Culture Captured: The Power of Keeping Pace with Everyday People’s Online Voices

By Deirdre Mahon, VP Marketing, Catch+Release

Every day, hundreds of millions (if not billions) of pieces of content are posted across the wide variety of social media platforms available globally. And while TikTok is often thought of as the hottest platform in the game, there are still passionate users of Facebook and its subproducts (including the under-the-radar Groups), Snap, X (formerly Twitter), and more.

In fact, the social media environment has never been healthier given the range of options and volumes of content created daily. Especially considering all generations use social media. Did you know that more than 80% of TikTok’s audience is 25 or above?

Social media remains the collective expression of our society and culture, and smart marketers at leading brands know it is a great place to derive inspiration and learn more about their customers. But it does more than just that. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re maximizing how social media impacts your marketing.

  • Treat social media as modern-day market research. If you’ve been in the industry since the early days of digital, you know how hard it was to do an ethnography – that’s what this is! You know your ideal customer profile – so where can you find them? It’s likely that they are everywhere – from Reddit to Discord to X to YouTube. The internet and social media provide an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about your customers. And best of all, they’re demonstrating their authentic selves and showing you their creativity. You can use social media as a mood board to save and keep track of compelling content that could inspire you in the future or become the starring asset in an upcoming campaign.
  • Don’t forget the lesser-discussed platforms. If you’re a B2C lifestyle brand reaching younger generations, then TikTok is definitely where you need to be. But that’s not the only place you should look. Did you know Facebook Groups are still huge? An Instapot group has 3.2 million Snap has over 750M monthly active users. Every platform has its passionate fans, some of whom are likely to be either your customers or users of a competitor’s product or solution.
  • Be intentional. If you’re getting your feet wet, you need a plan. Otherwise you’re going to get lost and confused. Here’s some simple ways to start off on the right foot and get the most out of social media.
    1. Search for your brand or your clients’ brands to see how people are using them. Note, you’ll probably see some brand unfriendly uses – let that wash over you for now. Get inspired by the ingenuity and passion demonstrated by the brand’s superfans.
    2. Find some specific creators to see how they post and interact with sponsors, and or categories to see how diverse the creativity is of users participating in those fields.
    3. Search for something you’re personally interested in. It will potentially inspire you while also reaffirming how everything has its own collective audience online.
  • Dive deeper. Once you know where your customers are most active, take the time to learn more about the culture and rules of engagement on those platforms. Brands that go into specific social networks without understanding how people on those sites like to consume content and interact are unlikely to succeed. For example, you’re not going to succeed by putting your TV spots on TikTok because they’ll feel inorganic. You also won’t win a lot of fans if you connect with a Subreddit where your products are discussed and try to take over the dialogue. It’s important to be a good social media citizen and follow the flow of behaviors and conventions.

  • Open yourself up to the possibilities. User-generated content has grown leaps and bounds from its early days. It’s not all pranks, dances, and trends (though those are great too! There is beautiful, cinematic content that tugs on heartstrings. There is multi-cut and multi-scene hilarious content that wouldn’t feel out of place as a SNL digital short. Best of all, many of these creators are excited to partner with brands and several already have some campaigns under their belts. Also, remember to consider the full scope of marketing creative. In addition to video there are opportunities to use text-based posts, audio, or photos to serve as foundational elements of an upcoming campaign.
  • Be authentic, but also experiment. Social media allows for much more trial and error than big budget campaigns with celebrities, especially if you’re licensing compelling content from up-and-coming creators. Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if it is inspirational or funny. While, as above, putting your traditional content on social media won’t work, you can use social media content created by fans as the foundation for a larger ad campaign.
  • But don’t stray from strategy. Don’t get swayed by the latest trend if it won’t work for your brand. Working with a popular influencer “for the sake of” comes across as lazy marketing. It can even have the opposite effect of what you intended. The beauty of social media is there are billions of creators producing near-limitless amounts of amazing content every day. You will find more than enough possibilities that fit your brand and will resonate with your audience.

Social media is much broader (and much more crucial to a marketing strategy) than we think. In order to capitalize, companies need to dive in and understand what makes each channel unique, which ones hold the sway of most of their customers, and how to best work with creators. Solving that puzzle will reinvigorate their approach and create a winning marketing strategy today and for the foreseeable future.

As you strengthen your social media muscle, it becomes a source of inspiration, an opportunity to enhance existing campaigns, and a living database of potential creative assets. Every member of the team should practice this, not just brand managers or social and digital marketers. Remember, social media is your market research, how you know who your target audience is. So open the apps, search topics, and get into the conversations. See you there!

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