NEWS9 February 2018

Lessons from the Social Media Summit 2018

Media Mobile News Technology Trends UK Youth

The MRS Social Media Summit 2018 took place in London yesterday, with brands and agencies gathering to discuss and share their insights on the trends shaping social media research.

Social media snapchat crop

We take a look at three key areas of discussion from the conference.

Social media leads to faster consumer lifecycles

Jon Puleston, vice-president of innovation at Lightspeed, presented the results of research on the influence of social media on consumer decision making. The study indicated that trends across beauty, travel and lifestyle are highly driven by social media. Among the examples shared, there has been a 25% compound growth in luxury holidays in the past four years, while dog sales have gone up by 20% in the past three years, and Christmas decoration sales have increased by 40% – all influenced by social media behaviours around sharing and aspiration.

The resulting impact, said Puleston, is faster consumer lifecycles in socially influenced markets. He also noted the study’s observation that social media influence tends to centre around smaller, niche brands, and less around mainstream, bigger brands.

Brands need to understand the motivations for people posting on social media, he said.

“We need to understand the psychology of posting – it’s a form of status building in our community. It is news driven – we recommend things that paint us in a good light. It’s also a forum for sharing our ethical values, or the perceived social values of a group.”

Mainstream brands struggling with maintaining social influence, he said, should look towards the music industry – rather than an overarching, uniform ‘sound strategy’ or brand strategy, record companies look for pockets of individuality and innovation.

New forms of research are needed to fully explore the breadth and depth of social discourse, he added.

The influence marketplace is broken

The social influence marketplace is broken, according to Lucas Galan, head of digital forensics at Flamingo, who urged agencies to wield more influence with their clients in cautioning over what has become a flawed business model. While brands have invested millions of dollars in social influencers over the past few years, the model has become unsustainable for four key reasons:

  1. Fakeness – not just fake news, but the bots or groups of people employed to run fake accounts and enlarge followings. The pressure for influencers to remain pertinent has led influencers to purchase users, so followership and likes are not necessarily the barometers brands should be using.
  2. The echo chamber of following only brands and individuals you like has created an internet that’s increasingly individualised – the result being that "the serendipity of encountering brands and products freely is constantly being eroded".
  3. A cacophony of voices is clogging the flow of information, making it difficult or impossible to search for information. “We’ve created a situation where the search engines are so exploitative that it’s impossible to happen upon the information you’re looking for.” 
  4. Influence partnerships can become toxic, as seen with the recent Logan Paul example.  

Using a forensic approach, Flamingo critically analysed the language used across four major social media platforms – Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – to understand how influence plays out differently across each of them.

‘Authenticity’ is becoming meaningless

During a talk entitled ‘Whatever happened to authenticity in social media communications?’ Jess Owens, research director, Pulsar, discussed the binary of ‘fake vs real’ and why this is starting to break down for younger social media users.

She discussed the concept of Rinsta vs Finsta accounts (‘real’ and ‘fake’ Instagram accounts) used by members of Gen Z to project two different versions of themselves, saying that there’s a generational divide in values when it comes to projecting multiple identities.

The concept of ‘authenticity’ has become meaningless, she said. Instead, young people are embracing irony and meme culture.

“Authenticity as a cultural value is feeling very tired because there is so much awareness around the maintenance required to sustain it – it lacks plausibility. So, we’ve got a generation of young people embracing more ironic meme culture.”

Memes allow young people to address difficult topics without talking about them directly, with a meme group on Facebook for almost every opportunity.