Spark Interview: The Future of Social Ads (and Beyond).

Alex McNab-Lundbäck — Social Media Expert & Strategist — urges marketers everywhere to boldly go where no brand has gone before.
Rachel Kador
December 20, 2019 - 5 min. read

It’s been 53 years since the creators of Star Trek first wove together an iconic television show that took a utopian look at the future of humanity (and other species).

At Spark, Alex McNab-Lundbäck — Social Media Expert & Strategist — set out to do the same, only for future marketers and, in particular, the future of social media marketing.

Drawing from almost 15 years of experience, Alex knows that in order to “live long and prosper,” brands need to gas up the starship and prepare for a voyage into the unknown future of social media marketing — fearing neither TikTok, GDPR nor AI programming.


Q: Alright, you’ve got me hooked with Star Trek. Let me tease the metaphor a bit further. In Star Trek, the crew is guided by the “Prime Directive” — namely that they must not interfere (too much) with alien civilizations. What would you say is the future of our collective Social Media Prime Directive?

I feel like I shot myself in the foot with using the Star Trek metaphor as I am not actually an avid viewer – however, I think that all social media marketers should have, and probably already do, have a collective Prime Directive of “Engaging without Interfering.” That is, the future of advertising and social generally will be conversations and engagement much more than direct posts, organic or paid.

Our directive will be to find a way of marketing the brand in a way that does not interfere with the complex, multimedia lives of our audience (hard if the future is private conversations) while also ensuring our messages get heard. It will be a tough challenge, but that will be our mission, should we choose to accept it. [Ed. note: this is a reference to Mission Impossible and not Star Trek. We apologize for being pedantic.]

Q: A lot of social media trend pieces seem to focus on capturing the young demographic. They’re the first ones to embrace emerging tech and trends (AR, influencer marketing, inscrutable memes, etc.) and seem to be most engaged with social media. But for those of us who aren’t targeting the youth segment per se, what does the future of social hold?

You are right. Examples include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and more recently, TikTok. Generally speaking, younger generations are more likely to recognize and engage with these platforms – particularly say Snapchat and TikTok. But remember: pretty much all social media platforms started out as the domains of teenagers. Facebook was only for college students when it began in 2004. Now, 90% of 30-55-year-olds are on the platform.

I disagree that social media is just for the young. We are seeing a trend that more and more people over 50 have made their move into the realm of Facebook comments and Instagram uploads. Moreover, we know that algorithm changes on Facebook (and all Facebook-owned channels such as Instagram) are now prioritizing personal news from friends and family, which is the type of content older users want. 

It is clear that advertisers need to keep up with changing social media demographics and tailor their messages to the appropriate audiences, but “clear” and “to the point” doesn’t mean dull. Older demographics want relatable, aspirational, and exciting content just as much as any other target group — so make them a key part of the plan regardless of any misplaced concerns around image.

Q: Another big trend in social is the shift towards greater privacy and transparency. Great for social media users. Potentially challenging for social media marketers. How can we prepare and continue targeting audiences, tracking results, and increasing personalization when networks are removing these capabilities?

I may be setting myself up to be hated here, but I don’t think that greater privacy rules (such as GDPR) are necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it could make us all better marketers. With GDPR, as we should all know by now, you need explicit consent to use an individual’s data. Your customers can also ask you exactly what kind of information you have on them, who it is shared with, and the purpose it has been used for.

The opportunity here (rather than a scary barrier) is that instead of a simple “yes” or “no” option, you can now provide them with a range of options so that they can choose to receive only what they’re interested in. Through this consent, you can gain insight into each individual’s interests and provide them with information that they want to engage with.

This also helps further segment your audience and focus your communication based on specific interests, rather than sending a “one size fits all” campaign on social or email.

Q: What new technology has you most excited? How do you imagine it could change our everyday lives as social marketers?

From a personal view and as a marketer, AI and Voice Automation is probably the tech I am most excited about. I think that it will completely change how we operate as marketers to be the point that our job titles will barely resemble that of marketers.

Instead, we will be AI-programmers, data scientists, brand advocates, and “dark” influencers as opposed to traditional marketers. Like everything that lies in the future, this is scary and exciting at the same time, but it will truly change (and challenge) the way we operate on social and digital channels in general.

Q: Who do you look to for inspiration? What companies or brands do you consider innovative and what are they doing that we can try to emulate?

For once, I love looking towards the US for brand inspiration, particularly on social. Brands such as Wendy’s, Hilton Hotels in the US, and JetBlue are all doing great things regarding engaging with their audience .

In other words, they’re doing more than just posting organically or paid. As I mentioned in my talk, I think that this is where brands will need to go on social — and the aforementioned brands are doing that already, and have been doing it to great effect for a long time.