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What Hath Social Media Wrought?

Here are a dozen pointers on how to optimize your social media marketing strategies.

What hath GenAI on social media wrought?

It spews out fake news, divisive thoughts.

It makes us addicted to “likes” and “shares”,

It exploits our data and privacy scares.

Is it a monster we created that can’t be taught?

If that limerick made you worry, these statistics should make you wary: The amount of money spent on advertising on social media is set to cross US$255.8 billion by 2028, up from US$219.8 billion in 2024, according to the latest report from Statista Research. The bulk of this spending will happen, as expected, in the US, with up to US$76.4 billion being spent in 2024 alone.

Statista defines social media advertising as a form of online digital marketing to promote brands, products, solutions and services to boost purchase decisions. “Key players in this market include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Weibo, Naver, and Kakao,” the firm notes. “Up to US$255.8 billion of total ad spend will be done through mobile in 2028.”

Why discuss social media now? First, because of its length. It is exactly 20 years since The Facebook was founded – on February 4, 2004 – before its name was changed to Facebook in August 2005. Second, because of its breadth. According to estimates, there are currently between 5.1 and 5.4 billion users on all social media platforms worldwide, which is roughly 65% of the world’s population. And finally, because of the explosion of Generative AI (GenAI) and its impact on social media.

Facebook was not the pioneer; Six Degrees, a website set up in 1997 was. Users could create their own personalized profiles on Six Degrees and “add” another person’s profile to their own as a friend. The name was indirectly derived from the theory of “six degrees of separation” that postulates that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.

The Dilemma

The rapid rise of social media has flustered the board and the C-Suite. “This radical change has created a dilemma for senior executives,” notes a McKinsey study. While the potential of social media seems immense, the inherent risks create uncertainty and unease. By nature unbridled, these new communications media can let internal and privileged information suddenly go public virally.”

The firm says capitalizing on the transformational power of social media while mitigating its risks calls for a new type of leader. “The dynamics of social media amplify the need for qualities that have long been a staple of effective leadership, such as strategic creativity, authentic communication, and the ability to deal with a corporation’s social and political dynamics,” McKinsey notes. “Social media adds new dimensions to these traits. For example, it requires the ability to create engaging multimedia content. Leaders need to excel at cocreation and collaboration – the currencies of social-media. They must understand the nature of different social-media tools and the unruly forces they can unleash.”

That’s easier said than done, especially with the sudden influx of GenAI, which has boosted the UX (user experience) of social media platforms but also surfaced major challenges. Algorithmic bias, for one. This can lead to discrimination against certain groups of users. Ethical issues, for another. The rapid pace of innovation means that existing regulations in ethics lags far behind. And the impact on jobs for a third. AI can automate a myriad of human tasks and roles, changing the nature of work.

UX is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, customers want a personalized experience that is tailored to their likes, needs and wishes. “A great experience is the ultimate change management tool, helping employees improve productivity and speed adoption of new ways of working,” notes IBM IBV (Institute for Business Value). “Leaders in outperforming companies wake up obsessed with customer experience and how they should extend that to every touch point and role in the enterprise.”

The Decay

On the other hand, customers want companies to protect their privacy. “Note that 37% of consumers have switched brands to protect their privacy,” the IBM IBV study says. “And 57% of consumers are uncomfortable with how companies use their personal or business information.”

No wonder then that companies and consumers are rethinking their social media strategies. Interestingly, a perceived decay in the quality of social media platforms will drive 50% of consumers to abandon or significantly limit their interactions with social media in the future, says Gartner.

Slightly more than half of consumers Gartner surveyed believe the current state of social media has decayed compared to either the prior year or five years ago. The top reasons for this perceived decline were the spread of misinformation, toxic user bases, and the prevalence of bots. Concern about the impact of anticipated GenAI use in social media is high: 70% consumers said greater integration of GenAI into social media will harm user experience.

“Social media remains the top investment channel for digital marketing, but consumers are actively trying to limit their use,” says Emily Weiss, a senior Gartner researcher. “A significant slice says that, compared to a few years ago, they are sharing less of their own lives and content. As the nature of social media use and the experience of the platforms change, marketing managers must refocus their customer acquisition and loyalty retention strategies in response.”

