Anyone who has watched The Great Hack on Netflix (and if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do) would be forgiven for claiming that the age of social media is dead whilst frantically deleting apps and social media accounts from their phones.

Whilst the reputation of social media has taken an utter hammering in the press recently with headlines focusing on the mental health implications, the negative impact of influencers and the examination of how social media is having an impact on political democracy (wow this got deep fast I hear you say), we need to question what that means for those of us who use social media to promote our businesses and ourselves online.

Is this the end of Social Media?

In a nutshell, no. Social Media is fighting a battle where we as users no longer trust it.  The You Gov-Cambridge Globalism Project recently found that 83 per cent of Brits have little or no trust in platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We question how our data was being used, and after a number of global outages affecting Facebook and their other services, such as Whatsapp and Instagram, we’ve been made aware of how big the Facebook monopoly is.  However, to abandon Facebook now would also mean leaving Instagram and Whatsapp which is how the vast majority of people communicate.

Social media and our mental health

Social media platforms are becoming more aware of our mental health and there have been many reports which outline its negative effects.  In my opinion this is something they have needed to acknowledge for a long time. It started last August with the roll out of the activity dashboard to help users track time spent on the platform (have a look if you haven’t already, it is truly petrifying!) and the statement that Facebook wants people’s time on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring.

Instagram recently have been rolling out a new feature that hides likes from followers on posts and has also brought in Automated Comment Warnings to try and make people think twice before posting hateful and hurtful comments on posts.

Being digitally genuine

With the social media outlets doing what they can to change user experience, how can we as users change to positively impact those we connect with personally and professionally. The main thing to focus on is transparency, people are conscious of who they are interacting with, they want to see real people doing real positive things in their communities, and consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that uses human communication.

This renaissance that social media is going through is an opportunity for us to stop using social media for doorstep selling, step out from behind that corporate logo and show the people who and what makes your business great.  Embrace Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, Snapchat and start demonstrating how your business protects the environment, cut down on plastic, support a charity event, volunteer, raise money, be brilliant, honest and open people and change the world (and your social media platforms!)

Welcome to the community

Facebook was always set up to create and connect people with their communities, in fact, I remember when you needed a university email address to sign up for Facebook and that is what they are wanting to bring it back to – online communities.

Facebook has said that they want 1 billion people in groups by 2020 and they are promoting groups based on passions to its users.  This is a wonderful way to connect with like-minded people that need your products and services.  Groups should be a democracy with multiple admins and moderators and is not a one-way platform for selling, but a way to increase awareness and loyalty around a subject your clients/ friends are passionate about.

Social Envy

We all need to stop comparing and berating ourselves, whether that is personally on social media or with the business accounts that you run.  Every single social media network and business is different, so don’t compare yourselves to your competitors and use what works for you, whether that be Reddit, Pinterest, Polyvore or LinkedIn.  Embrace what makes you different, find what platform your audience is on and focus on genuine honest and real relationships and engagement.

So social media is evolving and taking big strides to put user-wellbeing at the heart of the its ethos, hopefully this will result in a happier and more meaningful space for us all.

Sarah ComerfordAbout the author

Sarah Comerford is the Client Services Director and Purple Creative Studio, a digital agency on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. She recently won Mentor of the Year in the Women in Tech Series awards.