Social media may bring us closer together, after all. But not in the way we might have expected. A user-driven counter movement is spreading like wildfire, burning down dried up trends so that a fresher and decidedly purer experience may emerge: a rebirth of meaningful human interaction.
The very platform that propelled cultural phenomenons such as unicorn lattes, avocado toast and millennial pink is now experiencing a dip in engagement on photos that appear fabricated. Candid-not-candid wall photos, instagrammable step-and-repeats and the over-stylized color-coded Instagram feed are outdated. What’s more, sponsored posts, paid promotions and macro-influencer endorsements are becoming more expensive and offering lower ROI, making them harder to justify. Social media is shifting yet again and brands are scrambling to spot the next trend, or God willing, shape it.
So, what does it take for a brand to get the double tap on an Instagram post these days? In order to understand this seemingly abrupt shift away from the filtered, cropped and photoshopped un-reality of Instagram, it’s important to understand the underlying emotion that’s driving the movement: Distrust.
Millennials and Gen-Zers are drivers of this trend, voicing their distrust of influencers’ intentions and shunning brands’ promoted posts. Their real friends and, get this – even their parents – are their true circle of trust, having far more influence over their purchases than an inaccessible influencer or commission-based sales person. Unlike the generations before them who were more likely to be seduced by aspirational models and messages of hope, this generation wants people, products and experiences they can relate to.
These generations are digital natives. They are taking in far more information from a broader set of sources at a greater pace than our quaint little Gen-Xer brains ever had to process at that age. Couple this with the state of world affairs – school shootings on the reg, our environmental crisis and our political theatre – and you have a generation of fired up, hyper-vigilant, anti-establishment activists who realize the onus is on them to fix what’s broken. Not exactly the profile of a someone who will easily swallow force-fed marketing hype. They are far more likely to evangelize thought leaders and brands that promote their values and offer solutions.
While this shift away from manufactured social feeds towards a more authentic human experience may be driven by younger users, distrust of social media is a decidedly American trait.
“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars,” said Micah Roberts, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies.
According to his Wall Street Journal Poll, Roberts found that more than 60% of Americans distrust social media, and Facebook in particular. The national representative of adults across gender, urban and rural dwellers, and Democrats and Republicans found:
- 74% of adults think that letting social media companies collect and use data about them in return for free services is not a fair trade-off.
- 55% believe social media does more to spread lies and falsehoods rather than news.
- 61% says social media does more to spread unfair attacks and rumors against public figures and corporations while 32% says social media does more to hold those public figures and corporations accountable.
- And a staggering 82% of Americans think social media sites waste people’s time.
That being said, 69% of Americans admit to using social media at least once a day. So while brands struggle to leverage the most powerful platform the world has ever known to market their product, America is struggling to reconcile their beliefs with their behaviors when it comes to these platforms.
As a brand development boutique dedicated to creating conscious beauty companies, we see an opportunity for founders to grow their brand and build trust at the same time.
10 ways to build trust and your brand on social media:
- Promote your values, not just your product.
- Post what’s real. Unphotoshopped. Unapologetic.
- With great power comes great responsibility. Beauty is the largest industry in the Global Wellness Economy. Beauty brands can perpetuate outdated stereotypes about what it means to be beautiful. Or they can write a new narrative. One that is inclusive, representative and relevant to our modern world.
- Post less often with more relevant content. Show that you respect your audience’s time and intelligence.
- Instead of picture-perfect posts, build a campaign around “empties” – empty bottles of products worn and loved, with instructions on how to consciously recycle them so they don’t end up in a landfill.
- Speaking of which, consider partnering with TerraCycle, or another company dedicated to end-of-lifecycle sustainability. Then, post stories and IGTV coverage about their good work. It’s good for business, good for the planet and good for building a loyal following.
- Come clean with your audience. Do you struggle with excess packaging? Are you passionate about ingredient regulation? Talk about it! Engage in real dialogue and solicit creative ideas from your social community.
- Whether it’s your own brick-and-mortar, or in partnership with a trusted wholesaler or collaborator, create innovative offline experiences. When your guests post their selfies on Instagram, it’s the kind of influencer marketing that matters most.
- Use your social media platforms to create compelling reasons to shop IRL. That may be discounts, incentives, exclusive collaborations that are only available in person.
- Create posts, share stories and go live with IGTV showing what you’re doing with your business to provide solutions to problems. Environmental, social or political, find the cause that you care most about and build it into your business model. Show how you’re using your brand as a vehicle for a conscious rebellion.
- Bonus tip: No. more. flatlays. The world doesn’t need another aerial shot of beauty products staged with props. And unless you are literally selling products for cats, stop posting pictures of cats.