Dan Andrews, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency the tree looks at the idea of “serious social”: not social used in an overly earnest way, but social used as a serious communication and marketing tool to create real-world outcomes.
Last month, the NHS revealed that it would enlist “sensible” celebrities to persuade people to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Ministers and NHS England put their heads together and drew up a list of famous faces with big social media followings who might sway the undecided. The royal family were apparently among them, as was the Man United striker Marcus Rashford. The government has cottoned on to the power of social not just as an everyday communication tool, but as something which, through influencers, can connect with the public in a way it can’t.
But they’re not the only ones who are beginning to see the true extent of social’s potential during a time of disconnection. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 at the beginning of this year and the subsequent imposition of restrictions on gathering, all organisations, no matter how resistant to change they were prior to the sudden breakout of coronavirus, have been compelled to undertake a programme of rapid digitalisation. Even those senior team members who considered their companies immune to the commercial pressures wrought by changes in how people communicate and like to communicate simply had to acclimatise or risk failing. And as a matter of course, this prompted a reconsideration of the merits of social media.
However, this did not spark a transformation of otherwise old-fashioned or traditional brands into zany, slang-using, made-over companies. Instead, it hastened a movement in the direction of a different kind of social—one that is a little more thoughtful and mature. Out of this has emerged the idea of “serious social”: not social used in an overly earnest way, but social used as a serious communication and marketing tool to create real-world outcomes.
It’s especially important at a time when social has been misused that all brands move away from anything that looks like clickbait or vanity posting and think about the impact of their social media use. By always keeping in mind the effect that their social work has on users and current or potential consumers, they can make sure that they communicate in a consistently meaningful way.
This is an illustration not solely of the importance of adaptability in the business world, but of the adaptability of social to the needs of business. It’s becoming more and more important to connect with audiences digitally. In our recent whitepaper, The Future of Connected Brand Experiences 2021, we explored this topic and how consumer behaviour is changing. We discussed how, deprived of social contact, connection has become all-important. Human beings, as a highly social species, have a need to be around and relate to others, and at this moment that need is deep. Equally, brands must respect the way social media has allowed for the spread of misinformation, and assume their responsibility as moral compasses.
People have also developed ways of using digital without exhausting themselves or succumbing to the dreaded “Zoom fatigue”, since everyone has had to adapt and learn to form or strengthen social bonds through virtual concerts, dinner parties or video calls to friends and family. There has been a surge in communitarian feeling due to the widespread understanding that we’re “in it together”. Faced with a pandemic which doesn’t make distinctions, people have felt more solidarity than they did when they could actually spend time with each other. All this points to the desire for meaningful connection with others, and with brands.
Brands must keep taking advantage of what social offers, but make sure that they are communicating in a thoughtful, “serious” way. As we move into 2021 and the need to have a relationship with audiences intensifies, this will be essential for any business.
By Dan Andrews
Founder and CEO
Dan Andrews is the founder and CEO of the tree, a multi-award-winning content and social marketing agency, as well as the powerful CMS provider, the root. the tree has helped businesses including JustEat, BMW and Ticketmaster stand out in a crowded marketplace and is behind easyJet and American Airlines’ bold content and social strategies in the age of COVID.