Social media apps and mobile device operating systems introduced a number of features this year to help people be more mindful of their digital usage. The initiatives are part of the Time Well Spent movement, a concept introduced by former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris whose Ted Talk “A handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day” has been watched nearly 400,000 times.
Features like Facebook and Instagram’s user activity dashboards and YouTube’s reminders to “take a break” are responses to the movement’s focus on digital wellbeing. The question remains whether or not Time Well Spent efforts will reduce the amount of time users spend on their phones and social media and what that might mean for social media campaigns, in particular.
We wanted to know how, or if, marketers are thinking about these efforts and if they’ve impacted their social marketing plans, so we took a poll of 55 marketers to find out.
Time Well Spent isn’t affecting most social media plans
Overall, most marketers said they aren’t all that concerned with efforts to keep user activity in check. According to our poll, 42% of marketers said the movement has had no impact on their social media plans. Another 16% hadn’t even heard of the Time Well Spent movement before.
Just over one-in-five (23%) said the movement had not impacted social strategy but was on their radar.
Just 18% said the Time Well Spent movement had influenced their social media strategy.
What social media insiders have to say about Time Well Spent
John Petty, the head of social strategy for Wieden + Kennedy, said his agency has not seen any evidence the movement is lessening activity on social apps or mobile devices.
“From the platform side, I’m sure reports will surface supporting Time Well Spent, but thus far, we haven’t seen too much of a shift in engagement — not drastic enough for us to attribute to this effort,” said Petty, “I will say, our platform partners do a really good job of keeping us up to speed on their best practices and aiding in the application of those practices.”
On an anecdotal level, Modern Impact founder and CEO Michael Priem wonders if companies like Apple and Google are being altruistic by launching digital well being features, or responding to pressure.
“It seems like an olive branch to users — and parents of screen-addicted kids — to provide these new features. After all, we’ve already bought the phone, right? Can you really tell us that Apple and Google want to limit App purchases and usage?” asked Priem.
Echoing Petty’s findings, Priem says he doesn’t believe the Time Well Spent movement will result in a drastic change in user behavior.
Prioritizing user behavior over platform rules
Petty said that, while the Time Well Spent initiative is on his agency’s radar, they prioritize human behavior over tech. Instead he offered up a scenario that would flip digital wellbeing initiatives 180-degrees.
“I’m almost certain there exists an audience somewhere who will feel compelled to gamify this feature and use it as a scorecard, and among the group, whomever has accumulated the most time spent wins. Could you imagine?” asked Petty, “In that case, it’s a different world — a group of teens circling up at the lunch table or by a row of lockers checking each others’ scorecards is social behavior, and emerging from that huddle as ‘the victor’ grants an immense amount of social currency.”
The head of social strategy said it would be problematic for his agency to prioritize a platform’s digital well being efforts over user behavior. “If we’re partnering with a brand whose audience is that group of teens, we’d be irresponsible to design strategies that strip audiences of their social currency. Our content and experiences will forever be primarily tailored to our audience and their behavior. The platform rules come second.”