TRENDING: Successful strategy for the Socialverse
By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. The latest social media strategies scaling social commerce and social shopping in the “socialverse”
By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Stay switched on with the latest social media strategies scaling social commerce and social shopping in the “socialverse” while steering clear of disruption, in this new documentary-style masterclass with Sprinklr.
CMO Council recently partnered with Sprinklr to bring the “Socialverse” and insights into the ever-evolving social media landscape to marketers. The key focus was on current disruption and expected evolution. The thought-provoking insight into the socialverse included practical insights from industry leaders; the rapid growth of social commerce; and new disruptions and proven ways to succeed in social media IRL. READ MORE
Current numbers setting context include the global social media community of over 4 billion people, and the 4.9 billion people using social media apps in 2023. In ‘Episode 1: Disruptions shaping the Socialverse’, Sprinklr tasked CMOs and social media specialists with diving into disruption and the impact on brands. Arun Pattabhiraman, Sprinklr CMO, highlighted how the rapid evolution of social media has moved from a virtual gathering place to a digital force that can make or break human relationships; a place that can shape and catalyze new professions and careers; and where brands can be discovered.
“Our realities are shaped by the flat screens of our devices. We are all framed in the socialverse. It is where life is lived and business is done,” says Pattabhiraman, setting the scene for the documentary. Jay Baer, Founder, Convince and Convert, believes what is especially challenging for marketers and social media professionals is that not only is the game changing constantly in real time, but there are also new rules which change every week. “What worked for our brand a month ago, doesn’t necessarily work today.”
On average, a person bounces 7 to 9 social media apps every month, while new apps are created all the time. This means that brands continue to struggle to craft the right messages for social media on the various platforms, while consumers also expect instantaneous responses from brands via social media. Sprinklr identified four key disruptors to the socialverse currently: the impact of generative AI; channel proliferation; the rise of the creators; and social commerce. Of course, while no conversation about marketing these days can start without addressing AI, the rapid awareness and adoption of AI tech can be intimidating to industry professionals who fear losing their jobs to this new tool.
The consensus of the industry innovators interviewed by Sprinklr, is that AI is about building more intelligent businesses – but when it comes to branding, we need brands to be more human and real in their connection with consumers and less about manufactured content and connection, no matter how well packaged and dressed up with AI interfaces. It is of course, still a gamechanger, as Ragy Thomas, Founder and CEO of Sprinklr, describes it. The expectation from the market is that artificial intelligence will aid and amplify many aspects of the marketing role, but it won’t necessarily replace anything.
What does need to be addressed in the socialverse, is the proliferation of social media channels, which will increase even more in time. While this has led to the rise of the Creator Economy and created new opportunities for brands with the integration of influencer culture, social saturation is a problem as brands need to decide where to focus their attention to reach an already overwhelmed consumer.
The current generation of interest is Gen Z, who have unplugged from most other devices apart from their mobiles and spend about 4 hours a day on social media in total; with over half saying that social media is their primary platform for discovering new products and brands. With 300 million creators on social media, globally, brands do recognize the power creators have to influence purchase decisions. But brands also need to be very clear as to where they focus their marketing efforts and when it is time to leave a social media platform.
While e-commerce has dominated online marketing efforts, social commerce has exploded in the socialverse. This is new territory for marketers as consumers are bypassing their carefully crafted e-commerce websites online, to shop direct via social media. This is a massively disruptive part of the current conversation on social media impact and the socialverse, and marketing strategy needs to change along with it. There is an aspect of “learn on the go” as the skills sets needed to navigate the socialverse are changing as fast as social media tools and tech advances. As Baer reiterates: “We are not doing social media to be good at social media, we are doing social media to be good at business.”
Surviving and thriving
The time has come to mainstream social media and move it to the centre of all marketing channels. In ‘Episode 2: Navigating challenges and thriving in the Socialverse’, industry innovators discuss managing social media with AI, staying relevant with evolving ad strategies, and having the right tech to sell on social media.
Baer believes brands need to stop chasing the big campaigns, as from a business and marketing standpoint, the “hot new thing, is doing today’s thing better”. And Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs, tells brands to go back to basics and remember that social media is supposed to be social, while embracing new opportunities that the socialverse provides for brands to sell with new tools such as AI. Thomas agrees that we are going back to the “roots of communication” and can recreate the magic of the corner store or storytelling around a fire pit, as social media evolves. Meaning you can again have a direct conversation with your consumer and equally, consumers can get brands to listen to them.
In this AI era, we may need less content resources, but you will need an AI prompt engineer to get the most out of AI tools. But also give enough time to understanding how AI can augment your marketing efforts. AI literacy is very important right now. “The brands using AI to create actual content in the socialverse are doing it wrong. To me, the better role for AI is as your brainstorming partner to help enhance your creativity. Eventually when everyone is using AI, the creative will start to look the same, so creativity and strategy will become even more important,” Baer emphasizes.
This is an era of astonishing innovation, with massive disruption to brands and marketing channels. On the flip side of the coin, there are also abundant opportunities for marketers to thrive. Creators are the new publishers on media schedules and brands will be using them more and more once a trust relationship grows on both sides.
Key advice from this marketing docudrama to succeed in the socialverse, is to start listening: brands need to be authentic in their communication; marketers need to meet the consumer where they are hanging out; work with authentic influencers, including employee influencers; affiliate and product placement can amplify your message through creators and specialist communities; let go of control and trust creators with your brand – this is a long term partnership; and content is still king – but the community rules now!
Handley takes us right back to the beginning, headlining the emotional connection that comes with great storytelling: “The more we can tell a story that will touch the hearts and minds of those that we care the most about reaching, the more they will look to us for whatever we sell. It is the smartest way to go because ultimately ‘story leads to sales’.”
Louise Burgers is the Publisher & Editor of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She is also an Adjunct Lecturer in Marketing and Advertising Communications at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business; and works with the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council as Editorial Director. Specialising in local and Africa consumer trends, Louise is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger this decade.
SUBSCRIBE to the Retailing Africa newsletter