Walking around London, you'd be forgiven for thinking the sight of tourists uploading selfies on social media is a permanent fixture. However, gloomy prospects for social media channels among consumers in the UK and France show only 11% of us are certain that Pinterest will be used in a decade and only 14% are confident that Snapchat will still exist. By contrast, email emerged as the platform we think will stand the test of time.
This uncertainty about the future of Snapchat comes despite the social platform's parent company Snap IPO-ing earlier this year, suggesting newer platforms might well be perceived as passing trends rather than long-term means of communication.
Of course, concerns for the future will seem a long way off for the likes of Instagram, which just celebrated adding 100 million users to its platform in four months. However, May marks exactly one year to the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Social media will be cast into the world of "opt-in" marketing, where the ability of brands to reach out to consumers will hinge on clear consent.
While Instagram Stories, Snap Ads and Pinterest Pins have all seen brands move into the social space fluidly, these platforms have never had to secure such tangible permission from users, a crucial element of GDPR. So how will they adapt to the changing rulebook and engage a post-GDPR audience?
GDPR will increase data protection, enforce stricter data privacy rules and introduce double opt-in, meaning brands will have to be far more careful with how and when they communicate, not least to stay compliant, but also to incentivise audiences toward granting greater permission for their data to be processed and ads personalised.
Post-GDPR, brands will need to prove each and every prospect they engage has actively agreed that they are willing to be marketed to; an unticked opt-out box won't do. Keeping people engaged and interested will hinge on remaining reactive to their needs, serving them the experience they want on each channel.
It's going to be an uphill journey for social media companies. When asked about major updates in brand communications through social channels, only 6% of consumers had noticed Instagram's 'buy button' and the platform's Explore page change.
It paints a clear picture that while these channels are innovating, we don't actively notice changes to their experience unless they make a huge impact. It's clear these platforms must pay closer attention to the real needs of consumers, but the costs of getting innovation wrong will be borne by brands. Where adverts become intrusive, appear too frequently or in feeds reserved only for invited parties, the trust and loyalty brands have built across other channels could be tarnished and in turn, revenue lost.
Lessons learnt from email
While we have never had an 'opt-in' for brand ads on social, opt-in to receiving ads on platforms like Facebook will help brands optimize their marketing ROI by targeting their communication to an engaged audience who is likely to interact regularly with messages or offers.
This constant listening will be a deciding factors for the likes of Snapchat, that are creating buzz amongst certain demographics at the moment. It will be important that such channels learn from one another. Email, for example, endures as a channel which customers continue to turn to in the purchase journey.
Why? Email has responded to the way we use shopping sites. According to Mailjet research, three in ten of us are specifically looking for the ability to shop or checkout directly within an email to make the experience easier. Email is becoming increasingly shop-able and tailored to the products people have researched or complementary to those they have purchased previously.
Looking ahead, the growing dependency on social media, teamed with the adaptability of today's users, means we're not far from seeing the traditional inbox transformed by the likes of Messenger and Slack.
When it comes to generating consent, Slack and Messenger are yet another step ahead. Sending messages via Messenger or Slack requires opt-in consent- often done using OAuth 2.0 (industry standard enabling platforms to have access to user's data).
Best practice emails in Slack start in the form of a native conversation: "Hey, we've got new news about our summer line-up - anything you want to hear about?" It is then up to the user to respond with the info they want to view more on the subject. A two way conversation will be the best way forward for brands' in a post-GDPR world to ensure customer loyalty.
This rule not only means a significant reduction in unsolicited SPAM, but it reflects the fact the younger, millennial generation wants digestible, snappy content.
So as email draws closer to these leaders of consumer dialogue, there's a lot the giants of the social realm can and should learn from email as it continues to innovate and mature.