Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing at Hootsuite, talks about how brands can create meaning in an uncertain world.
I recently spoke at Social Media Week’s Virtual Conference: #SMWone on how we can Reimagine Social Media in an Uncertain World… though, when I think about it, nothing is ever really certain for a brand. Day to day, quarter to quarter, there are never any guarantees.
The recent global COVID-19 crisis and the social and economic effects of the pandemic have provided substantial servings of uncertainty for brands and people alike—and social media has become the most effective tool to help brands mitigate these impacts in the face of crisis.
Related | COVID-19 And The Return To Real
As people turn to each other to ease isolation and reconnect—social is where they’re doing it. Social media use is predicted to hit 50% by the end of 2020, and many people expect their new habits to continue after the COVID-19 outbreak, with one in seven expected to continue spending more time using social media.
The use of video conferencing apps has skyrocketed since March 2020, and video calls in VR have arrived (yes, it’s true—a virtual office app called Spatial is giving users a way to conduct meetings in full virtual reality). So for brands, this crisis has been a significant reminder to zoom (no pun intended) back in on what matters. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships—a not so subtle reminder that human connection is what matters the most. Isn’t that what social media was always supposed to be about anyway?
A Chance to React and connect.
Organizations around the world have raced to connect and serve customers to protect social connections, finding alternative offerings to avoid complete business disruption. We’ve seen this happen across almost every industry. It’s been an immediate shift.
Right now, we don’t know when we’ll re-enter a library, a movie theatre, or be able to attend a concert in the same way we once did. What we do know is that the world is forever changed, and brands who’ve humanized their strategies are continuing to garner positive responses online.
One thing that we’ve noticed at Hootsuite when we’re looking at social data is that people are talking a lot—and 1:1 messaging is at the center of the chatter.
By early April, a study of 25,000 consumers across 30 markets had shown engagement increasing 61% over normal usage rates. According to Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes, messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp had increased 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus. And Twitter saw 23% more daily users than a year ago.
So now that everyone’s online… what type of relationships do you want to build?
People might want a relationship with you too, but first, they want to know you care—and more importantly, why. Brands are starting to realize that by developing a broader narrative outside of products and services, and by sharing those stories on social, they can significantly amplify the number of people they’re reaching.
When we boil it all down, brands have to go beyond the products they’re selling. If they want to drive sales, they have to build real and authentic connections, and they have to do it now.
Build: Provide exceptional customer experiences for changing consumer demands.
So, who’s doing it right?
Well, lately we’ve seen some bigger, more meaningful conversations leading the charge on social, all from brands who have one thing in common—they’ve identified the importance of focusing on something larger than themselves. Value.
In my opinion, State Farm does an excellent job of using social to express its brand purpose, which is to be a good neighbor. And they know that the most important characteristic of a good neighbor is that they show up when they’re needed. When there’s a disaster or event, they’re right there with a shovel to help in a big way. Sure, they don’t show up every day…but when they do, it counts.
Gymshark is a fitness brand that runs gyms. They post a lot of user-generated content on Instagram, where they share live workouts, tips, and stories. We’re talking lots of content and lots of frequency. But the nature of their business means that higher frequency posting is valuable to the audience because they want to be encouraged to work out and build the habit of exercise into their daily life. Gymshark understands this and has been rewarded with incredible organic growth. Eight million user-generated posts have been tagged on Instagram with #gymshark, and popular posts reach +750,000 engagements. An average post gets about 30-40 thousand interactions.
And then there’s Burger King. What I love about Burger King is that they know they’re fast food. But they take that and use it to create smart, witty, and funny conversations on social. They do it every day, and they do it impeccably.
Burger King knows its place. They’re your friend… you know, that one you’re always bantering back and forth with. This might seem casual, spontaneous even, but it serves a very intentional marketing goal: to increase the share of voice to remind you that they sell burgers… so next time you’re hungry, you think of them first. Because of this, they focus a lot on reach. A lot of press and shares, serving their place in culture, over and over again.
But you’re not Burger King, so where do you start?
Start by becoming part of a bigger conversation—and remember to create substance and meaning. Creating experiences worth remembering will help you connect and convert customers. And always use social data to deepen customer relationships.
At Hootsuite, we love to dive into Brandwatch, which we’ve integrated into our dashboard under the Insights by Brandwatch tool. Capabilities like emotional data, quick response times, and sentiment analysis are extremely powerful engines, allowing you to quickly pivot according to trending moments on social media and during important world events. Use this data to strengthen customer bonds and drive sales. Data is your superpower.
Over the last four weeks at #SMWOne, the topic that came up over and over again was that by fostering community, leading with empathy, and embracing change, brands can create prosperous futures for themselves and their communities.
Earlier this month, The CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, wrote a powerful letter to his employees—where he reminded us of how impactful simply being human can be. Out of its 7,500 Airbnb employees, the company laid off nearly 1,900 teammates. The open letter to Airbnb employees and the rest of the world was packed with empathy, gratitude, love, and a hefty amount of information—no detail was left unattended. This letter stuck with me long after I read it. To me, that’s impact in its truest form.
We don’t know what’s next—so why not keep it simple? Streamline your social strategies around being as real as possible, provide experiences and value at every turn, and at the end of the day… Be that neighbor with a shovel.