Our latest research report delves into The Future of Social, unveiling four defining themes shaping this ever-evolving landscape. In this article, we explore the first theme, "Broadcast Social," and its implications for brands in the present.
Broadcast social is the one type of social media that’s still working. But it’s also pretty definitively not social media – it’s entertainment streaming with personalized algorithms and a few interactive elements designed to enrich the experience.
In the early-to-mid 2000s, social media platforms were hailed as revolutionary, promising to empower users and challenge traditional media gatekeepers. However, today's most dominant social media platforms have ironically adopted many of the same characteristics of the media structures they disrupted.
While there are technological differences, like streaming capabilities and personalized recommendations, these platforms are looking more and more like traditional broadcast media, where content is consumed passively rather than interactively, communication flows in a one-to-many direction, and audiences form parasocial relationships with the strangers on their screens.
What we dub “Broadcast Social” are social platforms designed around capturing user attention through highly personalized and entertaining content, rather than engagement behaviors. Streamed content, especially mobile-first video, is the primary format, and the algorithms that serve this content weight users’ personal interests more heavily than posts from users’ social networks or who they follow. Users tend to use these platforms as designed, spending more time passively consuming content than actively liking, commenting, or posting publicly.
There’s nothing inherently negative about Broadcast Social. But for brands to succeed in these spaces, they must adopt new approaches built around users’ changing motivations for using these platforms. Users turn to broadcast social for the same reasons they turn to Netflix: to indulge in a mindless binge. They use the space for passive consumption, not self-expression or social connection, and brands should design their social tactics to accommodate these behaviors.
IMPLICATIONS + HOW TO TAKE ACTION
To succeed, brands need to shift their content strategies towards being entertaining, moving away from pushing product attributes, sales, or engagement CTAs. The key is capturing the audience's attention span.
- Change Your POV on Community. Shift your focus from leading or shaping the community to making yourself relevant to niche subgroups and communities who share your passion, especially on platforms like TikTok, where follower count has little bearing on content visibility.
- Retool Content for Emotional Connection. Move beyond product attributes and rethink your content pillars. Create attention-grabbing content that becomes a solution to your audience's emotional needs and appeals to their identities.
- Redefine Your KPIs. User behaviors have shifted, and your metrics should follow suit. Measure broad social sentiment and viewer retention instead of engagement metrics. Swap impression goals for video view rates. Focus on overall content performance over follower growth.
- Form Partnerships for Unique Story Instigation. Leverage the strong parasocial relationships that creators have built to showcase a more human expression of your brand. Let these engaging characters do the talking for you.
- Don’t Expect Paid Media To Do It For You. As these platforms’ algorithms focus more heavily on user interests, the need for smart, strategic creative has drastically increased. Avoid relying solely on paid targeting strategies for success. While the machine is smarter, it cannot compensate for poor content.