Anti-social Social Media

‘This message will self destruct in 10 seconds’ is a phrase that has, until recently, been reserved for tales of espionage where more often than not the success of a world saving mission hinges on preserving informational integrity.

How strange it is then, that vast swathes of millennials opt to communicate in such a fashion.

We live in a world where apps facilitate instant content disposal, social networks are becoming increasingly private and chat apps nurture sporadic dialogue.

In short, social media has become anti-social, an irony that has not been lost on the likes of Evan Spiegel, CEO and founder of the $10 billion platform, Snapchat.

What has prompted this shift?

Firstly, people are bored of broadcasting.

In what is arguably a progression in social media maturity, most people no longer want to broadcast content to their loosely edited social circles and instead prefer to establish increasingly targeted dialogues.

If you have something to say then say it to people who care.


Indeed, the vast commercial presence on social media is largely to blame for this. Millennials have become numbed to social broadcasting and have, through a process of digital natural selection, developed the best bulls**t filters of any generation.

Secondly, the unrivaled accountability that comes hand-in-hand with traditional open channels (Facebook, Twitter etc.) has been usurped by the security of private channels and disposable chat apps. Users can find solace in knowing that the content they create will self-destruct or only be read by those intended. Indeed, the Roman senatorial proverb verba volant, scripta manent rings true, ‘spoken words fly away, written words remain’.

Thirdly, a growing sense of digital unease surrounding content ownership has fostered a shift in online behaviour. Social media users are becoming increasingly guarded and who can blame us! Horror stories of careers tarnished and relationships ruined are every present in the mind of the digitally savvy user. Most notably, the notorious Justine Sacco who, before boarding a flight to Africa tweeted, ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” – upon touching down in Africa she discovered she had been retweeted over 2,000 times and was an ex PR executive.

Lastly, social media has become synonymous with mobile thus securing its entry into the inner spheres of our personal space – our pockets. Subsequently, social media has had to align itself with the deeply personal role of the mobile device.

What are the implications for brands?

Corporate-Share-Buttons-The-Anti-Social-MediaThe most significant implication for brands is that the bar for engagement has been dramatically raised: if you are going to communicate with me in my pocket then it has to be engaging.

Moreover, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people and build a social following. Consumers understand the value of engagement whether it is a like, share or follow; therefore, they expect more from brands on social media. It is a social value exchange that brands have to take seriously.

Who is doing it well?

SmartCar fulfilled its brand promise of defining modern automotive standards by leveraging Tencent’s messaging app, WeChat for its BoConcept campaign. With over 600 million accounts, WeChat is the central communication platform for nearly half of the Chinese population. SmartCar leveraged the platform’s position as China’s default messaging app and inbuilt e-commerce functionality to mount an integrated campaign across online and offline channels. Traditional and online media efforts and dealer campaigns drove traffic to WeChat, where 720 degree viewing gave users the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the product. The integrated campaign culminated with a flash sale at 10AM on WeChat through which 388 units were sold in only 3 minutes.

Furthermore, the campaign momentum generated 7,310 leads; activated by a call centre and a dealer visit incentive in the form of a fuel card. Overall, the campaign generated 4.2 billion impressions.

Burberry deployed an equally nuanced social media strategy to promote the Bejing Show, aimed at reaffirming the brands presence in China. A variety of digital assets and innovative activities were implemented across an array of owned and earned channels. Burberry capitalised on WeChat’s interactive functionality to distribute exclusive content and deliver an immersive experience, driving engagement. The campaign garnered 1.2 million views on Youku or event videos and more then 77,000 relevant mentions on China’s ain social media, Sina Weibo.

Taco Bell, with around 200,000 fans on Snapchat have successfully tapped into the millennial mentality of what CMO Chris Brandt labels, ‘clockless eating’. A constant trickle of entertaining titbits is deigned to generate dialogue – not likes and clicks. The Mexican fast food franchise’s effective use of Snapchat is paying dividends, with an estimated 80% of followers opening the Snaps 90%, of whom view the content in its entirety. They are reportedly planning to further develop their channel strategy by adopting Discover, Snapchat’s most recent innovation.

What can brands learn from this?


In short, don’t be a jack-of-all-channels, of all content, at all times – be master of one.

It is important to recognise which channel work best for your brand, and to focus your social effort on owning that channel. SmartCar, Burberry and TacoBell have all achieved this through recognising which social platform resonated with their audience and delivering a correspondingly curated experience.

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