Silver lining or sabotage in the Socialverse? What’s the real deal behind social media disruptions
September 25, 202315 min read
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you've probably seen how Netflix's "The Social Dilemma" blew the lid off the sketchy practices and dark truths behind your social media feed. It made us all question whether we're the puppeteers or puppets in the digital realm, didn’t it?
Now, what if I told you there's another compelling watch that’s something of a sequel to the narrative of The Social Dilemma?
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're probably sighing, "Another social media docu-series?” But hold that thought. This time, it’s different, and it’s not your dime-a-dozen flick fodder. Sprinklr's documentary-style masterclass "Socialverse" is a seminal take on the disruptive forces that have rocked and redefined the digital landscape we thought we knew so well.
The first episode of Socialverse gets right to the point, revealing the imminent challenges and opportunities that brands will come across as social media disruptions seep into every aspect of business. This episode tries to show you that social media disruptions are not predictions of a distant future but are unfolding here and now. What’s more, it finds a middle ground between the jarring revelations in The Social Dilemma and the need-to-know strategies for thriving in our hyper-connected world.
In this episode, our very own Ragy Thomas joins the leading voices in marketing — Jay Baer, Mari Smith, Ann Handley, Brian Camen, Mai Cheblak and Paul Roetzer. The discussion kicks off with a powerful opener: “The world has evolved, and so has the social media universe.” And each guest weighed in with insightful tales and underlying goals of social media and provides an almost prophetic sneak peek of what lies ahead.
At a glance: Surfing the wave of AI, the channel deluge and social commerce
The first episode is broken down into five parts, each looking at a different kind of disruption:
The first part explores the growing role of AI in creative processes
The second part delves into channel proliferation and social saturation, making you question whether more platforms mean more influence or simply more chaos
The third part focuses on the rising influence of content creators and influencers, dissecting their growing share in the digital economy
The fourth part wrestles with the often-overlooked concern of trust in social commerce
The fifth and final part examines the evolving skill sets needed for today's social media professionals, setting the stage for future job expectations
But why should you, a casual social media user or perhaps even a skeptic, care about all this?
Well, Sprinklr’s Chief Marketing Officer Arun Pattabhiraman laid it out plain and simple:
And Jay Baer, who is the founder of Convince & Convert, believes that the digital landscape is like quicksand — changing the dynamics between brands and customers rapidly every single day. “The things that used to succeed a month ago — yeah, that doesn't work anymore. Now, we've got different rules,” he added.
While The Social Dilemma laid bare the unsettling underbelly of our online existence, Socialverse stands as a guide to help soothe and sail through the troubled waters. Curious to know how? Jump right in then!
Part 1: The elephant in the room: Artificial intelligence (potential and caution)
Ann Handley, a Wall Street Journal bestselling author and the chief content officer of MarketingProfs, kickstarts the conversation by addressing the elephant in the room that everyone's low-key stressing about: artificial intelligence (AI).
She mentions that "AI is the big disruptor, or, perhaps, the giant elephant in the room” of the Socialverse. She goes on to point out that, today, one can’t even scroll through LinkedIn or browse the web without coming across numerous posts about AI's impact on social media and marketing. There’s endless chatter around AI that raises concerns across fields, whether you're an artist, writer, marketer or a video production expert. The fear of AI taking your job is very real. However, Ann suggests embracing AI as an ally rather than ghosting it. “I think what we need to do is really accept that AI is here. We can't stop it from coming and assisting us in these things,” she assured.
Paul Roetzer, the CEO and founder of the Marketing AI Institute, chimed in with a balanced perspective on AI. "I've always said that artificial intelligence is not about building more intelligent businesses, but more human brands. And what we mean by that is, while AI is going to assist many aspects of business and marketing, it's not going to necessarily replace it," he elaborated.
Paul emphasized that the conversation around AI shifted into high gear around nine months ago, especially with the emergence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It's got everyone realizing how generative AI can be a game-changer, especially for marketers. "People are experimenting with ChatGPT, and the results are kind of blowing everyone's minds," he highlighted. According to Paul, we're literally at a watershed moment, where generative AI has gone mainstream and is stirring the pot big time in the social world.
Rounding out the conversation, Jay Baer pumped the brakes a bit. While recognizing the transformative power AI has had recently on marketing processes, Jay threw a word of caution and warned against becoming overly reliant on it. “Obviously, brands now have access to generative AI, and AI being woven into their day-to-day business processes in a way that really was unthinkable even a year ago in some cases. This has opened up a world of possibilities. The challenge I see is that some brands are trying to replace their team or use AI as, kind of, a creator mechanism,” he noted.
Jay is all for embracing AI's game-changing abilities. However, he advises not to use AI as a wholesale replacement for human input, such that you lose sight of the human touch that brings creativity and strategy to the table. "The brands that are really doing the best in the Socialverse know how to use AI differently," he added.
