Season 2, Episode 8: Impact of Social Media
On this episode of Outsmart, Nicole Allen and Rex Petrill are joined by Claude Springer. As the Area Director of Social at Meltwater and an advisor for SupportRoom, a workplace mental health platform, Claude has a unique perspective on social media.
In the episode we dive into:
- Top findings from Meltwater’s latest State of Social Survey
- How social has become intertwined with modern society
- The intricate relationship between social media and mental health
Claude: The real test bed on if the new social platform is going to be something is by what their noisy neighbors do, for example, would BeReal and the innovation that has launched straight away TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram or copying key features. So, what that tells me when we look at how the social media industry kind of runs and it’s almost like a mafia at times, that if they’re copying some of the tech, it must mean that there’s some value there. So certainly, if you think about BeReal, it went from starting off with 10,000 users a day to 10 billion active users per day. So, it certainly has some legs. But the big question is not necessarily if it has legs to be a social platform for the masses in society, but what we’re talking about today is can it be monetized, could it be of use as a business platform? But certainly, with TikTok now Snapchat and Instagram, it would lend to think that BeReal might have something that the big dogs are thinking about.
Rex: Welcome to another episode of The Outsmart Podcast with TEAM LEWIS. We are your hosts, Rex Petrill and Nicole Allen and this week we’re thrilled to be joined by Claude Springer, Area Director of Social at Meltwater. Claude, thank you so much for being with us. How are you?
Claude: Thank you very much for having me. I’m hugely excited to be here and I’ve been waiting for the invite for some time from speaking to the team at TEAM LEWIS, but I am well and obviously it’s great to kick start the week with joining this podcast with you guys.
Rex: Amazing. Yeah, I know like Andy Martinus and the UK team speak so highly of you. We hosted you at the TEAM LEWIS SPARK event recently in London. So, what is your role? What do you do at Meltwater? What is an area director of Social?
Claude: That’s a lot of questions in one, but hopefully I can take some time to answer those. And firstly, actually, thank you to TEAM LEWIS obviously inviting me to speak at the SPARK event, thought it was a huge success and really excited to see more and more of those enter into the market and you guys expand into other regions doing that.
So, yeah, start selling about myself. So, by way of introduction, thank you, Rex. Obviously. My name is Claude Springer, and I’m the Area Director at Meltwater. What that means for me as the Area Director is taking responsibility of our social division. To give a bit of a historical background, Meltwater, about four or five years ago, acquired a company called Sysmas, which some of you may be familiar with, and then actually formed the social division. In my day to day there are the typical responsibilities of a workforce, crossing from sales to account management to marketing and the functions there, but also being very much built over nearly a decade’s worth of experience in working with agencies and brands and trying to solve and go on that journey of solving multiple business challenges within the social industry, which is an ever changing landscape. So, it does throw a lot of curveballs, but that’s all part of the fun and the ride and why we’re all here sat here today.
And then perhaps lastly, I think to say a bit about me outside of the work. So, I also have other interests too. I’m a family man, so recently a father. To say how my weekend was, I learned for the first time what it’s like to have the clocks change and have a nine-month-old baby who does not appreciate clocks changing. So that certainly kept me awake. But also, outside of that, I’m an advisor for a mental health Company as well.
Nicole: That’s quite a resume. Claude, talking about just the ever-changing landscape of social. I know that Meltwater released a social media report earlier this year highlighting a lot of trends around the growth of TikTok and some of the top challenges for social media marketers. What are some of the highlights that you find most interesting in that report?
Claude: Yeah, I think that’s a really cool thing to do and it’s something we haven’t done before, really. We created a survey where we just threw it out to the industry and we just said, hey, here’s a couple of questions. If you’re in marketing, PR (Public Relations) or comms role, just let us know what you think. And often its typically client focused, but this was just to the whole industry and there have been some huge, what I think insightful and perhaps can inspire the listeners today. And one of the big ones in perhaps the one time I’ll quote some facts and figures at you, what we’re talking about, especially in the UK economy right now, not knowing or having an everchanging prime minister that changes more than the social media top dog. Now we seem to be settled with Rishi, but there is a current economic challenge in the UK now and globally, talks of a recession.
