing Executive and Public Relations Officer), United Overseas Bank (Vice President and Head of the Public Relations and Advertising Department) and Inchcape Berhad (Group Corporate Affairs Manager). He has a Masters Degree in Social Science (Sociology) from the University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore) and also holds a Diploma in Public Relations from the internationally regarded CAM Foundation in London. He was the President of the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS) from 1985 to 1993. For his outstanding work for the Institute and the industry, he was conferred the title of Fellow by IPRS in 1994. In February 2000, he was named PR professional of the Year by the Institute in recognition of his contributions to the PR industry. In 2010, he was one of the honorees of the Spirit of Enterprise Awards. Boh Tiong received an award as an Established Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 by the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises and Rotary Club of Singapore.

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