Social Media and Society: To Build and To Brand
It seems as though we’ve reached a point in society where social media defines the new normal. Whereas once human interactions and experiences drove social media posts, we’re now at a time where social media has become the sole purpose in defining why spaces and places may even exist in the first place. The medium has created a whole new way of creating places, making food, and designing products that are “instagrammable,” or worthy of posting.
Both businesses and individuals alike invest time, energy, and money into creating a social media presence that will stand apart from the crowd and create a perfect vision for others to see, and in turn, desire. It’s proven to be important because social media has become a digital currency as well as a source of credibility, especially for brands.
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First things first, why do people even share on social media? A study performed by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group found the following reasons to be the main motivators:
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Given that social media creates an interconnectedness between a global community, brands and companies understand the importance of using it as a tool to connect with their audience and sell their products and/or services. But, it goes further than just promotion. Social media has literally changed how places are designed and built.
To exemplify, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, located in Honolulu, renovated their pool to have the hand lettering phrase “Wish You Were Here” engraved in the tiles, so that people could take aerial shots from above and share this sentiment to their social media followers. While this psychologically puts their guests in a “humble brag” position, it also allows for word-of-mouth, or should we say a picture worth more than 5 words, to make its way around the digital globe and entice fellow travelers to make their way to the hotel.
But it’s not just places that are being redesigned around Instagram.
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While it’s common for restaurants and clubs to add “instagrammable” aspects in their decoration and design, eateries have made a point to make unique additions to their menu that are photogenic, and of course, designed to wow the social media crowd. At one point, unicorns were all the rage, so that translated into rainbow colored food items. Small mom and pop shops got in on the fad, but even massive corporations like Starbucks, who technically don’t need much help when it comes to market share, decided to capitalize on the trend by introducing their Unicorn Frappuccino. It’s clear that promoting coffee wasn’t the goal here, but rather the intention was to create a product that people would be excited to post on social media.
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Speaking of tasty treats, we donut know how to design without Instagram in mind… see what we did there? When we worked with New York’s Underwest Donuts, our illustrations had a naturally cheeky nature to make them all the more shareable. Underwest Donut holds a unique position in the market, having started out of a car wash, so we wanted to capture their whimsical vibes through our artwork, and at the same time, create pieces that were culturally relatable beyond just connecting people on the basis of loving donuts.
For example, we created this illustration of a flasher, which relates with the streets of New York and the on-the-go, somewhat surreptitious nature of the ubiquitous street vendors. If you are from or have visited New York, you can easily connect with this imagery, and it also tells that story that if you know about Underwest Donuts, you’re basically part of an insider club, who lives and indulges like a local.
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“Instagrammable” is not just a fad, it’s a whole new world of branding and identity. As of this year, there are over 4 billion internet users worldwide and more than 3 billion are on social media. While Facebook still dominates the social media landscape, the growth and importance of Instagram cannot go unnoticed (plus, Facebook owns Instagram).
The societal effects of social media are far-reaching, and still not entirely understood, but what we can say for certain is that brands need to continuously innovate and find creative ways to bring social media into play to help showcase their brand, inspire word of mouth conversations, and enhance their marketing efforts through shareable and authentic content.