Brands are relying too heavily on average media metrics to understand their audiences’ social media habits, resulting in an incorrect belief that all social media users have tiny attention spans and just want ‘micro moments’, argue Yanling Leow and Alasdair Gray of iris Singapore.

We're being told that social media is frantic

Media statistics are commandeering our understanding of social media. Brands have stopped asking their own audiences how and why they use social media, and are lazily defaulting to the same numbers as every other brand.

These numbers are topline averages like global view completion rates and engagement rates. Social media budgets have steadily increased and many brands do it lazily, so it’s no surprise these numbers are going down.

But rather than conclude that brands need to work harder to deliver something worthwhile to their audiences, we’re letting ourselves believe that audience behaviour is the problem. “They have increasingly short attention spans” we tell ourselves. “Best we cater to micro moments, and land the message early like Geico did”.

Forget media averages for a moment and ask, ‘do we believe that people only want rapid, superficial, and fleeting social connections online?’

A growing global trend suggests that they don’t.

The text message didn't kill the phone call

Many social technologies prize brevity and frequency, but this doesn’t necessitate the end of longer-form social experiences. As Internet connection speeds increase, millions of users worldwide are reimagining classic social occasions for when they can’t be together in person.

Video games might offer the most obvious example of this. Millions of people worldwide enjoy playing games with others anywhere in the world. Armed with a microphone headset, they can feel like the other players are sat right next to them on the same sofa. Neither is this just limited to the more famous gaming nations of China, USA, and Korea. Over 50% of internet users in Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam are also reported to play online games[1].

Platforms such as Synaptop Theatre and Gaze also make movie nights over the Internet possible with simultaneous video streaming and video calls capabilities.

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This might paint a picture of younger, tech-savvy individuals, but this behaviour is exhibited equally by the elderly. Often at a greater risk of feeling isolated and removed from family, elderly internet users are increasingly using digital platforms like Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts to spend time with loved ones, often with significant mental health benefits.

Don't just add more noise. Participate 

Do people want a brand advertising to them during these moments? Probably about as much as they’d want a sales pitches at their dinner party.

Brands should consider why these occasions are rising in popularity; a core human desire to connect with others. So how could their brand contribute?

Perhaps some could make it easier for people to organise these occasions. Perhaps others could augment their own content for remote shared viewing, including adding additional layers to the event to further the feeling of sharing an experience.

Get back to knowing people, not just numbers

The next time you are working on a social brief, don’t rely on average media metrics to provide the answers. Don’t default to Facebook. Don’t leap to optimised film content. Ask your own audience your own questions.

When are they logging on? Who are they connecting with? What do they tend to talk about? Where are they doing this? What do they want more/less of? Could your product or service play a role? How does your brand purpose relate to the occasion?

Average knowledge is only going to get you average results.

[1] Data source: Statista