No doubt about it, social media as we know it is still soaring. "We now spend more time than ever on our phones and endless scrolling through our social feeds being a chief reason why".
Sara Wilson, Harvard Business Review counters:
But dig a little deeper, and a more nuanced picture emerges about social media users today that has important implications for the ways in which brands reach customers. Specifically, when you look at who is — and more importantly, who is not — driving the growth and popularity of social platforms, a key demographic appears to be somewhat in retreat: young people.
For example, 2019 findings from Edison Research and Triton Digital show social media usage overall among Americans 12 to 34 years old across several platforms has either leveled off or is waning, while 2019 research from Global Web Index suggests that the amount of time millennial and Gen Z audiences spend on many social platforms is either flat, declining, or not rising as greatly as it has in years’ past.
Instead, the oversharing and follower-frenzy of the past years has slowly been leading towards a trend the author calls digital campfires.
Digital campfires in her own words:
If social media can feel like a crowded airport terminal where everyone is allowed, but no one feels particularly excited to be there, digital campfires offer a more intimate oasis where smaller groups of people are excited to gather around shared interests.
The Three Types of Digital Campfires
1. Private Messaging Campfires Private and small group messaging with mostly, but not exclusively real-world friends.
- Messaging Apps - Whatsapp, Telegram, Messenger (groups & 1-on-1)
- Community.com (service for celebrities to have 1-on-1 conversations with fans)
2. Micro-Community Campfires Interactive private or invite-only forums revolving around interests, beliefs, or passions
3. Shared Experience Campfires Mostly public (but could be small circle as well) online spaces, where people can share and experience specific common interests together.
In light of this, digital campfires become a much more attractive alternative — one that requires more groundwork and more careful tending, but one that could potentially have big payoffs for brands in terms of loyalty, retention, and long-term love.