By Agang Bongani Mkwananzi

In a ground breaking report released in June, 2024, Hootsuite, one of the largest social media management tools, has unveiled the five cardinal sins that brands commit on social media. The findings, based on a comprehensive survey of active and casual buyers, shed light on how brands can navigate the treacherous waters of digital marketing without invoking the wrath of the gods.

Instead of relying solely on marketers’ opinions, Hootsuite turned to the real experts—the users themselves. The survey, conducted in collaboration with Critical Truth, a renowned marketing research agency, canvassed 6,026 social media users aged 18 to 64 across Canada, the USA, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Their insights provide a candid look at the state of social media behaviour and brand interactions.

The Five Social Media Commandments for Brands:

1. Thou Shalt Not Produce Boring Content:

   Brands must break free from the shackles of mediocrity. Engaging content is the lifeblood of social media success.

2. Thou Shalt Not Post Repetitive Content:

 Repetition breeds indifference. Brands should strive for variety and freshness to captivate their audience.

3. Thou Shalt Not Write Clickbait Content:

   Sensationalism may attract clicks, but it erodes trust. Authenticity is the golden rule.

4. Thou Shalt Not Post Inauthentic Content:

   Authenticity resonates with users. Brands should align their messaging with their core values.

5. Thou Shalt Not Post Content Solely for Metrics and Analytics:

   Metrics matter, but content should serve a purpose beyond data points. Prioritize substance over statistics.

Failure to heed these commandments risks alienating followers. Brands must deliver what users truly desire, not what they assume users want.

What Do Buyers Crave?

The report reveals that emotive and unexpected content reigns supreme. Active and casual buyers yearn for:

Educational Content (56%): Teach them something new.

Humour (55%): A good laugh goes a long way.

Inspiration (47%): Stir their souls.

Emotional Content (36%): Make them feel—whether it’s tears, laughter, or excitement.

Surprising Content (30%): Challenge assumptions and debunk myths.

Gone are the days when product-centric content sufficed. Social media users seek an escape from life’s pressures. Brands should avoid bombarding them with self-promotion and hard sells reminiscent of the ’80s.

Beyond Products: Social Issues Matter

Buyers want brands to engage beyond their offerings. Major sporting events, cultural moments, unfolding news, and social justice issues resonate. But tread carefully—authenticity is paramount. Align content with your brand ethos.

Navigating Safe Zones

If cultural commentary feels risky, consider these safe routes:

Charitable Causes

– Environmental Concerns

– Educational Initiatives

– Health and Wellness

– Ethical Business Practices

Remember, your audience isn’t fooled. Authenticity wins hearts; clout-chasing falls flat.

Follow the Trail: Active Shoppers and Content

To attract active shoppers, brands must venture beyond product-centric content. Paid, organic, and shared content play pivotal roles.

Paid/Social Content

While not immediate sales drivers, secure a spot in consumers’ minds for future consideration.

In the ever-evolving landscape of social media, brands that embrace authenticity and deliver captivating content will thrive. The gods of marketing smile upon those who heed these lessons.

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Organic Content: A Recipe for Success

The Hootsuite report highlights that organic content boasts a higher conversion rate than paid content—a phenomenon possibly rooted in familiarity bias. When it comes to making sales, organic content is your secret weapon. Craft content that not only captures users’ attention but also compels them to share it with friends and family.

Shared Content: The Cream of the Crop

Shared content is the holy grail! It acts as social proof, swaying buyers from one side of the fence to the other. How do you create shareable content? It’s simple! Ensure your content checks these boxes:

1. Informative: Teach your audience something new.

2. Perspective-Driven: Include shared viewpoints.

3. Humorous or Inspirational: Tug at their emotions.

When your posts embody two or more of these attributes, your brand sails toward higher sales, fuelled by the word-of-mouth magic of social media.

Serving What the People Crave.

The voice of the people resounds: 52% of those surveyed are weary of self-promotional brand content. Imagine having two ears and just one mouth—listen twice as much as you speak. Always tailor your content to what your target market desires; it’s a constantly shifting landscape. Don’t rely on last year’s playbook.

While the report focused on North America, Europe, and Australia, its principles extend beyond continents. Consider the content shared by you, your friends, and family on social media. It’s relatable, organic, funny, educational, and inspirational. The specific platforms don’t matter—what resonates is content that aligns with social media’s original purpose: connecting and unwinding.

Marketers, Take Note: Serve on Social Media

To receive, you must give. Instead of incessant self-promotion, elevate your followers through content that entertains, educates, and inspires. In return, they’ll engage and share, leading to more followers—more potential buyers—and ultimately, more sales.

Remember the timeless wisdom: “Give, and it shall be given back unto you.” (Luke 6:38) Let’s transform our brand’s pages into a haven for our followers.

Regarding the report’s relevance to Africa and Zimbabwe, even though these regions weren’t directly surveyed, the underlying principles remain universal. Social media users worldwide seek authentic, engaging content. By aligning with these insights, brands in Africa—including Zimbabwe—can enhance their online presence and foster meaningful connections. Remember, social media transcends borders—it’s about people connecting, not just commerce.

Note: This article is based on the Hootsuite Social Media Report (Conducted in December 2023 and published in June 2024) and reflects the views of social media users surveyed.

Agang Bongani Mkwananzi

Social Media Strategist, Writer, and Graphic Designer. He is a seasoned professional with a passion for communication, design, and digital engagement. Armed with a BA Journalism Degree from the University of Johannesburg, Agang has honed his skills over five years in the dynamic fields of social media marketing/management and graphic design.