Is Social Media an art or a science?


Social media and communicating over social networks is now such common place that the ONS reckons 63% of all adults in the UK are now using it on a daily basis. It’s part of our lives and a growing one at that.

Using social media was a key focus at the recent CIM South West event I attended. There were some really useful talks on social media and the tools we can use to maximise the number of impressions, followers and engagements we get. However, there were also talks that noted how important it is to be real and personable in your approach. So, it got me thinking. Which approach is better? Full creative freedom that challenges, engages and disrupts, or a strict regime/content calendar focussed on maximising growth?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” It goes on to define science as, “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”.

So, which definition most closely defines our social media activities? Is it the application of human creative skill and imagination? Or is it the systematic study of structures and behaviours through observation and experiment? Or is it a combination of both?

Creativity vs Science

Social media in its essence draw on your creative imagination. It is ‘What’s on your mind?’, your feeling/activity or adding your own personally curated photos.

Social media - facebook - what's on your mind, status field.

Or maybe it’s ‘What’s happening?’, with your own custom emojis/content.

Social media - Twitter - what's happening, tweet field.

Surely there is no science to this. Such broad questions with such varying answers surely couldn’t be boiled down to a formula or algorithm? Maybe they can.

Human vs Algorithm

With tools like Tweriod and Buzzsumo (and many others), could social media become an integrated automated science? It’s easy to find out the best times to post, the best influencers and how to get your content to your intended audience. There’s a danger it just could become a wasteland of queued tweets, keyword infused posts that a robot would write.

However, there is an argument that there is no substitute for a real, human presence on social media. Algorithms are constantly changing, meaning that there is less focus on the time you post and more on how engaging and varied your content is. In the same way that there is no substitute for real personality in a face to face conversation, the same can be said for social media and networking on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or any social platform. I think as more people get used to how businesses ‘talk’ on Twitter, they begin to get bored by it and crave something human whether that is sarcasm, humour or controversy. Something that breaks out of the cycle of business-spiel and networking jargon.

I think the amount of data we have available about our performance on social channels has created a data-driven cycle that can overlook the creative aspect of being naturally social. Anyone can put a post in front of the right people using targeted spend and research, but for true engagement and real advocacy, there is no substitute for individual creativity. It’s possible to view social as another way of positioning ourselves in front of customers, as a digital shop window, when really it’s more of a modern day newspaper where we all get our own mini column. Wendy’s demonstrates this perfectly, by literally just being so irreverent and weird that no-one understands what they’re saying. However, it’s funny. For this reason, they’re by far the most popular fast food brand in the world on social media.

So there’s *my* answer. I’m saying art more than science. Now to look at the right time to post this blog as well as the keywords that will get it the most clicks…


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