Social media has the potential to create more engaging, two-way dialogue between brands and their customers. But so far, it hasn’t delivered. Rebekah Mackay Miller, MD of trnd, discusses human nature, collaboration and conversations in marketing.
Collaboration is an innately human instinct. It’s through earning and reciprocating trust that the human race has survived. So it’s not really surprising that the drive towards collaboration, relationships and conversations in marketing is still going strong. Social media drew brands in with the promise of turning the traditional one-way ad-based marketing model into a far more engaging, two-way dialogue between brands and their customers. But in reality, it hasn’t delivered. Most companies have replicated the ad-based marketing model onto social media and Facebook itself has repositioned as an advertising platform, making it another channel for marketing at people, rather than with them. As a result, engagement is limited.
But the importance of authentic two-way engagement still stands. It can be facilitated (and scaled) by technology – not on social media, but in branded online communities and platforms that let people talk to each other, share feedback and get involved with the brands they care about. Those communities are fantastic opportunities for brands to listen to the people who will have a direct impact on their success – the people who’ll influence others to buy. So how do you build connections with those people?
Giving back and earning trust
At an event earlier this year, we talked to Aedrian Bekker, a chartered clinical psychologist who runs a consulting firm, OR Consulting, in London. He spoke about what drives people to collaborate, and to participate in marketing programmes with companies.
The crux is that people have to get something back from the brand. There has to be something in it for them. That might be something that gives us social currency, something we can tell our friends about, like a preview of a new product before it hits the market, or a behind-the-scenes peak at a film shoot, or even a mark of accreditation (such as those TripAdvisor gives to contributors).
People also need to relate to whatever it is that the brand is offering, and to have a human connection with the brand. We’re not talking a trivial nod, it must be meaningful. Is an often misspelt name on a paper coffee cup (for example) going to achieve this? This is particularly important in a branded community; people want to be heard, and for their opinion to count for something. That means being acknowledged by a real person – someone they feel is on the same wavelength. People want to be treated as individuals, not as a single mass.
Trust matters enormously. When you choose between two products on a shelf, you’ll pick the one you trust to deliver results. A brand that has an open and honest two-way connection with its customers will earn that trust. Also important is a sense of fairness and positive action – Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is a great example of that.
Tap into human instincts
Imagine the potential for a brand that can tap into these human instincts for collaboration and making connections. If you get it right, and build a community of genuinely engaged people, you’ll gain insights into what they want from your brand and collect meaningful, rich data on the real people buying your products. Once you start to connect the dots between this and what you already know about your customers, you’ll have a highly efficient collaborative marketing machine that will power your brand awareness, inform product development, empower customer service and enrich future marketing activity.
And best of all? Those people are out there already, ready and willing to work with you to grow your brand, you’ve been nurturing them, your customers for years. Now you just have to connect with them in the right way.
Rebekah Mackay Miller