For many years, the growth of social media marketing has coincided with the growth of online polarization and negative interactions. We’re not suggesting that there’s any direction connection between branded messaging and the general public’s online behavior. We’re just pointing out an unfortunate fact of life in the age of social media.
It’s all the more unfortunate for ecommerce entrepreneurs and social media marketing professionals, because they can’t simply walk away from the source of so much of today’s acrimony. Individual users can delete their Facebook pages and log out of Twitter if they’re overwhelmed by the negative aspects of social media, but until people start doing that in droves, social media marketing remains more-or-less a necessity of professional life these days.
Professional Assistance Has Its Limits
Fortunately for business owners, there is a wealth of social media marketing firms out there which can deal with the negativity on your behalf. Ideally, they’ll have enough online experience to understand how best to maximize the benefits of social media engagement while minimizing the risks of controversy and coordinated backlash that often seem to loom over both personal and commercial accounts.
That kind of professional guidance can help many social media users to navigate through communities that are particularly prone to negativity. On the other hand, as long as social media remains a vast and largely unfiltered gathering place for all the world’s interests, it will be exceedingly difficult for even the most experienced social media marketing professionals to isolate their clients from the most upsetting or distracting voices on the internet.
Those voices are problematic enough if they bring a negative tinge to legitimate discussion of a topic that is relevant to a social media marketing campaign. The problem is greatly amplified if those same voices end up derailing the engagement with a social media account so that all branded messaging is lost under pointless arguments or general stupidity.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
As social media becomes more and more ubiquitous, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid that outcome altogether. Negativity starts to look like the default setting for human behavior. But for people who have been online a very long time, it should be clear that this isn’t the case. Negativity isn’t the default for people in general, and contrary to many people’s assumptions, it isn’t even the default for people who are shielded by the anonymity the internet provides.
When the general public was just starting to get online, the communities they formed seemed to be highly cooperative and mutually supportive. You can still find clips from news programs of the time which discuss this feature, sometimes with a note of surprise. People who were a part of those communities tended to say that when online communities were specifically built around a shared niche interest, they usually felt tight-knit, even if they encompassed thousands of people who never saw one another’s faces.
This raises the question of whether that particular form of magic can be recaptured. Maybe we’re overly optimistic, but until proven wrong, we choose to believe that it can. More than that, we believe that the process of building new, more cooperative online communities is already underway.
Of course, as web service providers, we also choose to believe that that process can accommodate social media marketing activities, without watering down the effectiveness of branded messaging or compromising the purity of the new communities.
A Future of Niche Social Media Platforms
The pandemic seems to have accelerated the development of social media platforms that are separate from giants like Facebook and Twitter. A year ago, their stranglehold on the industry might have been assumed to be insurmountable, but with a sudden increase in the amount of time people were spending online and a change in how people were using that time, space appears to have opened up for new players to enter the game.
They didn’t start up with the intention of directly competing with the giants, and they’ll probably never do so. The demand for a general, far-reaching online gathering place like Twitter will probably always exist. Such a place will probably always have a role in social media marketing, as well. But part of the demand and part of the marketing professional may end up being redistributed back to the sorts of niche communities of shared interest that once defined the internet.
As the pandemic caused massive job loss in entertainment industries, certain platforms opened up specifically to connect the people affected. In some respects, these were industry specific alternatives to the professional networking provided by LinkedIn. But they were also platforms for discussions about the future of the industry in general, and for the dissemination of passion projects that people were using the time to develop and promote.
Similar trends emerged in other industries, and if the results persist into a post-Covid era, there’s no reason not to conclude that the future of social media – and of social media marketing – will involve people applying the same model to other niche topics, even if just to avoid the negativity that seems harder to avoid on a platform where every topic is fair game.
Niche Marketing FTW
If the trends we’ve observed really do take hold across-the-board, then we think it will be good for everyone involved. More tight-knit communities will be less prone to adversarial and needlessly controversial conversation. Users will be less easily distracted from the topic at hand, which will often be directly related to the branded messaging of online businesses.
Users will also be much less likely to balk at those messages, since there will be little risk of companies inserting themselves into communities that have no real interest in their social media marketing campaign. Dedicated audiences for those campaigns will expect more detailed industry knowledge, which may increase the work load for marketing professionals and their clients. But that’s a more-than-fair trade-off for access to an audience that is openly excited to hear what you have to say, and buy what you have to sell.