Scroll-Free September: Everything in moderation for marketers and mental health

As communications and marketing pros, we’re constantly flipping between our laptops and our phones—checking our personal social feeds, clients’ feeds, monitoring comments, tweaking ads; the list goes on (and on, and on, and on). 
In 2017, global social media use rose from 126 minutes a day to 135 minutes a day. That nine-minute difference may not seem like much, but consider the average use in 2012 was just 90 minutes; over five years, social media use increased 50 percent.
But that trend may be subject to change, thanks to a new campaign from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). The UK organization is calling for “Scroll-Free September,” a month-long initiative to curb, or completely abstain from, the use of Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, and others.  
The push is being called an “opportunity to take back control of our relationship with social media,” which has been, in some cases, unhealthy.
Research from the RSPH indicated that almost half of the 2,057 people surveyed said taking a break from social media would make them more productive, while 40 percent of respondents ages 18-34 said it would improve their body confidence and self-esteem.
The idea seems to be catching on. In the same poll, 65 percent of respondents said they would consider participating in Scroll-Free September. This is, of course, easier said than done, and in this case, the research is specific to the UK. But the concept got us thinking: what would a significant decrease in social media users mean for companies’ marketing strategies?
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are often key tools in communicating with new and existing consumers; not only for brand awareness but for sales—and thus, revenue—too.  In a study from Cone Inc., 93 percent of consumers expect brands to have a presence on social media and 71 percent of them are willing to make purchases from the brands they follow. Plus, social media advertising revenue is forecasted at $51.3 billion for 2018—a total of $17.24 per user, and expected to grow 10.5 percent, annually.  
This makes sense for consumer brands. How often do you scroll through Instagram and get served an ad for something that you’re now convinced you need? Oftentimes, this laser-focused targeting leads to an impulse buy.
“Historically, e-commerce has been fueled by search — if you needed a new coat, that’s what you’d hunt down on the web,” writes the Philadelphia Magazine. “But now, consumers increasingly shop online because they stumbled upon something on social media.”
A study from Curalate found that 76 percent of U.S. consumers said they’ve made a purchase after seeing an item on the brand’s social media, and about 55 percent of those consumers made the purchase online.
Given the trends in social media marketing and ad spend, Scroll-Free September doesn’t seem like it will put much of a dent in companies’ sales projections or profits. Instead, it may actually be a good thing. Breaks from advertising could, instead, be vital for the longevity of social media marketing. Quitting social for good has been gaining traction among a small faction of young people. This social “fasting” may stem the social exodus. As consumers take short breaks from, well, consuming, they may be more receptive to advertising upon returning to social media in October. Should be interesting!

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