Moreover, trust in AI-powered experiences is eroding. “Mistrust and lack of confidence in AI’s abilities will drive some consumers to seek out AI-free brands and interactions,” Weiss adds. “A subsection of brands will shun AI and prioritize more human positioning. This ‘acoustic’ concept will be leveraged to distance brands from perceptions of AI-powered businesses as being impersonal.”

The Change

Why does this matter? Because of the rapid adoption of GenAI by regulators. According to IDC (International Data Corp), 50% of cities and states across the Indo-Pacific region will pilot GenAI to improve efficacy in community outreach, customer service, procurement, staff recruitment and training, and software development. Many government agencies are already investing in or testing GenAI for proof of concept.

“Although there are many disruptive factors in Asia’s subnational governments, there are several key levers of change,” IDC reports. “These include digital citizens’ experience, building the next generation of digital skills, and creating balanced regulatory frameworks that assure without stifling innovation. Underscoring these trends is the drive for ensuring cyber-resilience and digital sovereignty to address the volatile geopolitical risks cities will face over the next five years.”

These factors are becoming increasingly important for CIOs and government leaders to stay updated on evolving trends and how each one will impact the success of civic initiatives. So then, how can Asian companies optimize their social media marketing strategies in the age of digital transformation and GenAI? Here are a dozen pointers from me in alphabetical order:

• Address: Your audience. Use GenAI to analyze your audience’s behavior, preferences, and needs. Create buyer personas and customer journeys that reflect your target or vertical segments.

Blend: Creativity with automation: Get GenAI to augment your human team, not replace it. Use AI to generate ideas and suggestions, but let your creative team refine and polish them. Balance the efficiency of automation with the uniqueness of human expression.

• Choose: The right tools. There are now many GenAI tools in the market, but not all of them are suitable for your brand and goals. Evaluate the quality, reliability, functionality of different tools and choose ones that match your needs and budget. Test their accuracy regularly.

• Deploy: Your channels. Use GenAI to identify the best social media platforms and formats for your content. Experiment with different types of content, such as shorts, reels, stories, and live streams. Get GenAI to optimize your posting frequency, timing, messaging, and platforms.

• Engage: Your audience. Implement GenAI to interact with your audience in real time. Deploy chatbots and voice assistants to answer questions, provide feedback, offer recommendations. Use sentiment analysis and emotion detection to understand your audience’s mood and tone.

• Finetune: Your content. Implement GenAI to generate personalized and relevant content for each audience segment. Get NLG (natural language generation) to create catchy headlines, captions, and copy. Try text-to-image tools to create stunning visuals that match your text and brand.

• Generate New product ideas and features based on your target or focus audience’s feedback and needs. Apply GenAI to test and validate your product concepts and prototypes, as well as to generate product descriptions, reviews, and testimonials across multiple geos and languages.

• Harmonize: Your performance. Utilize GenAI to track and measure your social media marketing results. Try data visualization and reporting tools to generate insights and reports. Test predictive analytics and machine learning to forecast trends and outcomes.

 Ideate: With influencers. Get GenAI to collaborate with influencers who can promote your brand and products. GenAI can also be used to generate referral codes, coupons, and rewards for your loyal customers and advocates, and to create viral campaigns to encourage user-generated content.

Justify: Experimentation and iteration: GenAI can be used to explore new possibilities and opportunities for your social media marketing, to generate hypotheses and experiments. Apply it to evaluate and optimize your experiments and learn from your failures.

• Keep: Cybersecurity in view. GenAI can help detect and prevent any potential risks or threats to your brand reputation. Deploy GenAI to identify and remove any fake news, spam, or harmful content, as well as to enforce your brand guidelines and standards.

 Learn: From your competitors: Get GenAI to analyze your competitors’ social media strategies and performance. Use competitive intelligence tools to benchmark your performance and identify gaps and opportunities. GenAI can help you brainstorm ideas and suggestions for improvement.

And finally, since we started with a worrying limerick on social media, let’s end with a caring one:

How do you tame a creature like social media?

It has a mind of its own, like bacteria.

It grows, it spreads, sans any control,

It consumes our attention, even our soul.

Switch to reading print media or Wikipedia?

By Raju Chellam

Raju Chellam is a former Editor of Dataquest and is currently based in Singapore, where he’s the Editor-in-Chief of the AI Ethics & Governance Body of Knowledge and Chair of Cloud & Data Standards.

Originally Appeared Here

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