Social media’s effect on brands: unpredictable, sometimes offensive but huge potential to shine

There’s no doubt that social media has had a huge impact on the way brands can interact with audiences. In the last few years, due to the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the average person really doesn’t need to look much further for networking, news and entertainment. With over 1.4 billion people (That’s roughly 20% of the world’s population) frequently publishing details of their lives on Facebook alone, brands now have the opportunity to reach consumers like never before. But does having too much presence on social media lead to potential pitfalls or can brands afford to sit back and rely on traditional media?

There’s lots of things that can go wrong of course, and big brands often do make spectacular mistakes. Microsoft’s AI ‘chatbot’ Tay, described by Microsoft as an experiment in “conversational understanding.” The more you chat with it, the smarter it gets, learning to engage people through “casual and playful conversation”. A remarkable piece of technology no doubt but it wasn’t long before the internet turned on it, making it spit out racist, Donald Trump-esque inflammatory statements. The tweets were eventually deleted but it’s strange that Microsoft didn’t factor in the Twitter community’s fondness for hijacking brands’ well-meaning attempts at engagement.

Twitter, by design allows brands to communicate in a quick, conversational manor which is a very useful tool for customer service. On the other hand, there’s YouTube. Relying exclusively upon user generated content, in the early days resulted in varying quality but today there’s an abundance of good stuff available. It’s come a very long way since its birth in 2005, with almost 5 billion videos watched on it every single day. More and more brands, large and small are turning to YouTube as a platform for their content.

An interesting phenomenon that has emerged from YouTube is the unboxing video. Essentially vloggers filming themselves opening boxes of toys or gadgets. If they get enough views, any YouTube user can make money from ads displayed during their videos. If their video is engaging enough to keep the viewer’s attention long enough for them to watch the ads that pop up, they get paid a nominal fee. These vloggers unbox everything from Xboxes to video games, phones, clothing, trainers or coffee machines, so consumers can get a preview of what they’re buying. In short, if it’s for sale, someone is probably unboxing it on YouTube. Making sure you have beautifully designed packaging is now essential.

Recently, Casey Neistat, an almost daily vlogger with over 5 million viewers, was bumped up to a ticket with a $21,635.30 fare on a recent Emirates flight from Dubai to New York City. During the 14-hour trip, he documented all the bells and whistles the plane had to offer its most elite passengers. Neistat wasn’t paid by Emirates for the promo, but the airline certainly got its money’s worth and Neistat got millions of views in addition to an almost inconceivable flying experience. “The $21,000 First class Airplane Seat” video quickly racked up an eight-figure view count, helping Neistat’s channel to an 82% week-over-week increase in views, more than 31.6 million views that week.

There are so many effective ways brands can do well on social media. And we’re bound to see new platforms emerge offering alternative and creative methods for communication. Donald Trump made his formal presidential announcement on Periscope. Hopefully his relentless social media strategy doesn’t lead to the end of the world as we know it!

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