One of the things that the survey actually answered off people and listeners and people like us today has said 87% of participants said the current economic developments has meant that social is as or more important than before. And I think that when I think about the industry that we’re in, that always gives you that feel good factor like, okay, I don’t want to say something as bold as us being recession proof, we’re certainly not. But we certainly have proven that we came through the Pandemic, for example, and came to strength and new players came to be. So that was a huge, really insightful piece and I think the second was the strategy of marketers. When we think about the likes of TikTok, for example, where the survey actually spoke about that 30% of businesses use TikTok today. But then we actually posed a question on what platforms would be a priority going forward into 2023, and it actually said that 48% will plan to use TikTok more in their day to day in businesses in 2023. So that’s an 18% rise.
So again, when we factor in the industry, we’re in, but then look at society today, the economic difficulties, but then thinking about us as marketers, PR professionals or comms professionals today and thinking about people are going to do more within social coming into 2023 and it presents more opportunity. That’s certainly a sense of excitement and it really was a really good takeaway for us when we did that survey out to the market.
Rex: I mean it’s fascinating just like you mentioned how quickly things evolve and change and platforms, but usually they were all just adjusting to what consumer behavior is and how people are using those platforms. I think there were some really interesting findings in the survey like around the search functionality of what TikTok has become or honestly one of the things that you just talked about is doing more on social. But the survey also reflected that one of the top challenges for the marketers is finding the time and the resources to do that additional work. So, I’m curious from you and from your conversations like where are people prioritizing? Are they prioritizing new channels? Are they prioritizing getting better at the channels that maybe are most impactful to their business?
Claude: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and it’s not me dodging it. I’ll certainly answer the question, but it has to be case by case. When this survey is going across so many different industries, where some industries may have a more dominant social platform, which takes precedent and should be a focus. Some industries may be quite new, and it allows them to perhaps have the flexibility to move with the trends, start to think okay, can we monetize BeReal? That’s just come from nowhere. So, what I would say, and to answer the question there is, it has given, or this survey and the findings has actually acknowledged that there’s more that can be done. But what really that businesses and brands need to focus on is understanding what works best for them, which platform works best for them.
What I often see and hear and it’s past like the cardinal scene sometimes is companies moving with the trends without understanding their audience and it’s like okay, the example I discredit BeReal in no way, it’s a great new innovation there. But I said okay, we tried, and we had a whole strategy based on TikTok which has just launched over the last year. But now that BeReal has come, and I’ve seen businesses walk away from their plan to just jump on the next innovation which I would encourage not to be the smart one and that’s perhaps the strategy of not understanding what best would fit your audience.
So perhaps it also highlights something which the survey did give was an actual skills gap. So actually, within the survey said 27% of participants identified that Knowhow was their biggest social media challenge. And that in line, I think highlights the opportunity but also the risk within the social media landscape. And to answer a question on where to focus and what next, if we don’t empower these marketers to have the understanding and the knowledge to identify what would work best, then there’s going to potentially be a lot of ad spend wasted but a lot of time. And then when you go full circle about being a time starved industry, that is just a waste of time to that extent.
But certainly, tools like us, Meltwater and other tools in the industry can help brands and agencies actually understand their audiences. But also, agencies around the world are really getting much better at that. The insights which social platforms are sharing to have better audience segmentation is improving. The data points are increasing within there. So certainly, it gives businesses the opportunity to have a data set to be more informed in their strategy.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s kind of like just the innovation for innovation’s sake, right? There’s no need to just jump ship and ditch a strategy or spin up something new without first understanding who’s there, how it works, is your core audience and target demographic actually on that platform. BeReal is an interesting one. I know Chipotle did a little bit of testing early on with that platform, but that one will be interesting to see if it’s actually something that can be monetized and utilized for brands or if it’s just kind of more of a consumer sort of humanized version of say, Instagram.
Claude: True. And I think the real test bed on if the new social platform is going to be something is by what their noisy neighbors do and for example, with BeReal and the innovation that has launched straight away TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram all started copying key features. So, what that tells me when we look at how the social media industry kind of runs and it’s almost like a mafia at times, that if they’re copying some of the tech, it must mean that there’s some value there. So certainly, if we think about BeReal, it went from starting off with 100 users a day to 10 million active users per day. So, it certainly has some legs. But the big question is not necessarily if it has legs to be a social platform for the masses in society, but what we’re talking about today is can it be monetized, could it be a use of the business platform? But certainly, with TikTok Now, Snapchat and Instagram, it would lend to think that BeReal might have something that the big dogs are thinking about.
