future of social planning

The Future of Social Media is... Planning

Going beyond surface trends, the path to triumph on social lies in rigorous analysis, testing, and adaptation, says EssenceMediacom's Joshua Gornell

By Joshua Gornell

The future of social media is planning. I appreciate this is not the clearest answer…

What I mean by this is that the agencies and brands who will ultimately succeed on social media – in all capacities - are those who apply the same rigour in understanding audience behaviours and psychology when using each of the social media platforms as our planning counterparts do for all other channels.

A lack in genuine understanding makes it easy for anyone planning social media campaigns to retreat to their comfort zones and stick budgets into whatever is familiar, applying generic rationale and justification.

It could be argued that specialists have been exempt from the same strategic standards and expectations because social media is “new”, relying instead on headline execution data, often from the platforms themselves, about how many people use social media channels. It’s not new, and we know everyone uses it; it’s time for our thinking and approach to evolve.

In an industry which traditionally complicates everything, it’s the first time that a channel – or more accurately, a complex system of platforms which play wildly different roles in consumers lives at moments in time – has been oversimplified. “Social media” is too often used as an umbrella term, with universal truths applied, giving platforms one line and arbitrary roles on a plan because it fits into a neat little box which aligns with someone’s over-simplistic, albeit understandable, hunches.

A quick search informed me that the future of social media is…

  • “The year of AI, search and data”

  • “The year of social commerce”

  • “The rise of the creator economy”

Almost every article was some such variation on the above, the same as in 2023, and similar to 2022.

I’m not suggesting that any of these assertions are wrong – far from it – but they’re surface level and lazy. They don’t answer the numerous questions lurking underneath, such as the below, which barely scratch the surface.

  • Why is there a shift towards searches on social media? Is it convenience? Credibility? Are searches pre-meditated, or spur of the moment, inspired by content? What’s the outcome?

  • Who is purchasing, and what is actually being purchased through social media? How did the product show up in advertising, creatively? How does this vary by category and price point?

  • What is it about creator content that people like? And what makes a successful creator? How is this being quantified?

There is so much we don’t know about users’ need states when using each of the numerous social media platforms which are so engrained in our daily lives.

Marketeers who acknowledge this, but seek to discover, test, and learn will be the future winners; and it’s something we’re committed to starting to answer for our clients at EssenceMediacom UK. Our ambition is to map users’ psychological states when using social media platforms so that we can define optimum channel mixes, creative styles, and ultimately maximise impact for our clients.

It won’t be simple, fast, or without hard work, but in my humble opinion it is the future.

Joshua Gornell is Partner, Head of Commercial Paid Social and Barter at EssenceMediacom


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