The social media market has welcomed some new kids on the block, like TikTok, Twitch and Clubhouse. These new players appeal to a younger audience. Politicians are trying to reach that demographic by experimenting with these new platforms. But does it offer any potential for corporate communication?
First off, there’s a big difference between corporate communication and a political message. The latter has the objective to shape the image of a politician and/or his or her party, and is ultimately designed to convince the audience of a specific point of view. A corporate message is more complex, and is often difficult to adapt to the specific environment of these social media platforms.
The gold standard of communication is simple: never speak up unless you have something to tell. Communication is about more than just providing information: it’s about spreading a message. If you oversee the communication strategy of your company, you must ask yourself the right questions. Will we reach our target audiences? Does this specific channel serve our needs? Do we dispose of the necessary expertise and tools to become active on this platform?
For politics, these questions are quickly answered. Their main objective is to (re)ignite the dialogue with their constituency, especially the younger generation. They are increasingly difficult to reach through the traditional channels, be it the “old” media or established social media platforms. An increasing number of TikTok users, for example, does not have a Facebook or Twitter account. So for politicians it makes sense to become active on these platforms. But should companies follow suit? An overview of the main new platforms to consider.
What is it? TikTok was launched in 2016 by the Chinese company ByteDance. It’s geared towards sharing short videos, especially on mobile devices. The large majority of these videos revolve around music content, and dancing acts. This stems from the merger of TikTok with karaoke-app musical.ly in 2017. Along the way, the platform was discovered by politicians as a way to get noticed by the young crowd on the platform. In Belgium we especially see political parties like Vlaams Belang and N-VA, and individual politicians like Georges-Louis Bouchez and Conner Rousseau deploying quite a bit of activity.
Opportunity or not? A number of companies has taken the plunge already, though they overwhelmingly use it for more commercial, advertorial content. When it comes to corporate communication, nobody seems to have found the secret formula yet.
It is tempting to try it nonetheless, since the young audience on TikTok is obviously very interesting for corporations, too. But the DNA of TikTok poses a few hurdles to succesfully convey a corporate message, for three main reasons:
- The absence of stakeholders like clients, journalists or specific organisations that are relevant for the company.
- The lack of options to actively interact with your audience. TikTok is also mostly an individual platform, without many (topical) networks between users.
- Short videos are not very well suited for more complex corporate messages. On top of that, these short videos are perceived as less authentic and too commercial.
What is it? Twitch originated as a livestreaming platform for gamers. This quickly evolved to livestreams on a variety of subjects. This brought the platform, currently owned by Amazon, under the attention of politicians. In Belgium it is gaining ground. A notable example came from Ecolo-MP Margaux De Ré, who submitted a bill co-written during a Twitch livestream.
Opportunity or not? Twitch has an appeal to corporations for the same reason as TikTok: its young audience that is largely absent from other platforms. But it is not for the unintiated. Hosting a live session online is very unpredictable. You have limited control over the behaviour of other participants, and when things get out of hand, it will reflect negatively upon the host. And getting things back on track after that, is almost impossible.
What is it? The most recent addition to the social media scene. It was launched in April of last year, and there is still lots to be done. Currently, the app is only available for iOS devices. Simply put, users create private “rooms” on Clubhouse and invite other users to engage in whatever the topic may be. In Belgium, Clubhouse has only just started to surface. But in France and Germany we see politicians actively experimenting with it. In the Netherlands, the platform gained a lot of ground during the campaign for the last elections.
Opportunity or not? On paper Clubhouse offers a platform that can be perfectly tailored voor corporate communications. The mechanic of creating your own room where other users join you on an invite-only basis, gives you a lot of control over things. This has already drawn the attention of some “rockstar entrepreneurs”, most notably Tesla-owner Elon Musk. Currently, there is still a whiff of elitism around Clubhouse. But as the platform grows and broadens its user base, that scent will likely evaporate very quickly.
These new social media platforms are the playground of a young, mostly untapped audience. For all intents and purposes, this makes them potentially interesting for corporations. But you have to be very mindful of the learning curve. Each of these platforms has its own uniqueness, and understanding this is vital to maintain any kind of credibility.
Preparation is key, and make sure to get the right advice before diving into it. But to be completely fair: the same concerns surrounded Facebook, Instagram and the likes when corporations started dabbling with those. And nobody questions their value anymore.
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