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Moving home: from Facebook to Instagram

Group photo

For seven years now I have been a dedicated Facebook user. And that’s actually a relatively short time for someone my age – I ironically (based on what I do for a living now) had a ‘I’m not joining Facebook’ rebellion. And then I realised all my friends were off to uni and I was missing out on keeping up with their lives.

So having gotten over my rebellion I became an avid Facebook user for seven very social years. Then it all changed. From having Facebook as my social media home, I recently packed up my life (my photos, events, documentation of my every last activity, my relationship, my friendships) and moved house. To Instagram.

So what was the reason for my move? It had a lot to do with the ever changing settings on Facebook that left me totally unconfident in the privacy services it was allegedly offering. It seems that by default Facebook wants to catch you out – defaulting things to public, adding new features without explaining the implications of using them, and making admin rights so complicated that it’s a challenge for people who even work in social media.

One Sunday when I realised the privacy settings on my page were not working as they had been set, I decided my home was no longer Facebook. Faced with the inadequacy of the settings (for example setting all photos to completely private; and then them proceeding to be publicly viewable), I removed all of my photos from my page.

It was in doing that I realised the thing I loved about Facebook. Unintentionally, it had become the documentation of the good times I’ve had over the past seven years – the holidays, the parties, the days out, the festivals, the spontaneous ridiculousnesses with my best friend. Did I really want to lose all of that?

At the same time I was pondering over this point, I read in the Evening Standard magazine an article about social media that really hit home for me. Being a commuter, I usually have the Evening Standard eagerly thrust in my face on a daily basis, but rarely do I pick up the magazine version. So when choosing to accept it on this  particular evening (and being a strong believer in fate), I felt this article was somewhat poignant in my current social media conundrum (also known as a #middleclassproblem – ‘I just don’t know what social media network to use’). Here’s what it said:

“It’s as if we no longer believe that being present is enough – we have to record our experience in order to validate it…”

And with this I realised that I shouldn’t lose all of my documented experiences, I should just move them. It’s now part of our behaviour – we experience something; we document it. I didn’t need to leave home for good like a stroppy teenager that’s had a fight with their parents, I could instead find a new home to document life’s experiences. Consider it like leaving home to go to uni – you have a new house, but that doesn’t mean you lose your home.

Which leads me to stop talking about the negatives of Facebook, and remember what it is good for – there’s things we are all good at, it’s just about learning what those are.

Facebook remains the quickest, most efficient mechanism for getting something out there fast. This very blog being the best example of that – I want people to read and share my blog, and luckily for me, there’s over 500 friends on Facebook who might do just that. But more importantly, the one thing that kept me on Facebook, was the group chat that I’ve had continuously live for over a year now – without the ability to real-time ask my oldest friends if my outfit is ok, what their thoughts are on the film I’ve just watched, or hear their latest relationship developments; I’m pretty sure I’d be lost.

So the intention of this post was to not just rant about Facebook’s flaws and put you all off forever, it was actually to portray that social media is very personal. Too many people talk about the latest trends and over-analyse user demographics. But really, who cares? People will pick and choose their social media behaviour to be reflective of their mood, the stage in their life they are at, and the type of thing they’ve just experienced. And it’s the cleverest brands out there that will realise this. And it’s those brands that will succeed in social media.

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The language of conversation

It seems that some are still questioning why social media strategy sits with PR agencies as opposed to a digital or creative agency, or indeed any agency at all. For me, the answer is simple – nobody understands messaging, engagement and overall language better than PR experts. This is something we’ve been doing since the term ‘public relations’ was first coined, and in this new world – although on the whole I refuse to call it ‘new’ anymore – of digital PR, the power of language is more evident than ever.

‘Who cares about language?’ some may ask – just give me a branded Facebook page and a couple of videos on YouTube and I’ve ticked the social media box. No, no, no! This is where some brands are still falling down at the first hurdle. In fact, they aren’t really even reaching the first hurdle. To achieve brand longevity and a sustainable social media presence, it is vital to use language that is audience specific, ignites conversation (in a positive way!) and gives you a social identity. If you can achieve these things, then you are on the way to reaching those people – be it patients, carers, families or medical professionals – that are looking for support.

If you’re a patient, perhaps recently diagnosed, chances are you are feeling apprehensive, concerned and more than likely curious to find out more. When you turn to the big G, the last thing you want to see is brand and company messages shoved in your face in a completely unnatural and downright intrusive manner. What’s really going to make you click on one of the results out of hundreds of pages of search results (SEO aside) is something engaging, meaningful and organic. Something that resonates with you and your current emotions. And the power of language choices as a brand is not to be underestimated here.

Then of course there’s language in the native-tongue sense – a big consideration in global social media campaigns. As I’ve been researching and thinking about this post, I’ve started to wonder if really there can be a truly global campaign at all. Today we have to consider language variations, cultural sensitivities and platform reach, but can we really do this via one campaign?

The social media space in India is showing a nice trend that addresses some of these challenges. In a country with a whole variety of languages and dialects within one set of geographical parameters, we are seeing unexpected popularity in image sharing platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for their abilities to share and communicate in a universally understandable way.

So I suppose in a way, my two points here could be contradictory: words and language are fundamental, yet image sharing is the global solution. I, however, think that the two can in fact be complimentary and work hand in hand. And that goes back to my original thought; know your audience, know your objectives and know why. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words.

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