Matthew Keegan
Oct 26, 2023

Is the era of social media dead?

SOUNDING BOARD: Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, admitted earlier this year that users have moved away from traditional social media platforms to direct messages, closed communities, and group chats. But is ad spend moving to reflect this shift?

Is the era of social media dead?
To some, traditional social media is already dead. Even Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has admitted it
Speaking with the British venture capitalist Harry Stebbings on a recent episode of the 20VC podcast, Mosseri said that users have moved away from social media platforms to group chats, direct messages and closed communities. 
So perhaps the golden age of social media is over. Facebook seems to be in permanent decline. Instagram is mostly just ads and sponsored posts. TikTok is non-stop influencers. Critics have described social media as becoming ‘a lot less social’ and more just about connecting users with brands and influencers. And then of course there’s the cautionary tale of Twitter / X. Since Elon Musk took control of Twitter, both advertisers and influential users have stopped using the platform. Never before has it seemed more likely that the era of social media could be coming to an end.
But while many users are becoming fatigued with social mediaand the mainstream platforms stealing our attention, our data, and selling it for their own gain while making life, ironically, a lot less ‘social’to restore a sense of community, some users are migrating to smaller social networks and messaging platforms like Discord and Telegram.
Reports suggest that a growing number of people are using direct messaging as the new social feed. This means more users are opting to avoid the divisive nature of conversations within social apps, by choosing to share information with their private groups through DMs rather than their main, public stream.
But are marketers taking note of this social media shift? Is ad spend shifting towards messaging / chat platforms where users are increasingly migrating to?
Campaign reached out to leading social media experts to find out.
Brittany Wickerson
Global head of media at We Are Social
“The nature of this private messaging behaviour suggests that people don’t want to be disturbed by brands. Therefore, brands need to develop holistic distribution plans that deliver value for both them and social media users. The focus should be on aligning with behaviour, not fighting against it or trying to insert the brand in inauthentic ways.
Brands need to craft campaigns and content plans that leverage a combination of culturally-led content, supported by owned, earned, paid and shared distribution. Whether that is engaging creators in more niche communities or monitoring engagement and actions holistically, to reflect this sharing behaviour and private messaging.
We should expect that social media has and will continue to evolve to reflect the changing technologies, audience preferences and behaviours, new platforms, updated algorithms, new features and more.”
Siona Singletary
Associate strategy director, R/GA Australia
“It seems to me that while platforms strive to stay connected to users, what users really want is to just stay connected to each other. Apps like Whatsapp, Telegram, Discord and Messenger serve this fundamental need. This is why we’re seeing users retreat to these apps; people crave community. As long as social platforms have feeds that leave us hungry, rather than fulfilled, bombarded with ads, oversaturated with brands and often misinformation, the retreat will endure. 
Social isn’t dead, it just needs to stay human if they want to thrive in the future. The same applies for brands, the most human brand wins. In the depths of connection and community exchange, marketing happens independently of brands, driven through conversation, link sharing, and storytelling. The better brands and platforms become at facilitating these exchanges, the closer they will be to their customers and users.”
Sam Terminelli  
Head of engagement, Magic
“Conversation-wise, there’s no doubt users have shifted their social media–and general app usage–from public to private communication. But people aren’t necessarily using Instagram less, but using it in different ways which suggests social media as we know isn’t dead by any means. 
However, the content and platform experience expectations for consumers have become significantly more diverse. The challenge for brands managing ad spend on social now is proactively matching up audience opportunities against fit-for-platform content opportunities to create a full-funnel experience that matches user expectations.”
Tim Durgan
VP, strategy & insights, Assembly APAC
“Social media is alive and well. It simply has moved away from the one channel to another. The fall of certain platforms is happening because they are all racing to copy each other and subsequently undermining what made them unique in the first place. History tells us that every brand has peaks and troughs. What we’re seeing is a natural migration as the demographics of the country change. 
In fact, social has strived to find new markets and has also matured into a viable sales platform. TikTok is about to invest billions into Southeast Asia because they see the growth potential of social (and social commerce) in the region. As brands understand the power of livestream commerce and influencer-led revenue streams as an example, they will see that the next round of growth for social is on the horizon.”
Werner Iucksch, 
SVP, head of social, APAC, Media.Monks
“Many brands are still to learn that this medium is 'social' first and 'media' second. The increase of communities and closed groups only accentuates this reality. We see this movement as part of the evolution and utility of social media, rather than a threat. The more sophisticated social media gets, the more we need to think about social media first methodologies and tailor the content to the platforms, optimizing it for dialog, and interactivity – rather than treat social as a 'warehouse' where we chuck all sorts of disparate marketing assets just because it’s possible to do so. This is a welcome development for us – in fact, we have several social media clients working with us on mainstream open platforms that have recently grown the scope to include Reddit, Discord and others. It’s a double positive.”
Marc Langenfeld
Head of media, VaynerMedia APAC
"The use of social platforms is undoubtedly evolving. When it comes to content from influencers or brands they follow, there has been a huge rise in shares via direct messaging with Mosseri also sharing that Gen Z 'spend more time in DMs than they do in stories'.
From an advertising perspective, it can be challenging for marketers to grasp these changes in user attention, primarily because there are far fewer opportunities to advertise directly through messaging apps. For instance, this option doesn't currently exist within Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Discord. 
However, when we look at other direct messenger platforms like Telegram, we see a different story. Telegram offers an ad format that caters to one-to-many communication within Telegram communities, allowing you to reach over a thousand subscribers at any one time. 
In the short term, opportunities that exist within Telegram, WhatsApp and Discord could involve collaborating with brands or publications that already have access to communities or channels within these platforms, engaging them to post on your behalf as part of an advertorial strategy. 
I believe there is a better alternative and huge opportunity for brands to get involved on these channels by creating and nurturing their own community pages. This would provide them with an organic distribution channel to connect with their most engaged followers and offer them unique experiences or opportunities directly, without the need for a pay-to-play model. 

I don't believe ad dollars are shifting at the same pace (yet), but at VaynerMedia, we certainly see this as an underpriced opportunity to build relationships and relevancy with consumers."
David Carollo
Client partner, Assembly APAC
"I do not feel social media is dead. Direct messaging platforms where users are spending a large chunk of their time today have existed for more than a decade and have done little to disrupt the exponential growth of social. It is simply a change in social media consumption and it's very natural. Younger generations are shifting interest in some mainstream social media channels to TikTok and other similar platforms."
Miki Sim
Director of platforms and community, VaynerMedia APAC
"Social media has brought our lives and friendships into the public eye, thus prompting people to seek more private and intimate connections with their in-real-life (IRL) friends through messaging apps. There is even a growing trend of location sharing, facilitated by apps like Apple's Find My Friends and Indonesia's Jagat, underscoring the desire to distinguish between public acquaintances and IRL friendships.

Social behaviours are evolving, and social and messaging are driving forces for one another’s development. Rather than death, it’s a constant evolution of both."


Campaign Asia

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