Nicole: I think the big one everyone’s watching right now is Twitter. And what happens with Twitter with Elon’s takeover, and I know I believe it was GM, right Rex, who paused all their ad spend late last week or over the weekend. And, yeah, that’s going to be the big one to watch. And I know that we are talking to, actively talking to our reps and trying to kind of navigate that shopping and just see what Elon does there and what he’s prioritizing and is that a platform where your ads might show up next to something unsavory or what it’s going to look like in the future?
Claude: Yeah, and it certainly is an interesting one. And I think Twitter is such a core platform which doesn’t almost get the respect it deserves in the marketing world, I feel like, and I speak about it quite often, I’ve been to so many talks where I said, Twitter is dead. And I think it’s so established in such a core social platform. And I think they used to tagline themselves as a home of breaking news and updates. But it’s only this new era in what Elon Musk will do. I think we’re right to say we can’t sit here and predict, but it’s one to watch. I’m very passionate about never predicting the social landscape because it’s so changing in the space of a year that we could be talking about a social platform we hadn’t heard of.
But again, with everything, it presents a challenge and an opportunity. But Twitter as a core platform is something which I’ve been very passionate about and hasn’t gone away for so many years, even though many believe it too. And who knows what Elon Musk has planned for it? But I certainly think he’s no fool. So, let’s see. I will be very excited to see what we can do and how it can benefit our brands if it’s the right audience going forward within the Twitter space.
Rex: It all comes back to the audience, doesn’t it? Some of the research that I think pivoting just off of this for a second is just how users have changed over the last couple of years and how the pandemic really changed a lot of things in the way that we’re all using social media. So, I know, Claude, in some of the recent conversations that you had with the teams it is just like, where is social media changing? How has it become a core part of our society? The use cases for what people are doing on a social basis seem to be changing on a monthly, if not quicker basis. And so, it’s harder for us to keep track of everything and make sure that everything we’re doing as marketers is for the right reasons, we’re on the right channels for the right reasons. But what are some of the things that you look at when you’re like, oh my gosh, look at the way that social has changed in the last couple of years.
Claude: I think that social and the balance between society is such an interesting topic. When I think about the pandemic and social media industry, rightly so there were some bad sides to it. We talk about like an election fixing influence there or the impact of misinformation within social and we can rely on our news sources to really publicize and scaremonger there in that sense but there’s also the other side of social where it was empowering and really became core especially during the time of pandemic. I think there was certainly a change. And I’ve spoken about it many talks about the role that social media’s played during the COVID pandemic and the example obviously of the bad side but more on the positive when they actually use that as a form of information. Many of NHS and companies use that to communicate where the local test centers were. They are also enabling communication when we think of the likes of WhatsApp and video messaging platforms as well. To have families and relatives you haven’t seen for a number of months or even years in certain cases and having the ability to use platforms on social media to engage and connect and that sense of community really saw that become more of a social core within that.
And like everything, there are the good and the bad. But even to give another example, there is the commerce and purchasing. I was that guy during lockdown in my house, trying to deck out my office. I was buying a basketball hoop in my office. I was buying a little putting green there, just at home and conveniently the social platforms are making it easier and easier for me to just click and buy that product that I could see and think, you know what? I haven’t left the house in a bit. I could do with that in my house. I need a putting green. That makes sense. Safe to say, I’m terrible at golf and the putting green is gathering dust. But what I would say is commerce is a big piece and that growth has happened even transcending from the local person just buying stuff from Amazon like myself.
But even when you think in the sports industry, for example, and Instagram and actually doing those purchasing features meaning you can click on a football shirt and automatically get linked to the shopping cart there. But even some really good sides as well. For example, on Twitch where there’s actually enabled charity donation functionality within the platform, these are the good signs of seeing how social really has become core within society day to day. It scares me even to think this. And this isn’t even perhaps a social side of things, but more generationally and I don’t know if we have a generation for it yet, but my son is nine months old and automatically doesn’t even have screen time, but when he sees the phone, he tries to reach for it. And that example shows that more and more, year on year, is growing in the importance of tech and the influence of it. And social usually really plays a part in speediness of communication, enabling that whether it’s peer to peer, friend to friend, user to user, massive.
Even another industry as an example like the recycled fashion industry where gone are the days that you care about that model who’s worn that item of clothing and that’s why you want to buy it. There are applications like vintage and doing recycled fashion where you can send that and actually have recommendations from your friends. And not to point out the phrase that I’ve used but I heard it at an event talk talking about friend-fluencers. So gone are the days of the macro and the micro influencers but actually getting influence from your friends buying decision and your friends recycling clothing there. And again, this is just another example in the industry of how social has really become the core within society’s day-to-day activities. So, I almost see that social media when it comes to society it becomes the enabler for people to act.
