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The Digital-Marketing Dilemma: How Can We Use Social Media Responsibly?

by Doug Schowengerdt

15 NOVEMBER 2020

We don’t know about you, but we spend a lot of our time in front of screens. We’ve been on our WFH grind since lockdown in March, and that means a lot of staring at screens, but not just for work. Technology and social media, truly, have become our primary way of staying connected with loved ones. This seems to be a shared sentiment across the US, as discussions of how to balance social media intake have become quite common. Then, a few weeks ago, The Social Dilemma hit Netflix in what feels like a climax of widespread awareness about social media and mental health. In all its alarmist glory, this film brought to light just what exactly we’re giving up to be connected all the time.

As digital marketers, we are actively contributing to this precarious relationship. We find it necessary – alongside engagement and delivery timelines – to consider the social value in the work we do. The projects* favors humanity above all else as we engage online, and this moment of discussion has only reaffirmed our beliefs. With this, we took a deep internal look at how to more responsibly behave and collected some ideas to have in mind while creating branded content for social media.

Don’t Prey on Insecurities

As 2020 begins to come to a close, it’s high-time we leave the polished perfection of Instagram behind. We’ve become so accustomed to images inducing envy, but quarantine has shown us that sometimes the most compelling content is that which feels real. We’re interested in content that acknowledges flaws, that allows influencers to be themselves, that doesn’t present an idealized life that’s actually impossible to attain.

Reevaluate Measurement
Let’s rethink KPIs and develop more targeted, personal approaches to measuring engagement. A platform’s own measure of engagement is often inflated, as the prevalence of IG posts about “hacking the algorithm” reveals. By not defaulting to these standard measurements, marketers give less power to a single platform and avoid striving for empty engagement numbers. Dickies developed specific metrics for tracking interaction with their new, decentralized campaign shot in quarantine, with the focus on fostering long-term relationships rather than harvesting quick clicks.

Don’t Add to the Addiction
As the boundaries between digital and physical life have seemed to evaporate before us, how can we create content online that directs audiences to offline action? We’re interested in using social media to actually be more social by breaking the cycle of constantly refreshing feeds. We’re inspired by mutual aid networks like Bed-Stuy-Strong, who are building platforms to bring people together to increase connection offline, rather than increase interaction online.

Fact-Check, Bias-Check, Risk-Check
We’ll keep the moral argument short, but we do have a responsibility to not add harm to people’s lives through our work. In practice, this can involve several rounds of feedback that takes into account multiple perspectives on whether something is accurate and ethical to circulate. The stat included in The Social Dilemma that fake news circulates 6x faster than real news is a hard-hitter, and we want to ensure we’re not contributing to this climate.

Opt-out of Audience Optimization Tools

If possible, don’t pay platforms to target audiences with algorithms that measure users’ browsing activity. The frequency of data-mining is one of the more insidious discussions in The Social Dilemma, and so we are seeking out ways of creating content without buying into this insidious practice. What this comes down to is putting greater influence on the talent we work with to attract a specific audience.

What this exercise has done for us is to assess how we’re adding value to people’s lives through the work we do. With every campaign and sponsored post, we want to use the platform to create a piece of inspiration and insight. By acknowledging the unhealthy habits that come from being constantly surrounded by content, we can strategize how to stay inspired and avoid burning out. Every good digital diet starts with awareness.

If you’re also reassessing your relationship to social media and want to know more about applying this to the work you did, drop us a line!

Lots of love, Doug