- Influencer caution. Brands should carefully choose influencers who align with their target audience to avoid potential backlash and negative impacts on their reputation and market capitalization.
- TikTok popularity. Despite ongoing legislative debates, TikTok remains a powerful platform for reaching younger generations, making it a popular choice for brands targeting Gen Z.
- Authentic engagement. In an age where AI-generated content is on the rise, prioritizing humanized, authentic content and genuine connections with customers is essential for brands to stand out and build trust.
Social media marketing involves the creation of customized content for social media platforms to boost customer engagement and promote a brand. By creating and fostering strong connections with customers on their preferred channels, this strategy offers significant benefits to businesses.
According to a Statista report from March 2023, there are 308.27 million social media users — 91.9% of the total US population. As such, social media marketing offers brands a huge opportunity to engage with their customers in the channels of their choice. This article will look at the ways that brands are using social media marketing and how it has changed in 2023.
Social Marketing, Influencers and Brand Values
Sometimes, even when a brand is standing up for the right things, it turns out to be a bad PR move if it ostracizes its core audience. Recently, such has been the case with Anheuser-Busch, which partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and used her picture on Bud Light cans to promote LGBTQ+ equality and inclusivity. The controversy began when Anheuser-Busch sent her Bud Light beers, and she posted a video of herself dressed as Holly Golightly from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" while promoting the product.
The Bud Light campaign promoted the concept that everyone should be able to be themselves, a value that most of us would agree with; however, it didn’t sit well with many of the brand’s conservative customers. Since the campaign began on March 31, shares of Anheuser-Busch have fallen by nearly 4%, dropping its market capitalization from $132.38 billion to $127.13 billion.
Entertainers Travis Tritt and Kid Rock recently posted videos on social media indicating that they were very angry about Anheuser-Busch’s influencer marketing campaign. Tritt said he would be removing Anheuser-Busch products from his rider while on his concert tour, and Kid Rock used a machine gun to shoot cases of Anheuser-Busch beer. Many others, who were not so famous, also spoke out on social networks, letting people know that they were unhappy with the campaign.
The moral of this story is to know one’s customers. It’s great to be diverse and inclusive, but prepare for backlash.
Related Article: What Social Media Trends to Expect for 2023
TikTok Still Leads the Way for Short-Form Videos
Although there is a federal push to ban the use of TikTok, the state of Montana is moving ahead with legislation that will completely ban the social media network. The app is owned by the Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and some US government officials are concerned that TikTok poses national security risks.
That said, the popularity of the social network continues to grow. According to a 2023 Insider Intelligence report, TikTok is the third-largest social network and has 834.3 million monthly users worldwide, and by 2025, it will have close to a billion users. A 2023 Statista report revealed that of all those TikTok users, 113 million are Americans — more than any other country. A large percentage of TikTok users, 60% in fact, are Gen Zers. This makes the social network very popular with brands whose target market are members of the Gen Z population.
Sasha Ramani, associate director of corporate strategy at MPOWER Financing, a worldwide provider of scholarships and no-cosigner loans, told CMSWire that in 2023, the lasting impact of working with influencers has strengthened brand awareness and increased a business’s bottom line in innovative ways as social media continues to evolve. "Highly engaging, fan-favorite, social features such as TikTok challenges have taken the world by storm and have made the platform a hotbed of fruitful influencer partnerships," Ramani said.
Many brands are using TikTok as their preferred medium to reach a younger audience. Although some brands create their own TikTok accounts and post videos that showcase their products or services, many others choose to collaborate with TikTok influencers to reach a wider audience. According to a 2022 Insider Intelligence report, over 42% of US marketers used TikTok for influencer marketing in 2021, a number that is expected to reach 49% this year.
Brands that are using or considering the use of TikTok will be closely monitoring the attempts by both state and federal officials to ban its use, as nobody wants to invest in a campaign that suddenly loses most of its target audience.
Related Article: Deciding on the Best Social Media Platforms for Customer Connection
A Focus on Youth-Centered Content
According to a 2023 report from Business DIT, around 94% of the Gen Z population actively participates on social media, accounting for 61.1 million users in the United States alone. A 2023 report from Insider Intelligence indicated that although Gen Z only makes up 27% of the US population, they remain the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and largest generation in American history. As such, many brands in 2023 are devoting much of their efforts toward this generation.
