September 25, 2018

With the proliferation of social media, only a person who has buried his head in the sand would not be aware of it and on it. Starting from the age of about 10 urban children are on a smartphone and some kind of social media platform. So, there is a big demographic, target group for various marketeers from soft drinks to apparel, mobile phones to household items viz. floor cleaners, salon services to financial services will be on some social platform or the other.

My 73-year old mother is on Facebook and watches serials and other content she missed on TV, on her uber cool tab. Why has social media caught the collective imagination of people in this century? From
10-year olds to 80-year olds, everyone is posting pictures, making new friends, showing off, getting consoled, getting congratulated, wishing hundreds of people Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and what not. In my entire life, I have never wished so many people happy birthday as I have probably done in the last year alone.

So why is social media so addictive and has become part of one’s life? So much so that it is like a natural extension of our personalities.

In my opinion, it helps people express themselves to known and completely unknown people while being in the safety of their homes/offices. There is no real person-to-person connect. They can be who they want to be and live in an illusionary world of one’s own making.

It helps balance the multifaceted personalities that we all have which has so far not found an expression. Sometimes I feel a bit of schizophrenia lurks in all of us, it is just that it is kept well-hidden as earlier there was no outlet for these expressions.

Just to get the perspective, let us look at some symptoms of schizophrenia…
– Delusions – the patient displays false beliefs, which can take many forms, such as delusions of persecution, or delusions of grandeur. They may feel others are attempting to control them remotely. Or, they may think they have extraordinary powers and abilities.
– Hallucinations – hearing voices is much more common than seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there. However, people with schizophrenia may experience a wide range of hallucinations.
– Thought disorder – the person may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason. The speaker may be hard to follow or erratic.

If you think about it, don’t you think all of us suffer from this in some form or the other on social media? Perfectly calm people pick fights with strangers on topics like politics, religion, food, movies. Intolerance is here too. Delusions of grandeur when one’s holiday pictures or selfie has been liked 400 times. Come on, let’s admit it, it is very satisfying for the ego indeed. Persecution complex when people disagree with you on an expressed statement or opinion.

Being a psychology student myself, we all had to read this book called Sybil which was very popular when I was in college, where a girl has multiple personality disorder.
Circa 2018…

Social media actually helps us do exactly this. Exhibit our multiple personalities albeit on different social platforms.

So, a quick glance at how social helps you express:
– Facebook… how cool I am
– Twitter….how clever
– LinkedIn… how serious…(consequential)
– Instagram…… how creative
– YouTube…. how demonstrative
– Pinterest… how multifaceted

Of course, this is not sacrosanct… For example, I can be clever on Facebook too. But if you are too clever on Facebook you are in trouble. You then have people asking serious questions for some sarcastic inane statement made purely for time-pass as the popular Indian saying goes.

I’d say if you want to be serious go to LinkedIn. What are you doing on Facebook? FB is a boredom elevator, the mother of all distractions. Knowledge workers love it as it is fuel for the brain periodically at short intervals, almost like a smoke break.

Ah, then there is Twitter. The best thing to have happened after sliced bread. How clever, really clever one can be. You really need to squeeze out all that wisdom to fit in 140 characters. Ok, now Twitter has enhanced it. You can go up to 280 characters. But the fun is obviously in squeezing all your sarcasm, oops wisdom into 140 characters. Right? But the measure of your popularity on Twitter is gauged by how many people actually troll you. Not trolled enough? Sorry, guys, you ain’t as popular as you thought you were.

LinkedIn – the maximum people who want to connect with you are the wannabes…well it all works. As you are also a wannabe wanting to connect to somebody else. So, there is a gigantic network of wannabes wanting to connect with each other. Fair enough And now, to my all-time favourite.

Instagram – You really don’t have to be very clever on Instagram. You just need some good to decent photography and filter applying skills. Make the most mundane meal palatable by plating it, taking it from a sexy angle and of course applying some cool filters which instantly brighten up the dullest face or picture. One can do amazingly well with very little actual talent.

Pinterest – I can actually start copying others’ interests and pass it as my own. Need I say more?

YouTube – is probably the only place I have to demonstrate some real skills. Like speaking or acting or singing. You have to have some modicum of talent I guess. Else it will be pretty unwatchable.

So, who are we really then?
Do we even know? There is a continuous need (pressure) to project something that we are not. Are we really as cool, flippant, sarcastic as what we appear on our various social handles? Are we even that good looking? The most dangerous trend of social media is seeing things in a very different light from what they actually are.

Is there a solution in sight? Where is all this heading? I guess there is a natural evolution for everything. The medium will mature. People will mature. As of now, in the present times, we need to take most of the content on social media as entertainment. You see a film. You may fall in love with a character played by Clooney, Pitt or Khan. But somewhere you know it is just a character, it is just a story…. And it is not real.

Similarly, in social media, you are only playing a role.

It is not real folks. Remember that.

Now comes the crucial question.

How can brands make the most of all this? How can marketeers take advantage of this role-playing? This is the best time for a marketeer. After all, consumption is linked very closely to what image we want to portray. Since each medium is so well defined it is easy for marketeers to pitch to a narrower audience. Yes, mass products Facebook, niche Instagram, even more niche, Twitter. Each brand has a personality and it is that much easier to peg the target audience to a potential product or service.

You are the content, creating content for yourself, for friends and the world at large. It is like a gigantic reality show which we are unlikely to get fed up of in the near future. As long as there is content advertisers will follow.

Hence the best content is what is generated by everyday folks.
1. Political bashing – all-time favourite
2. Our fabulous holidays from Cyprus to Jhumritalaiyya
3. Babies and dog videos – cuter the better
4. Celebrity watching – a great example was actress Sonam Kapoor’s wedding… Yes, we were all part of every festivity. From Sangeet to the reception. Millions of viewers. Almost like a reality show with super glamorous people
5. Movie bashing
6. Celebrity bashing
7. Priyanka Chopra’s love life
8. Elon Musk meltdown
9. Village cooking
10. Food porn
11. A couple wishing each other on Facebook and Instagram with lovey-dovey pictures and endearments

This is the best time to be alive in the history of advertising and marketing. Yes, there is fragmentation of budgets and audiences, but who cares as long as the medium is alive and kicking. The best thing I like about social media is the sheer democratisation of content and content providers. Yes, my driver and domestic help are also on social media.

Kiran Bhat

Kiran is a first-gen entrepreneur who has incubated several businesses. She currently runs Xebec Communications Pvt. Ltd., a Strategic Branding + Digital company. She is frequently invited to speak on industry forums. She has co-authored a book called ‘No holy cows in business’ about the 9 principles of entrepreneurship. Available in English and, also translated into Marathi.
Contact: kiranbhat@xebecindia.com

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