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Overly Polished Social Media Content Doesn’t Sell Anymore. Here’s Why

In a landscape dominated by ever-changing digital trends, the once-reliable strategy of meticulously polished and sales-focused social media content is losing its charm. Did you know, 73% of 18-24 year olds and 55% of 25-49 year olds turn to social media for entertainment? Yet brands still clinging to the bygone era of 2016 'sales-first-strategy' are left wondering why the strategy that once propelled them to success is no longer effective.

After taking a look at our 2023 Client Analytics, we've noticed a major shift in the social media sphere. Users are now craving authenticity, entertainment relatability, and connection. The era of overly polished and filtered content is making way for a new wave where being real takes precedence. Platforms like TikTok, celebrated for its entertainment value, and content formats such as IG Reels, memes, and tweet graphics are thriving on Instagram, echoing this shift.

But, how did this happen and what does it mean for your social strategy? Let's break it down.


In a recent Zine article, Matt Klein and Rachel Greenspan dove into the idea of "fake authenticity" by explaining where social has been, where social is at, and where social is going.


If you're an OG Instagram user, you likely remember the days when posting on Instagram required little-to-no effort. You could choose any photo from your camera roll in 2012, throw the native IG filter on top of it and post it on your feed.

Fast forward a few years to 2018 and Instagram culture amped up the intensity of effort required and filters applied. All the posts from this era were extremely posed, Facetuned, filtered, and overall about as inauthentic as it gets.⁠


We find ourselves in an era of unfiltered photo dumps, striving for authenticity but often coming off as calculated. Rachel said it best by explaining "there is nothing casual about intentionally telegraphing casualness for the sake of looking cool."


Enter the 'no-effort, unfiltered era'. As we transition into an "anti-aesthetic" period, brands must reassess how they convey genuineness and transparency. Relatability and authenticity are becoming pivotal in this new landscape.


Conduct a Thorough Audience Analysis

Understanding your audience is crucial. Acquire demographic and psychographic information to create content with a "community-first" mindset. Trust and conversion stem from building relationships within your community.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Adhere to the 80/20 Rule, where 80% of your content provides value (relatable, entertaining, educational, timely), and ONLY 20% directly promotes your product or service.

Have you ever come across an Instagram post that you related with SO much that you HAD to share it with your followers or a friend? There lies the value in creating content with that community-first mindset. Not only will it resonate with your current audience (which fosters a relationship that will further push them down your marketing funnel) but it also creates more opportunity for your brand to be marketed to others (free of charge!!) as well through shares.

The Secret Sauce to Entertaining Content

Across the board with clients, we’ve noticed one common theme: relatable content ALWAYS wins. This is content that speaks right to your target audience’s interests or pain points, and most often shows up in the forms of memes, tweet graphics, user-generated content, and IG Reels/TikToks. 

Here's why it works: before someone wants to buy from you, they first have to know about you. Once they know about you, they have to first build a relationship with you, build TRUST with you. AFTER that trust is built, you are one step away from a sale. So while this 'less polished/salesy' content may not directly promote xyz product, it's more likely to resonate with users, generating brand awareness and build foundation necessary for that goal... a conversion.

Overall, while the reluctance to adapt may be tempting, rigidly sticking to an uber-polished brand style could negatively impact growth of your digital community \. Remember, no strategy update is permanent, and ongoing data analysis is crucial for refining content to meet the evolving needs of your audience. Continue to breakdown what's working for your AUDIENCE and pivot your content to meet their needs.

For more social media tips, be sure to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter!


WAY Social Team



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