CANNES – Brands that seek to engage consumers on newer social media apps such as Snapchat, TikTok and BeReal must learn how people use the platforms to share content, stay in touch with each other and entertain themselves. Without these insights, marketers run the risk of turning off consumers, facing mockery and damaging their brands.

“There is a desire to have a curious and authentic conversation with the platforms, with creative agencies, with media agencies, with partners to be able to figure it out,” Nancy Reyes, chief executive of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, said in this conversation with Joanna O’Connell, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, at the Beet Villa during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Fear of missing out – or “FOMO” in the parlance of younger consumers – isn’t the best reason to establish a presence on an unfamiliar social media app that’s generating buzz. As much as ad agencies work to be at the forefront of new cultural developments, they also need to advise clients on how social media fits with a broader strategy.

“One of the questions we’re not asking enough of our clients is not what social can do for you, but what can you do for social?” Reyes said. “How will you leave social — or any platform, or any experience with a consumer — better than you found it?”

More established brands whose history with advertising goes back to the print era may feel greater pressure to keep up with newer digitally native brands that first established a foothold on social media. But these traditional brands have certain advantages in their legacy of brand-building.

“Chances are even if you’re a 100-year-old brand somebody is talking about you somewhere in the social space,” Reyes said. “You should be listening to those conversations and understand how you do exist in those spaces….We have to make sure we respect and understand what makes these platforms special. Why do people engage with these platforms to begin with?”

Reyes also discussed how brands can measure the performance of social media, while also being socially responsible to communities of people who use the platforms. As for her advice to social media companies, she would like them to be cognizant of why people began using their platforms in the first place.

“If they could keep their ‘special,’ that would be the most important thing to do,” Reyes said. “The reason some of these platforms were born was to fill a need that people didn’t even know they had, or to amplify their lives or to deepen relationships or make connections.”

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