Rex: It’s like the platform who can best capitalize on the way that people want to create and engage with content is going to be the one that’s most successful. So, if they can take those commerce features and all of a sudden embedded into more of an augmented reality situation where somebody who is an influencer, maybe is posting something and it’s not just like hashtag ad, but it’s embedded within the actual product. And you can click on the shirt that they’re wearing in the video or stuff like that, where you can embed those features in the way that content is moving. Because content is just smashing and leaving all these features in the dust. Like no one’s engaging with static images on Instagram in the way that they were a year ago or two years ago. It’s all just short form vertical video content. You’re just like oh my gosh, where do you keep up and where does the trend go next? So, it’s to your early point, Claude. Like all the platforms copying each other’s best features, they’re all just trying to keep pace with the way that we as humans are wanting to share and engage with the content. And if you can latch on to those features to the content that’s being produced, you’re going to have better results and marketers are going to want to come to your platforms and spend and invest their resources and their time in those features. So, so much ahead in that space and in the growth of just like you pointed out in the research that has been done recently and just how use has evolved in the commerce space and things like that. It’s just a fascinating time right now.
Claude: Yeah, I think it’s exactly right. Content, especially when you talk about coming out of lockdown, people on social platforms, importance of good quality content and engaging content has become more and more prevalent. If we speak about how businesses can capture it, I know you have to talk with Andy previously and encourage all your listeners to perhaps have a listen to that one there, where it really goes out next level on how brands can really think outside the box. Short form video as you said, Meta, Instagram, TikTok, whether Meta and Instagram did that because TikTok really showed how short form video was really capturing. They followed suit right and certainly are doing a lot of benefit to creators and empowering creators to do such collaborative and creative content there.
But when we think about what is next as well as the industry, it is more punchy, creative content that uses augmented reality. And you see that dripped in the day to day, which perhaps people don’t consider within that. And there are retail companies where if you can upload your avatar, then they could use that to try on the clothes for you. And people perhaps take that for granted and thinking, oh, this is the new norm, but this is augmented reality really coming into play in everyone’s day-to-day. Which again, creates that certainly excitement and leads on to things when we obviously talk about like the metaverse and what is possible in that piece. But the short form video evolution certainly, thank you, TikTok made the other social media platforms get to work on that.
Nicole: So, we’ve talked a lot about all of the potential that social platforms hold, especially from a brand’s point of view or for a social media marketer, which all of us are. But Claude, I know you’re also an advisor and ambassador for a support room which is an on-demand mental health and workplace support platform. So as someone who also lives in the social media world, what are your thoughts on the relationship between social media and mental health?
Claude: Yeah, that’s a really good question and I almost sometimes question am I fraud? Living in the social media industry and then certain opinions I certainly have. As a new father now, I’m concerned about the toll that social media can certainly have in society today and it has had a huge impact and I don’t think anyone can walk away certainly from that. Social media has led to an increase in mental health concerns and there are different facets and ways that we can look at that conversation.
Certainly, one example obviously is that comparison, the generation always comparing themselves to these edited photos and thinking that these Gen Z can’t compete and having that sense or sad sense of not being worthy enough or good enough. Or other examples where social media enables abuse to people within the sports industry. That’s a massive thing. Or impacts like online billing has really increased and I certainly think that social media has a responsibility. I certainly think as individuals within it we all have a responsibility in its place because it has played a toll. But it definitely is an area that social networks could improve.
I personally feel it’s very clear to see, for example, where focuses on misinformation, on COVID, the algorithm is very clear to easily highlight if certain posts mention COVID but then the same social networks can’t use similar tech to perhaps prevent online bullying, racism to high profile athletes and individuals. It gives us the opportunity to do better. And that is when we think about us as people and individuals, the aim of the game, right. But it certainly is a contributor. But it isn’t something like I said, I always think there’s balance. There’s a good side and the bad side. And the bad side can be worked on to further amplify the good that it can do. Because there are platforms like as you said, SupportRoom like myself where we actually use social media and we actually use that platform to help people further engage much more easily with therapists, for example. We actually use that functionality through WhatsApp. So that’s a good example where social media platforms are helping us get to those in need much quicker and enabling access to help much easier.
