The rise in social media detoxes (and what this means for marketers)

Around certain corners of the Internet recently you might’ve noticed a new trend for taking digital detoxes – specifically social media ones. Social media detoxes have become popular thanks, in part, to the celebs who are logging off. Meghan Markle is one high profile star who was reportedly happy to hand over her social media accounts to palace staff when she married Prince Harry. Then there’s pop starlet Ariana Grande who is taking breaks from her usual platforms to recover from a traumatic series of events this year.

Social media detoxing is on the rise, with 77% of young people stating that they’d be keen to do one as a kind of ‘Movember’ style event. It’s strongly linked to wellness, specifically mental wellbeing, with 10% of youngsters thinking that they really need one. Over half of younger people have purposely deactivated their social media accounts at some point in their lives.

Marketers need to wake up to this new reality – especially ones who are targeting younger consumers.

How to connect with the social media detoxer

1. Know your audience:

Social media detoxers often log off of a platform for a certain period of time, usually a day, weekend or because of exams or other life events. Crucially, they don’t tend to log off permanently. For marketers, there needs to be more focus on understanding when an audience is likely to log off and when they tend to be online.

Knowing your audience’s social media habits is key to building a strong relationship with them. One that transcends a social media ban. Understanding when a large section of your audience is likely to be taking a social media detox will also help your analytics over that time. If you see a big drop in engagement, for example, it might not be that your content isn’t hitting the mark, but that your audience isn’t online. Exams and holidays are common times when people might deactivate their accounts for a while.

2. Quality not quantity:

There needs to be a renewed focus on quality and not quantity. Today’s consumer might not want to have an update from your brand every few hours – instead, only post about stuff that matters to them. Plus, being on every social media channel doesn’t mean you’ll convert more customers. Only use the ones that your target audience use the most. It’s partly the overwhelming volume of social media content that’s making people turn off of the platforms.

3. Be mindful of mental wellbeing:

Then you need to consider what you post. FOMO (fear of missing out) drives a lot of consumer behaviour on social, but recently FOMO has been getting backlash. Some aspiring influencers, for instance, have been racking up huge debts trying to keep up with the lifestyles that social media promotes. It’s behind some consumers’ decision to switch off.

By all means, promote your products and services (and make people want them) but also look at a more holistic approach. Consider your customers’ wellness. Don’t Photoshop things if there’s a risk of it being harmful to consumer perceptions. Many young people feel pressure to look a certain way, which is fuelling the rise of social media detoxes. Underwear brand Aerie has received praise for its #AerieReal campaign that shows unairbrushed women in its products.

4. Consider going offline:

It almost sounds obvious but if your customers are logging off, there’s no reason why you can’t talk to them in the real world. In fact, many young people say that they enjoy the experiential bit of a campaign most – which ties in with the trend for more experience-driven living and spending. Logging off and meeting your customers IRL could help forge a relationship beyond social media (and any detox they might do).

Experiential marketing can help promote social media interaction in the long run, whilst getting the attention of consumers who aren’t online at the time. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of bells and whistles either. KFC ran a fun offline campaign which tied into the social media detox trend. It encouraged diners to stack their phones in the middle of the table, with an app measuring how long they could stay offline and enjoy a real conversation. It’s said that this campaign was what started the phone stack activity that some diners do in restaurants across the world.

5. Promote a social media detox

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, encouraging your audience to take a break can help your brand stand out from the masses on social media. Marketing is all about relationship-building and the strongest way to gain someone’s loyalty is to show that you care about them.

Take a leaf out of drinks brand Innocent’s book and embrace the detox. It ran the Unplugged Festival in 2016 with over 2000 attendees all enjoying the no-wifi, no-phone signal environment.

Back to the good ol’ days of marketing?

With more consumers taking time off from social media, marketers need to get more creative with their campaigns. Social media is still a powerful tool, but it needs to be supplemented with other efforts to effectively connect with all potential customers.

In many ways, social media detoxes are forcing marketers to go back to the foundations of marketing. That is, understanding your audience and what they want from your brand. If you know them well enough you can anticipate their behaviour and needs. Then build a campaign around that – whether that’s on social media, or off of it.