Wednesday 16 July 2014 by Drew Heatley


She looked into my eyes, breathed in nervously, and said, “I do”. The vicar smiled and said: “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may take a #selfie with the bride.”


For cynics, this is the future of social media: the masses uploading images and content to a slew of pointless services that promote narcissism and antisocial behaviour. We’ve all seen people glued to their smartphones, forgoing face-to-face interaction in favour of trawling their Facebook newsfeeds, only surfacing for the occasional pouting self-portrait. But the reality is that while social media is changing the way we communicate with each other – and businesses – it’s far from a negative development.

I got married last month, and though I abstained from an altar selfie, social media did play a role in the big day. For our reception, my wife and I ditched the traditional disposable cameras on every table in favour of an iPhone-shaped card inviting our guests to download an iOS and Android mobile app called Wedpics.

The reason? Everyone already has an internet-connected digital camera in their pockets in the form of their smartphone, so it made little sense to ask them to take lo-fi, poorly lit images on a £2 throwaway camera. Instead we had high-res digital images shared on a private social network that we could access instantly on any device. Crucially, we were able to like, comment and share the images of the day, creating a conversation with close friends and family that continued long after the day had finished. Some might say it added an unnecessary modern element to the day; I would argue it provided a talking point that delivered value to us and to our guests.


You only have to look at the World Cup to see how entrenched social media is in consumers’ lives now. The month-long tournament spawned 672m tweets, with the semifinal between Germany and Brazil generating 35.6m globally in less than two hours. It was the same story on Facebook, but on an even larger scale. The tournament was the most talked-about event ever on the social network, with 350 million users worldwide participating in conversations about the tournament, generating some 3 billion posts.

This social media tsunami saw the world’s biggest brands battling it out to get their share of consumer attention. The format of choice was viral video content and the two heavyweights slugging it out to the end were Adidas and Nike. FIFA partner Adidas may have won the battle for exposure on more traditional media like TV, but Nike won the hearts and minds of those on social media, with its eight carefully crafted videos featuring football stars like Neymar Jr, Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, garnering 240.6m views across the month, according to stats from Visible Measures. Sure, Nike’s superstar-packed videos weren’t cheap to produce, but with a 30-second slot on TV during the Super Bowl costing upwards of $4m, there is undoubted value in feeding the content-hungry masses on social media for nothing.

Nike Football "Winner stays on"

But it’s not just sport that generates social buzz. Ellen’s Oscar selfie, anyone? More than 800 million consumers take to Facebook across the globe every day, while 225 million engage on Twitter across a calendar month. The crowds are here, and they’re only getting bigger.


It’s no surprise, then, that social media continues to eat away at brands’ ad budgets. Social media ad spend is set to smash the $10bn threshold globally this year. But brands must bear in mind that these opportunities come with responsibilities.

As brands continue to court consumers’ attention on social networks, they also have a responsibility to provide them with enticing and engaging media. Content sharing on social media continues to grow at breakneck speed and brands naturally want to be a part of that, creating (and often paying for) content to be placed in front of consumers. It’s big business: brand-sponsored content is set to be worth $2.29bn this year in the US alone, according to eMarketer. But as soon as companies shift their focus from the quality of the content, the engagement will dry up.

It’s all very well providing fans with a viral image or exciting video, but brands must also be there for customers when they need them. Nearly half of consumers complaining or submitting a query on social media expect a response within an hour, according to a study from Edison Research, but separate research from Sprout Social asserts that average brand response rates for both Twitter and Facebook remains below 20 percent. In an era when social media is as important a customer service tool as email and the telephone, those rates need to rise sharply.

Brands that get the balance right are reaping the benefits. Social media is not all baby pictures, game requests and what you ate for lunch: it’s next-generation marketing and it’s changing everything. Just ask #thenewmrsheatley.

Drew no longer works at The Frameworks


  • Social media
  • Branding
  • World Cup
  • Content marketing
  • Customer service