[By Adam Effendi]
Before the Internet and computers, opinions and advertisements were spread through newspapers, radio and television. A successful advertisement through these mediums could reach around 3 million people in the United States. Now, with social media playing an ever-increasing role in our lives, you can reach more people worldwide through their trusty smartphones always within an arm’s reach. According to Jared Earl Grusd, Chief Strategy Officer of Snap Inc, this was one of many reasons why he regarded “the smartphone [as] the most powerful innovation in [his] lifetime”.
With the waning popularity of Snapchat in Southeast Asia, Grusd and his team have travelled to Malaysia to understand the local culture and trends to tailor their product and user experience for the Malaysian market. In doing so, they also found out what they have done right so far.
Snapchat is one of the pioneers of convenient online media sharing and communication. More specifically, a platform for individuals to create and share stories with their families, friends and anyone else within their social circle. Companies thus capitalise on its advantageous platform to advertise their products and earn their customers’ trust. What better way to convince a person to buy or support something than to have their social circle share good things about it? This is due to mutual interest and eventually a confirmation bias. This is the essence of how social media creates favourable public opinion—all with the help of social media advertising.
Firstly, social media, specifically Snapchat advertising works because it caters to more successful advertisements and relevant online content based on personal data collected from its users. Aside from personal information like gender, age and location, data was also collected from our online behavioural habits like the websites we visited, the search terms we used in Google, the posts we liked on Instagram and the online purchases we made on Lazada. These were just a few examples of how large companies with social media platforms study market behaviour and attract attention to their products. Due to them knowing what we like and dislike, they leverage on our online behaviour and target the relevant advertisements. As mentioned previously, our smartphones and social media are only at arm’s length. Thus, consumers are more open to the advertising.
Secondly, social media is effective for advertising because companies get to customise their content to their target markets. Consumers get to view advertisements for products that they like and cut out exposure to products they would never use. With this, it is not intrusive. Rather, it is relevant entertainment because you enjoy the advertisements tailored to your liking.
Thirdly, creating new content is a breeze with social media platforms like Snapchat. One key feature of Snapchat is its usage of augmented reality which allows users to create meaningful content that they would share with like-minded people. You’ve seen the dog ears and bunny ears! With this, many other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have also released their own brand of innovation, pushing the array of tools for people to create favourable public opinions of their media platforms.
The power to shape public opinion is not only limited to large companies like Facebook and Google. Grusd believes that small and upcoming content creators possess the advantage of being in closer contact with their target market. Therefore, this gives them a deeper, intrinsic understanding of the kind of content they should make. Moreover, by focusing less on trying to be noticed on social media and more on creating meaningful content, a favourable public opinion can be formed when people feel a deeper connection with it.
Speaking to Ms Morgan Hammerstrom, a User Experience and User Researcher at Snap Inc, she explained that her role was to research new ways for Snap Inc to improve their product and user experience. As content creators, they needed to know why and how their products were needed or wanted by their target market. Hence, her team has been travelling to Asian cities to learn about the cultural subtleties and find a way to connect deeper with the targeted market.
A great takeaway from the Snap Inc team’s odyssey is this; to create public opinion that connect with people, the content creator needs to know the people they are creating for. Social media platforms are not only to express oneself freely but to connect people responsibly.
[Photos by Adam Effendi]