The audience of social media,or – more broadly speaking – the internet users are building their own filterbubbles. Brands, on one hand, may want to reach that audience but, on theother, they may wish to break out of the collective bubble of one group.
Already a half of mankind(nearly 3.8 billion people) uses the Internet every day. At the end of 2010 this number totalled 1.9 billion, which means that for the past 8 years thenumber of the users doubled. For the vast majority of them the daily web visitsalso involve using search engines like Google, Yandex or Bing.The most popular social web site, Facebook, is used by 2.23 billion people eachmonth. The users equally often (and young people even more frequently) also useother sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Musical.ly, recently takenover by TicToc.
All these web services are more and more often using sophisticated personalization techniques to adjusttheir content to the audience to the maximum extent. Social media want toencourage us to spend with them as much time as possible. This is why they carefor the well-being of their users. They frequently surround them withinformation that confirm their views and go along with their interests. Usersare shown posts of their friends they have recently talked to, content from websites they have visited and liked before. As a result, social media are formingup a personalised reality adjusted to the recipient’s views and tastes, whilethe real world is often very much different.
Instead of demonstrating adiverse and neutral world, or – following the footsteps of renowned newsoutlets – balance the arguments of all the discourse participants, both searchengines and social networks adjust the displayed contents to the preferences ofthe audience. This is the province of advertising tools, which they in factare.
According to Pew ResearchCenter, 67 per cent of adults in the USA obtained information about theirsurrounding world from social media.In Poland, according to our research (Attention Marketing Research – Where doPoles take their information from?) this is ca. 21 per cent. This is a fairlygood piece of news in the context of impact fake news, which – at leasttheoretically – (should) have the largest range in social media.
Think With Google data show thatin the B2B – which by nature is more cautious and conservative segment than B2C– already 89 per cent of decision-makers start looking for information from Google.This means that both these tools have an enormous impact on how the usersperceive the world.
Personalization as such isnothing bad – when a portal like Facebook or a search engine like Google knowsthat the user is an active computer game player, they will be displayedproperly adjusted ads. This is beneficial both to the advertiser, who reachesthe customer, and the recipient, who will be presented offers of products theywill potentially be happy to buy.
This apparently simple work isdone by sophisticated algorithms which self-learn on the basis of user activity,taking into account hundreds or thousands of factors. Each time the users send informationabout themselves, a proper sample of these data allows the algorithms toextract information the users did not expect to reveal or even tried to hide. Forinstance, getting pregnant.
In the world of communicationand information, personalisation frequently involves proper filtering ofprovided information so that it matches the reader’s worldview and preference. Theecho chamber phenomenon, though well-known already, again entered the publicdiscourse in 2017.
The filter bubble is also achallenge for companies and brands operating online. That means everyone.
The fact that social mediaadjust the presented reality to the preference of the user makes them addictiveon multiple levels – they both allow us to obtain the latest information andconvince us that we and our views are right. On Facebook the entire world saysYES.
The widespread use of socialmedia have made the concept of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) very popular. This isan internal urge of continuous checking whether you are up to date and a fearthat the user might miss something out and will not use the time as best asthey can. Statistically, 21 per cent of Poles aged 15-24 suffer from high FOMO,while 69 per cent – from moderate FOMO. With age, the percentage is getting smaller,but still in the group of over 55, 5 per cent of users suffer from high FOMO,and 65 per cent – from moderate FOMO. On average, 16 per cent of Polish webusers are highly FOMOed, 65 per cent – moderately and 19 per cent – hardlyFOMOed.
Highly FOMOed people much morefrequently perceive social media as sources of information (73 per cent) andknowledge (72 per cent) than most Polish internet users (58 and 54 per cent, respectively). Brands find suchheavy users a blessing – they much more often comment on and participate in discussionson the Internet, becoming evangelists of the brand and a hammer for theiropponents.
However, their activity alsodetermines target groups which the brands reach, the best proof of which is the“lookalike audiences” option, widely popular in Facebook ads.
The minds of marketers anddecision-makers are dominated by target group stereotypes. Sometimes this isthe consequence of research, sometimes it is intuition and experience. This,however, might be misleading – computer game players are, by intuition,portrayed as young males. However, the biggest group of game players is made ofadult women.Despite that, no results can be seen in marketing and the most popular figurein computer game ads remains an attractive, young woman.
A question arises, how manybrands – using data from social media and quantitative research – are slave totheir own FOMO-stricken fans, most committed but not necessarily representingall target groups.
Originally created for women,Marlboro was one of the brands benefited a lot from opening to alternativetarget groups. Now associated with a masculine, independent and brave cowboy, Marlborocigarettes originally had red tips to hide lipstick smudges on the cigarette. Onlylater, after associating the product with the image of a rough and tough guy, didthe brand become popular among rock stars, for instance – with The Doors’ JimMorrison and Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister smoking Marlboros.
As for contemporary brands, aninteresting example of reaching outside the original target group bubble is supermarketchains building premium services and products. Some time ago, associated withlow quality, coarse and trashy image, Biedronka opened premium stores.Stores in this format, using a different logo, also boast a different interiorstyle and product offer.
Interesting cases of brandsreaching out beyond their traditional target groups are beer producers. Nowbeer is listed in one in four cash register slips of a Polish small store andaccounts for 14 per cent of sales of convenience stores.Traditionally, the most popular are low-price lagers, but this segment issuffering from stagnation. The response is the growth of the premium segment,targeting quite different groups – in the UK premium and super-premium productsaccount for 40 per cent of the beer market. In Poland this trend looks similar,which is seen in the unfiltered and wheat products of the most popular beveragebrands.
Naturally, from thecommunication action perspective, the only right way today, also referring tothe title of this text, is multi-channel communication. Its basis is the perfect knowledge of our persona or the purchase committee, their customerjourneys, and adjustments, in each step of the sale process, of relevant contents and various tools. This apparently simple recipe also needs to be supplemented with a pinch of bravery and willingness to experiment, because ifyou keep using old, proven recipes, you will hardly ever create anything new.And this is largely the case in Poland, which was revealed in our report “Marketing and PR in Poland in 2017”.
To effectively reach the audience outside the bubble, a company should first of all consciously shape its own image in order to control it as much as possible. Lonsdale was one ofthe companies that experienced the flaws of having brand ambassadors when its clothes became an element of the skinhead subculture and its dressing style. Paradoxically,such customers, just like heavy users of social media, who are absurdlycommitted to the brand, may do a lot of damage.
The bottom line is conscious multi-channelcommunication, openness to experimentation and ability to make the worlds meet –the virtual world and the real world, or the business world and the world ofNGOs and public institutions. And a good communication advisor should know howto move within all of those worlds ;)