Is Social Media Aesthetic Dead?

When an agency email chain on the subject of social media became longer than a CVS receipt, we decided to huddle around some microphones in a props cupboard to talk it out. Here are some highlights from our social ramblings.

Kathryn Tromba (Digital Marketing Manager) Is social media aesthetic dead?

Shayna Lawler (Digital Art Director): I think people are now just consciously trying to make their photos look more candid than they are. So instead of my perfect avocado toast picture, I’ve thrown it on the floor…and art directed it to show a disheveled reflection of my face.

Kathryn Tromba: And I guarantee that was taken 10 times before they got the ‘perfect’ shot.

Max Dempster (Copywriter): Do you think social media is just inherently dishonest in that way and always will be?

Shayna: Yes. If it’s up to you what you’re able to post and how you are going to change and manipulate it, I don’t think any of us are going to be 100% honest.

Katharine Bonnet (Director of Digital): It’s your own PR platform. Because it’s such a narrow view of life, unless you were to record your whole life, you still have to select the elements of your day to share. Some people are now trying to put forward a more honest view of life on social media…with real ‘bikini body’ photos…or showing the tough side of motherhood. People are consciously trying to show the full spectrum of human emotion, but it’s always going to be somewhat edited.

Max: Yeah, you’re still curating it. It makes sense that there is a pendulum swing back. Everyone just wants to be unique and so being more cluttered or messy or honest just seems like an opportunity to stand out again.

Kathryn: So the social aesthetic isn’t dying it’s just growing to encompass more.

Kathryn: Some brands, like Lush in the UK, are closing down their social media channels. What are your thoughts on that? Was that a pioneering move or a reluctance to meet the consumer where they are?

Max: I don’t think it was pioneering. I understand throttling down your social presence, but actively abandoning a platform that allows you to connect with people, even just from a customer service standpoint, seems like a strange move to me.

Katharine: I feel like people who thought this move was great were using this to say “Ha! We don’t need to be on social media”. I think they were trying to spin this as brave, but it shows a lack of understanding of why people are on social. You’re not just following brands just for customer service reasons.

Kathryn: I don’t use websites to research brands anymore…I use Instagram. So I think it’s a really large missed opportunity for Lush in the UK.

Kathryn: Another odd thing about it was that their last tweet was driving people to a Lush community hashtag and they wrote ‘see you there’!?

Max: Which really makes it feel like a marketing stunt – ‘go over here on social and talk about how we are not on social’

Katharine: ‘We’re hosting a party, but we’re not going to be there bring your own food and drink and everything else. Bye’

Max: ‘But we will be listening though’

(lols ensue)

Kathryn: I was going to ask ‘how important is social to brands’ but it sounds like we just answered it right there. Are there any other thoughts on that?

Katharine: I think that when we’re having these conversations about ‘is social dead’ we are talking about social as it is now. Which is different from the minute before. So I think, yes, social dies every day, and is rebirthed as something else. But I think there is a human craving that social media is fulfilling. And advertising wants to get in on that. And it’s about brands finding a way of doing it that doesn’t feel false or intrusive.

Max: I’d say most brands are there out of some perfunctory sense that they need to be, and that’s when you see a lot of generic stuff. There’s no thought and it’s not providing the education or the brand experience that you’d want it to in order to drive sales or to give value to customers

Katharine: People often talk about social as a direct response medium that is the antithesis of branding but it is your social is your branding, your research, your PR your customer service… it’s everything in the spectrum of marketing, if used in the right way.

Kathryn: So with the news that Instagram is testing removing likes, how do you think that will affect brands, influencers and consumers?

Max: It seems positive to me. It takes a shot at the bot farms and fake like purchasing. It makes it more genuine and you’ll get a sense about what people really want out of your page.

Shayna: My concern from an advertising perspective is what that means for analytics. As a brand, how am I keeping a gauge on whether people like what I’m putting out?

Katharine: Can I ask a question? What makes you physically like a post vs just liking it, in your mind, as you scroll past it?

Shayna: I use it as a way to save and catalog things.

Max: I almost never like stuff. Usually I am saving or DMing things to people…it would be super useful if they tracked that. That’s the primary method I use to express that I like something.

Kathryn: I almost never like brand posts!

Katharine: I think I might like a post to state that I’m aligned with a certain belief (e.g. climate change).

Kathryn: Removing likes will pose a new challenge for how brands define success and how it might change the content they’re creating. It might change things to a conversion-focused approach. So it seems like a good move.

Shayna: Those poor influencers though.

Kathryn: Is social the death of advertising?

Shayna: No! It connects an entire globe of people – potentially for free.

Max: It’s hard to have a project that never ends…but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative and you just have to make sure that you don’t get too myopic and get caught up in trends and analytics.

Shayna: If social is the death of advertising, where is it being reborn? I’m not listening to radio or watching TV.

Max: Do you have ad blockers?

Shayna: I like my ads. I need the inspiration!

Max: I do (have ad blockers). But social media is a place where I don’t mind seeing ads. It’s one of the few places where I will fully engage with advertising.

If there are other questions you would like to hear our team debate on, send us a DM.