It may be a huge marketing channel for businesses the world over, but social media is rapidly losing trust as a reliable communication tool, leading to changes in what and how people (and therefore businesses) use these platforms.
Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of people no longer trust social media networks, according to social media management tool Hootsuite.
“In many ways, 2018 was a tumultuous year for social media,” Hootsuite’s CMO, Penny Wilson, said.
The report, however, went much further, stating that 2018 “represented a crisis year for trust on social media”.
“In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a congressional hearing, Facebook faced pressure from users and regulators to improve security, transparency and accuracy. Twitter, meanwhile, fought controversies over the large presence of bots on its platform, purging millions of fake accounts,” the report said.
“In recent months, consumers, regulators and media observers have questioned the privacy, accuracy and ethics of nearly every social network. The result: 60 per cent of people no longer trust social media companies.”
Ms Wilson said that rather than abandoning social media altogether, this waning trust is causing users to rethink which platforms they use and what information they share.
“Concerns around privacy have led social media users to more private channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat, creating unique opportunities for businesses to develop 1:1 relationships with customers, particularly as those customers increasingly prefer messaging for interactions like support,” the CMO said.
According to Ms Wilson, 2018 saw a slowdown in organic reach that forced many businesses to increase their paid social media spend to maintain the same reach.
But with so many businesses employing the same strategy, she said that competition has heated up, meaning businesses will need to take a different approach in 2019.
With this in mind, Hootsuite made the following five recommendations for businesses to get the most out of their social media presence in 2019:
- Restore trust: Develop content that is timely, relevant and authentic for users while remaining genuine for your particular brand.
- Try out the Stories functions: “Stories are now growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing,” it said.
- Close the gap on ads: Respecting and engaging with customers as individuals, through relevant value-adding content, will see the best returns.
- Commercialise social: “In 2019, the most successful brands will go the extra mile to show customers how products and services can fit into the context of their lives,” the report said, noting that content can make shopping live, interactive and seamless.
- Messaging services rule the roost: Hootsuite said that “the top four messaging apps now count nearly 5 billion monthly active users”, meaning they are rapidly usurping more traditional social networks.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.