The future of social content and paid media in the wake of Trump

hand holding iphone with all the social icons on the screen

As someone whose public relations business has survived and thrived in recent years by using social media platforms and their advertising capabilities, I’m more than an interested bystander on their futures in the aftermath of the Trump era.

The platforms allow us to promote our clients’ content to their target audiences and drive awareness of and engagement with their thought leadership efforts. But as we’ve seen, those same advertising tools and algorithms are used to amplify political rhetoric and hate, which ultimately drove violent mobs into the nation’s capital.

And while major brands and organizations boycotted some social channels for a month last year to show their displeasure, the move was mainly symbolic and had little impact on the companies’ bottom line or desire to curb false posts. It wasn’t until after thousands stormed the U.S. Capitol building that Facebook, Twitter and other platforms banned then-President Trump from their platforms.

What is clear now is the future of these social platforms as well as other tech giants like Google are clearly up in the air.

Both the Federal Trade Commission and a group of 46 attorneys general from across the country have filed suit against Facebook for alleged anti-trust practices. Similarly, Google is the subject of a recently filed anti-trust lawsuit from the Justice Department for halting competition in the online search universe.

Amazon and Apple could be next.

All that plus the new push to repeal Section 230, the law that protects online platforms from getting sued for what is posted on their sites as political retaliations for the recent “bannings,” likely mean the landscape of social and search platforms will change dramatically over the next one-to-three years.

What does this all mean for us?

What would happen if all marketing firms and their clients stopped using all these platforms?

Well, we’d revert to the marketing Stone Ages of the early 2000s. Not a pretty place, huh?

While we all would feel better about our marketing decisions, unless every single marketer decided to stop using Google or Facebook, he, she or they would be putting their companies and/or their clients at an untenable competitive disadvantage.

In the short term, my thinking is we become even more selective about the platforms we use and make sure our marketing partners and clients are comfortable with our decisions.

We should also anticipate and plan for the day that Facebook, Google (and even Amazon and Apple) are “broken up” like what happened to Ma Bell (AT&T) and local landline telephone services (you remember landlines, don’t you?) in the 1980s.

This likely will mean we will return to the days of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp being separate companies, and Google being forced into allowing more search competition (Apple?) in the very near future. I’d argue that is a very good thing for smart marketers who crave more choices and the ability to potentially keep costs down.

If Section 230 is tossed or amended there will also likely being stricter guidelines from Facebook or Twitter on what you can actually post on their platforms. Not a bad thing unless you can’t back up those claims. It will force all of us to think before we post something. Shudder the thought.

The bottom line?

After years of relative calm in the marketing world and we have settled on four-to-five platforms on which to amplify our messaging, our world is about to get rocked and we all need to be ready for it. Paying attention to these legal and legislative actions will help you plan. Also using a mix of marketing approaches instead of a sole reliance on these platforms is a smart approach now and likely an even smarter one in the future.

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Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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