Perhaps it’s a backlash from all the NSA scandals that have come to light lately, but U.S. consumers are proving to be very fickle when it comes to social media. A new study released recently by McCann Worldgroup found that attitudes and behavior related to data sharing and social media have shifted significantly in a very short amount of time.
Suddenly, selfies, the pictures of oneself taken with cell phone or digital cameras for the purpose of being uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, or some other social media site, are now considered uncool. That’s a radical shift in such a short amount of time, considering “selfie” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2013.
Interestingly, views about what to post have taken a dramatic turn as well. For instance, it’s no longer cool to post routine activities as status updates on Facebook, or to check in your location on Foursquare.
More important for brands, what’s not considered cool by most people might just be a staple in the marketing mix. Sixty-six percent of people now think a brand using their content on its social media site without their permission is uncool. Fifty-seven percent of people think a brand calling them with an automated personalized message is uncool.
Therefore, in this new social media environment, brands must be careful not to over-step the mark, as some of their actions could be considered “bullying” by some consumers.
McCann’s latest research also found that the companies considered the greatest threat, and therefore, the least trusted with personal information, are the Silicon Valley companies, such as Google and Facebook. In fact, many young people in the survey highlighted a migration from Facebook to Snapchat partly because of greater privacy.
Banks, surprisingly, are still considered the most trusted institution when it comes to using sensitive personal information properly, the survey found.
“We found evidence of a new trend towards being more selective and exclusive when it comes to sharing, even among the teenage generation,” said Nadia Tuma, deputy director of McCann Truth Central, in a statement. “It is becoming cooler to be a bit mysterious, like not being very searchable on Google.”
As social media becomes more prevalent, it is becoming a serious challenge to maintain a balance between privacy and publicity, between making oneself seem interesting and appearing to be vain. The brands that can do this well will likely be the consumer favorites in 2014, unless consumers change their minds again six months from now.