Remember when social media was just about sharing funny cat videos or catching up with friends & family by poking them? I do.
Back then platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were digital playgrounds of connection and discovery. Anyone could connect with others over shared interests. And marketers didn’t associate the word “algorithm” (or Twitter) with dread.
Fast forward to now, and my social media feed is voyeuristic. I watch TikTok videos and Instagram reels from content creators I have a parasocial relationship with. (They are unaware of my existence, but I feel a connection through their content.) While these videos are entertaining, inspirational, and sometimes educational, I have a feeling something’s missing. It always feels like the internet needs more. More content, more clicks, and more trends.
This shift marks a personal midlife crisis in my relationship with social media. The novelty has worn off, and fatigue has crept in. The endless scroll through curated content is exhausting, and for marketers, I know the pressure to keep up is relentless.
The mirage of perfection
Social media, once a tool for genuine interaction, now serves as a stage to display a curated version of perfection. It’s not enough to serve amazing food or pour delicious wine; it has to look pretty for social media. As someone who’s been around the industry for a while, writing articles like “Instagram-worthy Meals“ or the ”Best Wineries for Instagram Pics“ (yes, I wrote both of these), I’ve seen firsthand how social media drives business. But I think we have moved too much into a place where suggestions from strangers overshadow recommendations from friends.
Social media can overlook the intrinsic value of food, wine, and experiences, favoring visual appeal instead. Sometimes, people value recommendations from content creators who don’t understand the nuances of restaurants or wineries but receive comped meals more than experts who pay for their meals and experiences.
This presents a unique challenge for social media marketers in hospitality.
While social media platforms remain the go-to for discovering new places, they also demand a never-ending treadmill of content creation and engagement, as well as continuous innovation, trend-chasing, and spectacle from businesses. This constant pressure can be particularly hard for smaller businesses, which might need help to keep up with the demands of content creation while maintaining the quality of their offerings and services.
Rebuilding connections, what now?
It’s time to redefine our approach & expectations. If we go back to basics, social media is just a platform. It’s up to us, as users and creators, to determine how we use it.
As I face my midlife crisis with social media, I’m reminded of the power of genuine connection. The kind that can’t be measured in likes or shares, but in meaningful conversations and memorable experiences. Gary Vee has asked, “How can you define the ROI of your mom?”
I’m not suggesting we abandon social media altogether. It is still a powerful tool for sharing your brand story with your target audience. But let’s not lose sight of what matters.
A few tips (I’m reminding myself):
1. Return to authenticity: Share real experiences, the not-so-perfect moments. This authenticity resonates more with audiences than any well-staged photo ever could. For brands, this means showcasing the human side of your business – the faces, stories, and real moments that make your brand unique.
2. Realign with your “why”: Remember why you started using social media in the first place – to connect. Reengage with your audience in meaningful ways, beyond just promotional content. For brands, this means listening to your audience, engaging in conversations, and building a community around shared values and interests.
3. Pay attention to core customers, not fads: Yes, trends like the latest odd wine collaboration (remember Taco Bell’s Jalapeño Noir?) can bring attention, but they can also be fleeting. Instead of chasing after every viral challenge or hashtag, focus on nurturing relationships with your core customers. And create well-thought-out posts that add value to your audience, rather than flooding their feeds with constant updates.
Aren’t all mid-life crises a new beginning?
This midlife crisis in social media marketing presents not just a challenge, but also an opportunity. Just as we’ve adapted to the ever-evolving landscape of social media, we must adapt again.
By shedding the “back in my day” attitude and redefining our approach and expectations, we can rebuild genuine connections and create meaningful social media experiences.
Remember the core of what made social media great in the first place – the ability to connect, share, and learn from each other in ways we never thought possible.
Let’s raise a glass of wine or an iPhone with me to new beginnings – where authenticity and connection reign supreme in this new middle-digital age. Oh, and if you follow me at @sharayray on Instagram or Threads, please say hello. I want to connect more.