How to weather change on social media 

We are firmly in the teenage years of the dominant social media platforms – Facebook is 19 years old; Instagram is 13; and 17-year-old Twitter has gone and done the most 17-year-old thing possible, angrily changing its name to X. As with all teenagers, volatility is the norm. The last few years have brought us the mountainous rise of TikTok, the faltering of Twitter, the birth of Threads, the rise and fall of the metaverse, Bill C-18, Apple’s app tracking transparency, and generative AI for all. It’s been a lot. 

Then again, constant change is part of the fabric of the digital landscape. Disruption was the whole point. So how do marketers navigate these quick transformations of technology, norms, and tastes? You have two choices – radical change every quarter or do the work of creating a long-term, stable social strategy. One is going to consistently get you into trouble, the other will set you up for success for years to come.    

Here’s a fundamental truth – just because platforms are volatile, doesn’t mean brands have to be. Amidst the chaos, we need to create integrated strategies that bring together social, creative, media, and web teams to curate moments, and create wholesome, ownable content focused on measurable business goals. Below are some ways to build a stable social strategy that will keep you grounded amidst teenage upheaval and increase brand value over time.   

If Users Don’t Win, Everyone Loses 

We are in the midst of a fierce battle for attention. Consumer ability to jump toward shiny new platforms is forever shifting how social media properties operate.  As marketers, we should be rooting for more success, not more failure. A healthy, competitive social media ecosystem is better for all of us. This means creating ads that add value for users and platforms.  

Meta’s platforms, and increasingly TikTok’s, are full of out-of-touch and socially disconnected ads. More poor ads make users feel disengaged; they post less frequently, see less of what they want, and before you know it, you’re in a platform death spiral. X is losing active users at double digit rates, and the platform’s most active users are tweeting (xeeting?) less and less. This cycle creates a worse environment for users, contributing to declining diversity, doom-scrolling, and deteriorating mental health – which is a lousy environment for brand advertising. And the platforms know this – X, Meta, and TikTok are each currently piloting new subscription, pay-for-use models.  

Marketers shouldn’t add to this deterioration. We must be thoughtful about what we bring to the party. Audiences want to be seen and acknowledged, and they crave relevant information. Companies who lead with authenticity and demonstrate that they understand the diversity of their customers’ values will continue to flourish. 

Paid and Organic: BFFs 

Organic reach is dead. But that doesn’t mean organic efforts should be abandoned. It just means that paid campaigns and organic publishing shouldn’t operate as distinct tactics, and certainly not only within distinct teams.  

So, bring organic and paid into the same strategy conversation – with creative, media, and social expertise at the table. Paid and organic can complement each other strongly. Organic audiences are engaged supporters, driving content views, comments, and organic website sessions. Organic content nurtures and informs those who know your brand. These audiences are your best customers, and insights from their actions and interests will inform your paid audience targeting, and your next round of creative content planning. On the flip side, within your best performing social media ad content – that’s tested across millions of targeted impressions, and dozens AI powered creative treatments – lies the spark for your next most engaging organic content.  

Bigger! Better! Fewer! 

Face it, no one is waiting for your organization’s next social media post. You should be communicating when you have something relevant to say. It’s more effective to focus your integrated social media efforts within your brand’s own schedule. Find your most meaningful and most impactful moments. Pick your times to speak, and break through with meaning, authenticity, and the weight of a focused ad spend to drive higher exposure for the moments that matter (to you and your audiences). Less is more! 

Bigger moments are more likely to align with brand outcomes. And social media outcomes should be a means-to-an-end, aligning with actual business objectives. Your company is not powered by impressions and likes. Calibrate your conversions and turn on an ecosystem that is fine-tuned to nurture first-party customer data – data you can grow more meaningful relationships from. Engaged audiences are more likely to connect through to your websites, your ecommerce shop, your CRM initiatives, and your physical footprints.   

Embrace Platform Formats 

The smartphone is the TV of today. And vertical video is its 22-minute sitcom. XDR screens and 5G networks have made social media feeds the perfect place for vertical video entertainment. Steve Jobs dreamed of an entertainment and communications device for the park bench, the bus, and the bathroom. And now we have it, full-screen and lightning fast. Today, content carrying your message needs to resonate with your mobile viewer within just 2 seconds. This is why your creative and social media teams should integrate from the start, so that possibilities are never missed. Your content planning and production stream can be designed to incorporate native platform truths, from the start. The format is vertical, short, and quickly engaging – with branding and key message right up front. 

Because social media is so unstable, we as marketers need to be extra focused on stability. When users, platforms, and policies ebb and flow, integration and cohesion are our secret weapons. Increase the proximity between social, creative, media, and web teams. Lead with authenticity. Embrace and test new platform formats. These are the efforts that enhance immediate success during these platform teen years and prepare us for weathering the expected volatility ahead. Bring on the stormy 20-something era! 

About the author

Matthew Stradiotto
Senior Vice President, Social Media

Matthew is a digital leader, brand strategist, and North American influencer engagement pioneer, with over 22 years of agency experience. He was recently Vice President & General Manager, Digital at Argyle, and a co-founder of Matchstick, one of Canada’s leading boutique agencies specializing in social media marketing and digital brand engagement.