Part 2: Break through the noise amidst channel proliferation and social saturation
Mari Smith, often lauded as the "Queen of Facebook" and a recognized Forbes' Top Social Media Power Influencer, shed some light on the rapid expansion of social media channels. The meteoric rise of these platforms is leading to what many experts describe as "social saturation.” Each time you check your smartphone, a new social media app is vying for attention and waiting to be downloaded.
“One of the biggest disruptions in the Socialverse is social saturation triggered by channel proliferation. So, yeah, it can be very challenging to get your message across with so much competition and content,” Mari added. She advises brands to create content that can cut through the noise and forge meaningful interactions with the audience.
So, what does this channel overload mean for you exactly?
Well, Ragy had the answer for this one. He cut to the chase and noted that proliferation "messes you up" if you're a brand. What he meant was that channel overload amplifies content creation and sharing, leading to social saturation. This overwhelms the audience with information, reducing engagement and making it harder to capture and maintain attention.
“In addition, the way we have been dealing with every new channel is by putting a team together for it. When Twitter came about, we had a Twitter team. Facebook came about — we had somebody taking care of Facebook. That linear approach — if it's not obvious to you so far — it's not going to scale,” he explained. In short, the conventional tactic of assigning a dedicated team to manage each new social platform may prove unsustainable in the long run.
Part 3: The rise of the creator-led world economy — everyone wants a piece of the creator market
With the creator economy expanding to include over 300 million creators globally, the landscape of brand influence and advertising is undergoing a significant transformation.
Forget traditional TV ads — today's social media creators are the new kingpins of mainstream ad culture, influencing everything from your shopping choices to your playlist. According to Forrester's 2023 B2C Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, nearly 75% of B2C decision-makers plan to collaborate with creators this year. To add to this, 53% of individuals aged 18 to 29 claim to have purchased a product after watching an influencer's YouTube video. If that's not disruptive, what is?
Kelsey Chickering, the principal analyst at Forrester, highlighted the disruptive nature of this trend: "These creators wield so much power because they have the power to make ideas, products and music go mainstream overnight. And everyone wants a piece of this power.” She further emphasized, "Brands also want a piece of this power because they're realizing how important creators are in shaping purchase decisions." In line with this, Forrester reveals that more than half of the Gen Z (zoomers) state that social media influencers are their go-to source for discovering new products and brands.
Jay added his take, saying "I think we're becoming a place where, eventually, all marketing will be influencer marketing." Mari chimed in with a tangible example, pointing out that Instagram has even launched an initiative called "Born on Instagram.” This initiative aims to encourage zoomers to step into the creator role, express their views and at the same time monetize their content.
Brian Camen, the senior director of media, content and public relations at Ferrara Candy Company, views the Gen Z as one of the most impulsive generations when it comes to making purchasing decisions. "They want to hear from your brand on social media, and they're spending a lot of time there. Their habits are continuously evolving. They're spending more than four hours per day on social media and are engaged with short-form videos, like TikToks and Reels," he elaborated.
To sum it up, influencers and creators are set to become the new publishers in brand media plans, commanding more time and budget in the years ahead. In fact, creators aren't just influencing the market; they are the market. And if you’re still on the fence and contemplating whether to hop on the bandwagon, maybe the question for you should be, why aren't you on it already?
Part 4: Rise of social commerce where trust is the new currency
Remember the last time you were scrolling through Instagram, saw some cool sliders, and wished you could buy them right on the spot without leaving the app? Well, those days of wishful thinking are over. We’re in an age where you don't have to exit your Facebook or Instagram feed, open a browser and look for that eye-catching product. You can directly "tap to purchase" from the brand's social media account.
Social commerce has brought about a major transformation, redefining the boundaries between e-commerce and social media. According to Accenture, the market of social commerce is projected to grow three times as fast as traditional e-commerce, reaching up to $1.2 trillion in 2025. But trust is going to be the new bling in social commerce.
Bill McDermott put it best when he said, “Trust is the ultimate human currency — it’s earned in drops and lost in buckets.” Both Jay and Mari underline that trust is, or will soon become, the new currency in social commerce. They think that we're slowly moving away from the traditional "click-and-cart" e-commerce model to a "scroll-and-shop" experience. In fact, Jay is convinced that “we are entering a new territory” with social commerce.
While this new form of commerce offers great potential for transforming online retail, it also raises serious questions about trust and security, particularly among the Gen Z. Mari pointed out, "For the Gen Z, trust is non-negotiable. They have to trust these platforms before they are willing to give their credit card information.” And there’s no denying it — a PwC survey found that 85% of consumers would sever ties with a brand over security concerns — a statistic that carries tremendous weight, particularly in the US, where consumer confidence in online platforms has been fairly low. On the other hand, Mari admitted that, in China, social commerce has already become a part of daily life. "People there routinely shop via their mobile devices on various social media platforms," she said.
