I’ve been away a while. For all this absence, I do have many things to show: a new baby, a new start-up jewellery company, a new teaching certification, and a clearer picture of several new technology trends I’ve been recently watching play out in the corporate and educational worlds.
Unfortunately, what I’m seeing now isn’t all good. All of the new technologies we have written about previously in this blog have brought with them new opportunities. However, very recently it has become clear there are some destructive side-effects to some of these new innovations and market shifts.
So many technology blogs spend their times evangelising the Next Big Thing, either because they’ve been paid to sell it, or because they’re itching to be the first one to discover something new. Not every blog, however, spends time talking about what these innovations could mean. These analyses are one thing that has always made CAD Jewellery Skills a bit different from the numerous other 3D printing and new technology blogs out there.
So what I’m going to do with these next few articles to examine the negative side-effects of many of these innovations, and what we as jewellery businesses can do about it to protect ourselves. I shall call this new series “The Dark Side of New Technology”.
This first article will be about the side effects of social media marketing’s continuous growth.
Hungry Social Media
It’s almost disingenuous to now talk about how disruptive social media has been to marketing and communications. The natural old order of things in marketing and commerce has long since gone out the window in favour of many new access points for reaching your customers. In this new world, success is potentially anyone’s game.
…or is it?
Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time at digital marketing conferences speaking to small businesses, and have had many conversations with students and professionals looking for a way to get into the game.
In an effort to build their business exposure, it seems countless businesses are finding themselves working ever faster and harder to scramble out social media entries to draw in attention and exposure. All the while, they’re been outgunned by incumbent multinational businesses who can afford to hire dedicated social media teams who are paid to do nothing other than generate branded content and stir social media hornet’s nests.
Faced with all this, it now seems the norm is for these small businesses to feel overwhelmed. One talented 21-year old jewellery student and budding entrepreneur asked me “How can I find time to be creative when I’m having to feed Instagram almost every day of the week?”
This has gotten me thinking about two disturbing side-effects of the growth of social media.
The Crowded Pit of Social Media
First, as more and more people pile into the big social media players like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, content becomes more and more crowded. This forces every individual to shout louder and more frequently to maintain the spotlight. In an environment like this, only those wealthy enough to pay for content will ultimately triumph.
Secondly, we’ve seen the rise of “content aggregators”. While not charismatic (or well-funded) enough be called influencers, and not necessarily creative or well-funded enough to produce on their own the content needed to be competitive, they have become good at attracting the attention of smaller original content creators. They succeed themselves by continually asking for others to keep feeding their own bottomless social media feeds with new imagery. So, in effect, they become microcosms of the crowded pit that is social media itself.
While the concentrated focus on a topic does seem to benefit the content providers (otherwise they wouldn’t work with the content aggregators), the grey area of intellectual property ownership does not.
Faced with this ever-escalating call to provide more and more fresh content for a seemingly bottomless pit of demand, I now see how easy it is for a small independent designer starting out to feel like they’re up against an impossibly high wall. I’m not surprised so many budding designers burn themselves out before they even reach the entry gates for e-commerce.
What This Means for the Future
There is no getting around the fact that money still buys manpower. And when dealing with hungry social media, those who post the best pictures and videos most frequently are the ones who win. This skews the game in favour of those with the biggest marketing budgets or the largest amount of spare time. But then again, twas always thus.
There will always be trends for ways to build a businesses (such as the fully integrated customer experience across physical and online presence, or perhaps the concept of frictionless digital sales), and small businesses will be forced to find money to contend with these. This means that small businesses will have to continue using creative solutions to work around the fact they have less money to throw at things like marketing and advertising. And will thus have to strike a balance between using a social media outlet to its full potential and maintaining the time and space needed to do the other activities required to keep the business afloat.
What does this mean for the future of digital marketing? Most likely, as social media’s commercial side becomes over-saturated with giant corporate content creators and more unaffordable to small businesses, customers will start to lose interest (much as they lost interest with shopping malls and high streets as they became populated only with the biggest players). In turn, social media’s usefulness as a customer access point for most businesses will peak and deteriorate. I reckon this will lead to small businesses ending up right back where they started with advertising channels, having lost the leverage they once had against larger companies on the internet. Within that deterioration, I reckon social media will eventually find a balance between cost and usefulness in much the same way television and print advertising did. No matter how hard social media tries to stay addictive, humans will find a way to filter out the noise.
However, I don’t believe any of that will change the fundamentals of marketing: building relationships with your customers, finding as many ways to announce your presence to them as you can, and giving the customers something to love about you. Whether you’re connecting and interacting with people online or offline, that principle of good business will still stay the same.