Marketing has been around for as long as business has been around; and social media marketing has been around just about as long as social media has existed. However, just as times have changed, social media and social media marketing has changed along with it.
In the height of the digital age, consumers are now bombarded with ads and sponsorships all the time, from ad breaks on streaming services and YouTube, to sponsored posts curated by brands and influencers. Not only is this influx of ads annoying to the consumer but it makes it difficult for a brand to stand out amongst all of the competition.
With the help of the internet, and the normalization of ads, bots, and sponsorships, consumers are also now more educated on ads and more wary of ads than ever before. This is trouble for brands who promote false claims, of course, however this also spells trouble for well-intended brands just trying to grow their business and find their audience. Being genuine, working with respected people, and doing things the right way seems to cut past some of the caution.
The Rise of the Influencer
The “Influencer” has been around for forever- just maybe not as we know them today. Celebrities could be considered the original influencers and celebrity endorsements did similar things as an influencer sponsorship does today. However, modern day social media influencers have the added benefit of having a meaningful connection with an audience that trusts them and their opinion- making sponsorships more effective than celebrity endorsement.
The key with influencer sponsorships is working with trusted and respected people and picking the right influencer for your product/brand. Seeing someone like Pewdiepie work with Sephora isn’t going to seem nearly as natural or trustworthy as seeing Sephora work with a beauty youtuber.
Meme and Cultural Ads
To cut through the caution of ads that consumers hold, brands have started to try to use memes and cultural moments to feel relatable to their audience. This is something that I feel is new to brands, and doesn’t seem to have much of a comparison from social media years ago, or direct marketing from before the social media age.
Another way that brands have tried to connect with consumers is by taking a stand for something. The best way to do this is by being real- don't say one thing and do another. Brands have risen up to support various social justice movements, thus connecting with an audience that also supports that movement- something that has rarely been seen in marketing from years ago. Oftentimes these brands will donate a portion of their profit to this movement to show their real intentions.
This method of “connection” has the most room for error if done with the wrong intentions though, as we've seen with many brands who say they support something only to not do the work involved with their so-called support.
Marketing and social media marketing is always going to change, finding the best way to connect with the viewer and promote a brand. The most important thing in marketing, always, is to be genuine and real, and try to connect with your audience in the most pure and ethical way that you can to ensure long-time trust and a light conscience.