Social Media Addiction and Brands

It has been argued that social media is the ‘addiction of our time’ (Ellery, 2018). Users spend on average 135 minutes a day on social media (Statista, 2017), with some spending up to 180 minutes or more in some extreme cases (BBC, 2018).

As a relatively new marketing strategy, it has proved to be an incredibly disruptive digital tool. The platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have enabled us to connect with thousands of people with just a few clicks. However, in recent times, the ease in which we can connect with those around us has become a cause for concern. Already established as a form of addiction by many, should society worry about the time spent online on social media?

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Addiction by design

There has been a growing animosity towards the use of Social Media. Today’s consumers love the quick hits: entertainment, updates, likes, picturesque travel moments, scrolling and liking the flood of images that appear instantly in the palm of their hands. Studies have found this actually releases high levels of dopamine (Parkin 2018). This can become addictive and give users a sense of reward, which in turn keeps them coming back for more.

However, this is not a coincidence, apps have been specifically designed this way. Common functionalities include scrolling, double-tapping and ‘pulling down to refresh’ – all of which are fun and playful to interact with. Social media has made us compulsively check our devices but it isn’t so much the content, but rather the anticipation of what might be. It isn’t so much the likes, comments or DM’s but more the creeping thought that maybe we missed something – unofficially called FOMO.

Previous examples of widespread addiction in our society include the gambling industry. In many ways, we can see a correlation with this and social media. Howard chafer, researcher at Harvard noted this increased addictiveness of modern games such as  ‘slots’, calling them the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’. Under fire by the press; the gambling industry devised a strategy in order to survive. Luckily for them they had watched another industry go through this and had learned a few things. Instead of denying the addiction, they would embrace the problem publicly and also take an extremely active role in researching the signs of gambling addiction. In our opinion, this needs to be applied to Social Media too and in many ways we have now witnessed some forward-thinking companies taking a similar approach. Apple and Instagram, for example, now give the ability to measure the screen time on certain apps, putting the user in control of how they are using them.

Think of the benefits society could see by cutting down time spent on social media and spending that time more productively, not to mention the impact that the the overuse of devices has on people’s health such as sleep and mood, that will be improved.

You can read more about the concept behind these ideas from Addiction By Design.


Is the addiction to social media necessarily bad?

Although, there are downsides to Social Media, we strongly believe that it is inherently a useful tool. From a brand  perspective, there are some incredibly useful ways to use the platforms including:

1. Creating a sense of community

The success of social media is arguably its ability to to bring people together. Brands can leverage that and create a strong sense of community so that its consumers align and engage with that. Like, comment, engage, respond to them so that they feel you connect with them too.

2. Share a strong purpose

Such as aligning with a worthy cause or charity on a mass scale. If your followers are engaged with your brand, they’ll engage with the cause.

3. Inspiration

For all of those who don’t know your brands, there are ways such as using hashtags that can help with brand discovery.

4. Quick access to information

Due to today’s dependency on social, luckily for brands, all users’ behaviour is tracked so you can analyse repeating patterns and better understand who your customer is.

5. New Advertising Tool

It has emerged as a whole new marketing channel, giving a voice to small, new brands.

The benefits are undeniable but it is worth knowing how to use the platforms safely and effectively. We have come up with our top tips for use Social Media in a healthy way.

Our top tips for using social media in a healthy way
1.Track your screen time

Screen time is a tool that you might have already noticed on your device – or even on Instagram. Perhaps one of the reasons for the platforms decision to implement this functionality is a recognition of the overuse of these apps. Lower your screen time utilising these apps. 

2. Unfollow accounts that negatively affect your self-esteem

Take some time to declutter your follower list so that you only get updates from the accounts you care most about.

3. Post later

Resist the urge to keep everyone informed immediately and live in the moment. Post later and hashtag #latergram

4. Minimise time spent sat still

Scrolling has become the default for our long commutes. Why not open a book? Avoiding sitting around and getting active will also decrease screen time. The more you move, the less time you can go into an Instagram ‘hole’ and waste time on endlessly scrolling through your feed.

5. Only turn on post notifications for those you care most about

This will give you the ability to keep up to date as and when important events/ photos are posted, without the need to open the app to see if it is going to be there. It’s a good idea to turn this on for friends and family and a few brands that you want to be kept in the loop. You will find yourself opening instagram a lot less.

Although Social Media has its pitfalls, we believe it’s an incredibly useful tool. It gives us the ability to promote oneself or brand in a powerful way, provided we approach the platforms in a positive and mindful way.

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