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How Social Networks Becoming Asocial Impacts Communications StrategiesSeptember 29, 2023

How did platforms designed for social interaction and connection become asocial and push us further into our own ideologies?

The demise of traditional social media connections - created with the intention of more human connection - and the rise of “asocial” social networks driven by algorithms are recreating how we share and consume information and engage (actively or passively) with content and presumed peers (bots). This tectonic shift in behavior has serious implications for how brands reach and communicate with target audiences and society.

Previously, you needed to help the algorithm serve relevant content, such as an upvote or downvote in the case of Reddit. However, new platforms no longer require active participation or engagement to serve users content that interests them. Users no longer need to “like” Facebook pages or even follow accounts they find interesting to ensure a relevant, customized user experience.

Apps like TikTok have pioneered the new age of social media, providing users with an endless supply of content, with no active participation necessary. Other platforms, such as Twitter and Meta, adopted new algorithms that mimic TikTok’s:

“…rather than prioritize posts from accounts people follow, Facebook’s main feed will, like TikTok, start heavily recommending posts regardless of where they come from.”

While AI learns from user behavior to customize content, it also helps push users further into their own existing thought and value structures. TikTok and YouTube users frequently complain that once they’ve entered a corner of the app, it’s hard to get out. For many users, that can push them deeper into an existing ideology, fueling the extremism and misinformation that regulators accuse these platforms of harboring.

The prioritization of view time and passive engagement metrics by platforms, including scroll speed and impressions, creates a customized experience without giving the algorithm active feedback from the user.

New algorithms and changing user behaviors necessitate new approaches and considerations to reach and engage audiences as well as measure the success of your efforts.

Instead of diving headfirst into every emerging social media platform, evaluate which platforms to use strategically and on a case-by-case basis. This includes:

  • Considering audience research to determine where to show up as a brand. Not all platforms are appropriate for every brand or message.
  • Knowing the basics about how each platform’s algorithm works to optimize content and develop it specifically for each channel and audience.
  • Developing visually engaging and pithier content to capture users’ attention – whether a power user or a passive scroller/lurker (i.e., the 90-9-1 rule).
  • Not ignoring the lurkers.
    • Prioritizing view rate and time-on-page metrics to ensure that users who don’t actively engage are considered when content planning.
  • Determining whether the desired platform is “brand safe.”
    • Be prepared for changing environments – have a detailed plan for content pauses and escalation, community management, and crises across all active platforms.
    • Evaluate brand implications associated with mis- and disinformation. Consider leveraging BCW’s Decipher to identify and mitigate weaponized information.

If you have questions or need further information to support your clients, including setting up social media/media listening, please contact John Randall or Maggie Meisberger.