Rex: Like you said Claude, you don’t want to take responsibility away from the individuals who are using the platforms and being bullies, being awful human beings, hiding behind the veneer of an online profile that gives you the excuse to do whatever you want. And then the platforms themselves, like you just clearly, you just clearly demonstrate that they have the technology, they have the ability to solve some of this problem. Why aren’t they doing it? I think that’s where we as marketers and brands frankly hold some of the purse strings to hold these platforms accountable. Like when you read the Elon news and 90% of Twitter’s revenue is ad based, and I’m not picking on Twitter, but it can be an awful space for certain people and in certain times. And like you mentioned, sports fans just feel like they can say anything to anyone, any athlete at any given time. And boohoo, they make millions of dollars, but you’re still a human being and like wow, that’s not appropriate in behavior in any way. You would never do that to somebody’s face.
I think brands can make massive impacts as they take a stand in certain things and you’ve seen it in the past with brands pulling off of YouTube until they fix brand safety stuff. You see it in Facebook and divesting from Facebook and Meta and things like that. Brands stepping away from those areas, brands stepping away from Black Friday in general to try to change that whole consumerism crush of people heading into stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving here in the United States. So, we have a shared responsibility. It doesn’t excuse individuals from being assholes online, but it also should shine a light on the platform to say well it’s not our problem. We just create the technology to allow people to connect and they can choose to connect however they want to. It’s a tough situation, but I’m impressed and just, like, proud that you guys are taking the tools that you have at your disposal, to try to make a difference in this space, because it is so important. And I’m about to have a kid, and you guys have young kids, and it’s just like, what are the world that they’re going to grow up in? On social media like thank God social media wasn’t around until I was in college because holy crap, what would a high school or middle school or anything look like if we had access to Instagram or Twitter or anything like that or Snapchat?
Claude: Yes, I couldn’t agree more, and I certainly think that the social networks can hold more, should want to do more, but it is a fear. I certainly thank God for the generation I was born in, I was more concerned with Myspace and Bebo. That was my era and it felt quite safe to just post a song and be proud of that. In that essence or send a like. I certainly think it’s a social challenge within society, but then a corporate challenge where we must want to do more. Free speech and using that as the argument could be seen as quite dangerous because there’s free speech and then there’s hate speech and the two should not be interlinked.
Nicole: So, we’ve covered a lot of topics today and got a little bit heavy towards the end there. But Claude, on a more hopeful note, what is your hope for the future with social and mental health and how the two are intertwined?
Claude: No, I think that’s a great question. I think everything. I mean we’re not talking about opportunity or challenge because there’s no such thing in relation to losing certainly in my sphere and if we’re not winning, we’re certainly learning. I think when we think about the future, social media and the social media industry it’s really exciting. There’s potential growth, new competitors coming to the forefront in relation there and an ever-changing landscape which with marketeers creates a huge sense of opportunity.
When I think about mental health and that side of things there certainly like companies like SupportRoom which I’m certainly an advisor on and there are others within there and mental health being a much more comfortable conversation to have. That’s really great to see. So, if we’re more comfortable to encourage conversations like this, five years ago, we wouldn’t have been on a podcast like this, being able to talk about mental health and talk and make sure people can have access to help, because there are tough times growing in modern society. But there are platforms and companies like SupportRoom.
Social media is an industry there which really can help on that side of things. So, my thought for the future is excitement for marketeers. If you look at the survey that we did, there’s huge excitement in what we can adjust and adapt at the times. But my overarching message is we don’t need to innovate for the sake of innovating, as you said earlier, Nicole, and actually think about what’s the right audience that’s going to work for you. So, it may mean doubling down on your existing social platform. Then mental health on that side. Speak up, let’s all have that conversation, let’s all check in on our friends, let’s all have businesses work with platforms like SupportRoom to enable better access for staff there. And then that’s our contribution, day to day, to make this a better world and a really exciting one.
Rex: Claude, thank you so much for the time today and thank you so much for the team at Meltwater and all the support that you give us at TEAM LEWIS and our clients, the insights and tools to move forward and make smarter decisions. And if you haven’t already, I encourage everyone to go check out the survey. Some really great insights in there from fellow marketers. So go check it out, go visit Meltwater. And Claude, thank you so much for taking the time today.
Claude: Thank you all for having me. Yeah, always great to collaborate with you guys and look forward to future collaborations in the future. And thanks for the invite, took a while to come, but thank you very much for having me