Maintaining Social Engagement
As the new decade continues to produce monumental changes for much of the world, how we interact with the internet and what we have come to expect from service providers is also rapidly changing. With greater awareness of digital ethics, how companies are using your data online, and stark examples of how digital echo chambers can affect the democratic process, many people are looking at the role that social media plays in their lives and how they interact with it.
Alongside a greater exposure of the data practices of social media platforms by documentaries like Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”, options for greater online privacy have also rapidly increased. Browsers like DuckDuckGo and the enforcement of GDPR regulations have resulted in a greater degree of digitally educated users, and so a change in how (and where) they are willing to interact with brands online.
Compounding this growing scepticism amongst digital users, brand interaction on social platforms has become more and more formulaic, often content for the sake of content with little value beyond a drive for ‘engagement’, regardless of whether that engagement drives any meaningful return on investment or long term strategic goal - creating more cynical users who are less responsive to campaigns as well as more likely to criticise brands for empty content.
However, working against these unique conditions for user knowledge and engagement, we are also experiencing a huge shift towards e-commerce over brick and mortar stores - predominantly driven by COVID-19 and the need for low travel, low contact solutions; UK online sales growth for 2020 hit a 13-year high at +36.6% year-on-year, whilst the US saw over a decade’s worth of digital penetration in 90 days during Q1 2020 - showing us that digital commerce itself is still a service in high demand.
So, how does a business maintain and improve their customer relationships online in the face of massive digital demand, but increasing digital frustration?
If your social media channels are no longer driving meaningful customer interaction, utilise your other digital channels, or even go offline with physical campaigns tied directly to customer experiences and business interactions; remind customers of physical experiences that they cannot find online, or provide interesting digital engagement points that will draw users to your platform and keep them there for longer. Businesses embracing this principle include American Airlines, who have launched a wine subscription service based around their travel tiers and premium experiences in the air.
Maintaining your social media channels despite the backlash against algorithms and empty marketing can be a challenge. Ensuring that any content you use on those platforms is just as rich and meaningful as the on-site or offline experiences you offer, whilst avoiding bandwagons and social trends that do not fit with your brand presentation and perception (like Pepsi’s much mocked social harmony ad). Social content does not have to be long form - short, natural posts that break away from the usually cold, corporate tone of voice can also be extremely popular, giving users something to empathise with or respond to that differs from other brands. Ensuring your content is unique, that it is created with a specific aim and not for the sake of filing social schedules, and that your business values will shine through are key objectives to maintaining positive customer relationships in the face of current events.