Viewing, Shaping and Spreading Messages Through Social Media
How we view social media platforms and the role they play in our everyday lives has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. From the emergence of sites such as GeoCities in 1994 to the present day, social media networks have come to mean something more than just a way to connect and communicate with others. In truth, they represent a part of our personal identity — a component of the personas we wish to project to others. Just as our perception of the role of social media networks has changed over time, so too has our expectations of both the features they should offer and the kind of messages we receive on each platform.
Our means to express our personal brand
The social media tools you use, the profiles you maintain and the content you share all contribute to others’ perception of you as an individual. Today, the reality is that the people you know — acquaintances, colleagues, family and friends — are more likely to come in regular contact with your online personas then they are to meet you in person.
In this way, the social networks we use represent key elements of our personal or professional identities when interacting with others within public or private contexts. From sharing experiences from our lives and connecting with those close to us through Facebook and WhatsApp to exhibiting our creativity on Vine and Instagram, social media platforms help to define and express our personal and professional brand, or, in a word, ourselves.
More features means higher expectations
The arrival of new social media tools and additional features on existing platforms has a direct influence on people's expectations. The advent of Twitter and specifically the introduction of hashtags is a good case in point. The organic emergence of hashtags as a means to add — albeit limited — context to social interactions on Twitter had a defining impact on the platform. It also proved to be a catalyst for change across social media, as users’ desire to add context to their exchanges on other social networks has seen the incorporation of hashtags on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.
Tailoring different messages for different platforms
Whoever wrote, "If content is king, then context is queen," couldn't have been more right. When it comes to social media marketing, and advertising in particular, the context of a platform must define how a brand is represented. The language you use, the messages you promote and the manner in which you engage with consumers has to meet their expectations for a particular social media network.
Whether you're connecting with customers, sharing content, or distributing promoted or sponsored posts, if your content doesn't take context into account it won't resonate with users or, even worse, it could be "taken out of context" by part of your audience, with undesired results.
One of the ways marketers approach social media is to broadcast the same message across multiple platforms. This strategy simply isn't effective because consumers are using many different platforms for many different reasons. For example, someone on Twitter might not always welcome the same message broadcasted by a brand to their Facebook fans because Twitter is used to engage conversations while a Facebook page is more passive for fans who want to hear the latest news about a specific product or service. It's not surprising that engagement is less than 1 percent on Facebook pages.
To strike a chord with consumers, brands need to appear genuine in their social interactions. Failing to do so will harm the authenticity of their message. At the end of the day, there's nothing as jarring for users than a Facebook post shoehorned into a tweet.
Jean Dobey is the founder and CEO of Virtual Artifacts, a company that builds technologies for safe online interactions.