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Public to Private: The transition of social engagement

Public to Private: The transition of social engagement

Remember the early days of social media? We used it to build a personal network. Facebook, for example, was specifically designed to help you connect with your friends and classmates on your college campus. The term social network, still used to describe social media platforms today, has its origins in these days.

We’ve come a long way since then. Social media, above all, has become a public enterprise. On networks like Instagram and Twitter, you can easily see the content others write about their life, thoughts, and interactions. And yet, despite or perhaps because of that development, interactions between companies and their customers have become increasingly private.

How can that be, and what does that mean for your business efforts to engage your audiences through social networks? Join us on a journey that explains the exact answer.

The Early Days of Social Media: Engagement as Personal

Early users of platforms like Myspace and Facebook will remember the type of audience engagement from those days. In the early and mid 2000s, newsfeeds were non-existent. You could post your own content on your private page, and your friends could find it. They, in turn, could write content on your wall.

This type of engagement was inherently personal. As would be the case with an in-person conversation, you had to seek out your family and friends every time you wanted to communicate with them. Of course, that process was also inherently clunky, not allowing for continuous conversations but focusing on simple one-off public messages instead.

Recognising the larger problems, Facebook was the first to invent the newsfeed in 2006. It changed the entire social media environment.

Brands Enter the Equation: Engagement Becomes Public

With the newsfeed on Facebook and soon other networks, users could see any conversations between their friends easily and without seeking out their pages. Engagement now became a very public forum. It also started to take up more time in people’s days, as the simple scrolling through the newsfeed became a mind numbingly common phenomenon.

The dawn of the newsfeed also meant another thing: businesses and other brands began to enter the world of social media.

You probably know about some of the many ways in which organisations are leveraging social media for very public engagement with their audiences. They maintain active business pages to push content relevant to potential and current customers. They answer comments and replies, and even run paid advertising campaigns for very public outreach to their target audiences.

This is the world of the early 2010s. With a glut of platforms to choose from and millions of users entering social media every day, this public form of engagement was irresistible. Of course, it also led to a two-fold movement that dominates the way we use these networks today.

Interactions Move to Direct Messages: Private Engagement as the New Normal

When everything is public, that movement can push too far. So, two things have happened in the last few years as a natural consequence of the social media evolution. Both have crucial business impacts.

1. Internet users, in Australia and elsewhere, have become increasingly concerned about online privacy. They’re more hesitant to put personal information out there for anyone to see and have moved to more private channels of communication as a result.

2. In a continuous search to improve the convenience of online communications, organisations have moved to private messaging channels in their interactions with consumers. That reduces controversy and allows these organisations to address specific questions and concerns more directly.

As a result of both of these trends, communication has moved increasingly to private messaging. Facebook Messenger now boasts more than 1.3 billion users . That trend applies to Australia, as well:

Messaging apps have fast become our second home screen locally and globally, and with higher retention and usage rates than most mobile apps, they’re going to change the way we do business with each other.

Social media, in other words, has retained its ‘social’ label, but the ways in which conversations occur have moved to private channels. The business implications of this trend are both clear and significant.

Organisational Implications for Private Interactions

Social media still has a public component, but we have begun to transition to an overwhelming emphasis on private interactions. Your organisation needs to adjust accordingly, with a strategy designed to embrace these new communication channels.

For example, customers who leave message expect a fast answer, usually within the day but often even faster. The expectation is that when you receive a question, you better answer quickly. Not following through will send a message about your brand authenticity and credibility that becomes difficult to shed.

Networks like Facebook have even gone so far as to publicly showcase response rate and times. If you’re not active in answering audience questions and complaints, your followers will know about it.

As a result, social media has become more personal. Engagement becomes focused on the individual with whom you’re communicating, rather than publicly in the organisation’s feed for everyone to see and engage with. But don’t expect that rule to always hold; if a customer is unhappy with your response, it might well make itself onto a screenshot and into the public social sphere.

The way an organisation engages and communicates with its audience has always been a major influence on its overall brand image. You build a reputation based on how you treat your audience. Because engagement has become so personal, however, this concept has never been more relevant than it is today.

Now that private channels between organisations and consumers are available and easily accessible, expectations have risen alongside them. Private engagement is not just an opportunity to answer question. It also sets an expectation that you answer questions thoroughly, honestly, and credibly whenever they’re asked.

For most organisations, that’s both an opportunity and a challenge. Do it right, and you can leverage the full power of social media. Make a mistake, and it will be amplified for the world to see. These are, after all, social networks. Communication and engagement may have become private and personal, but your audience’s family and friends will still be influenced by their peer’s opinions of and interactions with your brand.

With social media activities reaching unprecedented heights throughout our communities, the importance to make appropriate use of the platforms is more important than ever.

Keeping a track of these interactions is key to remaining compliant with government legislation.  Best practices include not only keeping these interactions, but also keeping any media shared, edits and deletions performed by either the organisation, or the individual. This, coupled with the sheer amount of metadata that should be stored poses a records keeping nightmare.

The Brolly platform ensures you keep all of these engagements across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, all recorded in real time. So if you are ever need to locate or share these records it can be easily provided with little to no stress or worry.

We understand that times are shifting to a more private orientated means of communication on social media. Thus, at Brolly you can now have an archive of everyone of your private messages throughout Facebook and Twitter.

It’s as easy as logging onto your social media platforms, so start your 30 day, obligation free trial today, or drop us a line and we are more than happy to discuss how we can assist.