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Social media is changing – how can you stay on the right side of it?

By Will Morris, Managing Partner at Alchemy Digital

I’ll admit it, I barely use social media myself – I’m fonder of the more traditional ways of catching up with people. However, I’m safe in the knowledge our clients will use it as part of a wider Smart Digital Strategy in the most effective and ethical ways; we advocate it’s use in the way it was intended, as a communication and marketing tool, with the user in mind. But in other areas, social media is changing, and it’s disquieting for audiences and companies alike.

I doubt most of us even think twice about all those permission buttons you need to access certain things on Facebook, for example. I bet the majority are vaguely aware that the app owner might get our friends lists, email addresses and public profile, but in reality, several hundred companies and organisations can have information about us within seconds of following a link. As a population, we have no idea how much data is really collected about us, and it is harming individuals and businesses with good intentions.

Genuinely ethical and targeted marketing campaigns face several challenges posed by the changing face of social media – not least fake news/clickbait, cyber bullying/trolling and intrusive advertising and data capture clogging up our audience’s timelines. Underhand practices lead to distrustful and apathetic consumers, who are supposedly already leaving social media in droves, and wising-up to what’s happening. ‘Social media breaks’ are already a growing trend as people look to disconnect from negativity and reconnect with the real world, instead of relying upon their pocket screens 24/7.

Social media needs to stick to its core benefit – an easy engagement tool for people to communicate with their friends, family and network, people they’d otherwise not be able to as easily contact via other means (e.g. celebrities and politicians), as well as for those people (as consumers) to interact with their favourite brands without concerns about their data privacy being compromised. Consumers want easy, immediate, hassle-free ways to engage with brands, not at the price of selling their soul.

I’d like to think as a society we could reclaim social media and return it to its harmless beginnings. For businesses, they have been told time and again to make sure they’re online, on social and alert to their audiences – thanks in part to the speed at which technology develops, many businesses are still building their digital operations right now. I think it is a huge challenge to make your message heard above the junk, and it’s something our clients are increasingly concerned about.

We’re on the brink of something when it comes to social media. Either less and less benefit is realised from unethical methods of data capture via clickbait and apps, storing and sharing personal data (probably because we as users won’t let them!), or something else will take its place. We shall watch with interest.

In the meantime, to learn how to leverage social media in an effective and mutually beneficial way for your business and your audiences, come and have a chat with Alchemy Digital today.