Casey Jones, founder, director and head of marketing at CJ&CO, a global digital marketing company, told CMSWire that in 2023, there’s more focus on youth-centered content. "Gen-Z is the present and future generation of consumers, so every piece of content should be tailored to their mindset," said Jones. "For example, Gen Z does not like the idea of being sold a product. Instead, they’re more into immersive and imaginative brand experiences."
To effectively market to Gen Z, brands should engage on their preferred platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat, leverage social influencers and focus on their interests and behaviors. “I’ve observed that eye-catching visuals and bright colors work better than ever. Plus, content that truly appeals to their interests is driving more engagement,” said Jones, who suggested that brands leverage this approach and prioritize youth-centered content.
Generative AI Is Impressive, but the Human Touch Is Vital
In the past two months, ChatGPT has gained more than 100 million users, a feat that took TikTok nine months to achieve. Generative AI models such as ChatGPT, Bing Image Creator, Google Bard, Bing Chat, DALL-E, Stable Diffusion and more have enabled businesses to instantly generate content, images and videos by using simple text descriptions. Although generative AI technology holds promise to open up a multitude of opportunities, at the same time, it further reduces the human element in interactions with customers. If all of a brand’s content has been created by AI, it’d be challenging to build a connection with its human customers.
“Another thing about social media marketing that has changed in 2023 is the increased importance of humanized content,” said Jones. “With the rise in the popularity of AI writing tools like ChatGPT and Jasper AI, a lot of brands are using machine-generated content on social media. Well, no matter how good this content is, it lacks a human touch. For example, AI often uses repetitive words and sentences, and talks in the third person, which feels shallow. On the other hand, humanized content uses first and second-person pronouns, which feels like a two-way conversation.”
Content that is written by a human is often laced with humor, wit and compassion, which appeals to people’s emotions, so in a sea of machine-generated content, Jones believes that humanized content is helping businesses shine brighter than their competitors.
User-generated content is another way that brands are able to use humanized content on social media. “One crucial way brands are using social media marketing is by creating more user-generated content," said Bridget Reed, co-founder of The Word Counter, an online editing tool. “They are involving their customers in the creation of marketing campaigns by encouraging them to share their experiences using the brand's product or service. This has led to an increase in engagement and brand loyalty,” said Reed. “Brands are using social media to showcase user-generated content and encourage customers to share their experiences with the brand.”
Genuine, Authentic, Organic Content Is Most Appealing
Social media users are very adept at recognizing advertising and marketing hype that is delivered to them on social media platforms. They can also see through an inauthentic brand voice and are likely to push away, unfriend and unsubscribe from any such attempt.
Crystal Uys, marketing and communications manager at ExcitedCats.com, a cat care site that features cat guides, health and gear articles, told CMSWire that in a world where fake news is around every corner, there is one thing that remains invaluable to brands when it comes to social media: telling their audience the truth. “Although various groups consume content differently, people are constantly seeking out the most trustworthy information,” said Uys. “If you can position your brand as one that prides itself on delivering only the highest quality information or content, your audience will do the rest. It's not about your brand, it's about the people that your brand seeks to serve,” said Uys, adding that although this has always been true, it is showing to be increasingly more crucial in 2023.
Much like Uys, Kathleen Marchetti, director of marketing at Next PR, told CMSWire that social media marketing in 2023 is all about authentic connections. “Users can smell black-hat marketing tactics and inauthenticity a mile away. Brands need to show up — and show their human side — in order to connect and build trust with target audiences,” said Marchetti, who added that executive social media is also a driving force in humanizing brands. “Company leaders need to be active on their social pages, sparking conversation and making real connections with their followers. They’re the face of the brand, but more than that, they represent the brand’s values on social media more than a corporate page ever could.”
Final Thoughts on Social Media Marketing
Social media became even more important in people's lives during the pandemic, and it remains a vital way in 2023 for brands to connect and engage with customers in their preferred channels. Brands should be cautious about working with influencers who may not appeal to their target audience, but collaborations with influencers can still be effective.
TikTok is a popular social channel for reaching younger generations through short-form video, despite legislative debates. Overall, social media is an essential component of modern marketing strategies, but it's crucial for brands to navigate each platform carefully and prioritize authentic engagement with their audience to avoid potential backlash.