Jay and Mari made it clear that the success of this disruptive force hinges on consumer trust. And brands keen on capitalizing on this massive shift must demonstrate a commitment to privacy and security to win over consumers’ trust as well as loyalty.
Part 5: The new skillset revolution — becoming perpetual learners in the Socialverse
One thing is certain in the world of social media: If you're not leveling up your skillsets, you're basically fading into the background.
Ann cited an interesting insight from LinkedIn Research: Social media now occupies the third spot on the list of the most sought-after marketing positions for both strategists and practitioners. This is significant, especially when a staggering 89% of brands are using social platforms like Facebook to connect with customers. Yet, this isn't just about demand; it's also about the type of skills in demand.
According to LinkedIn, 92% of marketers deem social media marketing skills crucial in the current job market. “A few years back, when we joined the social media platforms, you were not able to find somebody with comprehensive social media experience. But now, things have changed,” said Mai Cheblak, the group vice president of media and social at Emirates NBD, emphasizing how social media skillsets have evolved into a “learn-as-you-go scenario.”
Jay's own hiring experience resonated with Mai’s observations about social media skillsets. "I have hired dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of social media professionals in my life. Every time you go to hire, you have to have a totally different skill set. For instance, a few years back, video editing skills weren’t on the radar, and now, of course, that's like a basic skill for a lot of social media professionals," he shared.
Yet, amidst the new revolution of skill sets, Jay underscored the importance of analytics as an essential skillset for social media roles. "This particular skill, while often overlooked, is crucial," he stressed. He urges brands to find someone who possesses strong analytics acumen and who understands data, spreadsheets and numbers very well.
Disruptions always find a way, but are you ready?
We stand at a critical juncture where disruptive forces, like social commerce, artificial intelligence and the growing creators' economy, are radically changing the way we communicate, buy, sell and market. So, what are the burning issues marketers need to tackle head-on if they want to not just survive but thrive in the Socialverse? Well, let’s quickly take a look.
The channel dilemma
Ragy wasn't kidding about the emergence of new channels that come and go like TikTok trends. These new social media platforms have their unique audience, vibe and nuances. Marketers need to adapt a brand strategy that can accommodate these new channels without being spread too thin.
You’re already aware that there's an ever-pressing need to be on new and emerging channels. But that’s not the problem. The issue is that your marketing budgets aren't going to magically expand. So, how can marketers distribute their finite resources and limited budget across these new platforms and still get the maximum bang for their buck?
Ragy advises marketers to keep a pulse on the market and learn exactly when to pull the plug in case existing channels fade away or lose importance. It's not just new platforms that you're exploring, you've also got to know when to say goodbye to the old ones. Making those calls — without the luxury of a bigger budget — can be a rub, though.
Audience bases often frequent multiple social media platforms. So, how do you keep your messaging fresh and relevant without becoming a broken record? Crafting messages that hit the sweet spot across various platforms without feeling pushy or stale is the secret sauce to cut the noise.
The authenticity-automation balancing act
As Jay pointed out, leveraging AI in content creation isn't a simple plug and play. You've got to strike a fine balance between streamlining creative processes and maintaining the authentic brand voice that your audience craves. Jay warns against over-scripting AI-generated content, which often sounds robotic instead of being relatable. “The brands that are using AI to create actual content in the Socialverse, I think, are actually doing it incorrectly,” he added.
So, where does this leave us?
We all face unexpected challenges and shifts throughout our lives, right? And our reactions often stem from how we perceive them. If we view a new change as a threat, our response is typically defensive, so we end up trying to shield ourselves. If, however, we see such changes as an opportunity, we might hang back, adopt a wait-and-see attitude and see how things pan out before making a smart move.
Disruptions in the business world, particularly in the marketing world, are no different. When confronted with market disruptions that could fundamentally change the way brands market, the responsibility falls on business leaders to shape the response. How they perceive the situation, either as an obstacle or an opportunity, becomes the bedrock of their strategy to navigate these disruptions. If they react too fast, the business might burn out. If they move too sluggishly, the opportunity might slip away. It's all about striking the right balance.
But here's the thing: These disruptions, as scary as they seem, are bursting with potential. And brands that can thread the needle — with sharp planning, adaptability and authentic communication — are the ones that are going to be on the headlines. As you look toward the future, don't just prepare to survive the disruptions — plan to be an active player in shaping the Socialverse itself. The future of social media is uncertain and exciting, and it’s up to us to navigate it wisely.
Socialverse EP1 is live on-demand!
Click to stream it now.
Loved the insights from our first episode? Get ready for more! Episode two is all about rolling with the punches that social media throws our way. We'll unpack those major disruptions and equip you with strategies to not only withstand them but also thrive. Excited to plunge deeper? Let’s go!