Question: What’s your Facebook news feed looking like?
If I were to scroll through my feed right now, I’d be inundated with BuzzFeed Tasty videos (*drool*), random memes posted by friends (*lol*) and slanted Now This politically charged videos (*automatic headache*). If I were to scroll through the next day, I’d probably see videos and memes from the same brands and same friends. Actually, everyday I probably would and do in fact see content from the same brands and same friends. They call it the world wide web, but man, how did it get so small?
Whether you realize this or not, consumers are being lead into a never ending cycle of monotony. They are being polarized by algorithms and predictability research to see only the ideas, opinions and perspectives that they already subscribe to and identify with. This creates “tunnel vision” for the consumer and consequently builds a wall that keeps other ideas, viewpoints, and brands out. This is especially troubling since 62% of Americans say that they use social media platforms as a source of news. In addition, consumers admit to finding it hard to tell if the information they’re getting online is accurate. Maybe that satirical State Farm commercial is more reflective of consumers than previously thought! A lack in variety of content also hinders consumers’ ability to find novel brands, goods and services.
How this tunnel vision happens is quite ironic. Major content publishers and social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter aim to please their consumers by providing them with engaging and relevant content. In order to meet these needs, these brands use algorithms and programmatic advertising in order to deliver their users specific articles, posts, videos that they most likely will enjoy. Delivered content is based on past online behaviors by the user. Consequently, these major content publishers and social media sites that host thousands of users and brands are actually putting consumers into very small silos and limiting the organic social experience these sites were originally intended to foster. This tunnel vision is great for brands that are already in their target consumers’ feeds, but makes it more challenging for competitors and outside brands to do the same. It is expected that this wall will only become harder to tear down in this new year, making it harder than ever for brands to connect with new consumers.
What Can Brands Do Now?
Getting past this wall will be difficult, but not impossible. In 2017, I believe it will be essential for brands to to focus on my following recommendation: think outside the digital box and purposely disrupt consumer’s tunnel vision.
- Think Outside the Digital Box
Because no one else is doing it! As other brands look to enhance their digital presence and take on AI, VR, AR and all of those other artificial reality acronyms, it may be beneficial for brands to increase their expertise in the physical world in order to reach their consumers. This human experience would be useful in certain categories like insurance, health & wellness, and technology – basically the categories that confuse everyone, but everyone looks to be a part of. Take Home Depot as an example. It is great that their website clearly lays out the various tools and products the home improvement store offers, but that in-store experience of a handyman guiding a customer to purchase the exact tool they will need for a project is a more memorable experience for the consumer. More than often, personalized suggestions and face-to-face contact prove more effective than basic online communications. Advice from real people tends to sound more trustworthy than something you read online.
- Disrupt Consumers’ Tunnel Vision
Calculated disruption and innovation will be the key to success for brands looking to make their way into their targeted audience’s social media feed. Brands should look to create ads for social media channels that are ingenious, interactive and make people want to share them. Brands in a larger categories, like the beauty and food industries, will have to “pay to play” and spend more on sponsored advertisements and SEO in order to rise from the cluster of other brands in the category. Nyquil is currently doing a great job of this. On Instagram, the brand is currently running a sponsored post targeted to and speaks directly to consumers in selected locations.
This should go without being said, but brands must look to stay ahead of the game and be ready to react to new trends as they come. Consumer needs, behaviors and technology shift as the season change. Being in-tune with incoming trends will allow brands to be first in market with fresh creative executions that can reach targeted consumers before other brands.