In order to create lifelong bonds with consumers, brands are constantly searching for ways to meaningfully connect. Social media is one of the best ways to establish those connections, but in order to find success, understanding the norms of different channels is key.
Each social media channel has its own culture and common language. Whether its a product, brand or retail store, consumers find connections in a variety of ways. And now, that communication has moved beyond one-way to two-way communication; consumers can leave you a comment on your hardware store Facebook page and you can respond to them.
This emphasis on understanding the culture of social media and all the various channels available was a topic of discussion at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual event in New York last month.
Vicki Cantrell, former senior vice president of communities for NRF and executive director of Shop.org moderated the session “Social and the Art of the Influencer” at Retail’s Big Show. She spoke with Melissa Davis, executive vice president and general manager of ShopStyle, and Google executive Abigail Posner, head of strategic planning for The Zoo, Google’s creative think tank. The executives discussed the importance of authenticity and building relationships with consumers.
What Matters in Social Media for Consumer-Company Relationships
During the session, Posner explained how Google has taken a closer look at the social media landscape. The tech company worked with anthropologists to “decode” these digital worlds to discover what is going on in them, why consumers do what they do and why consumers spend so much time on social media.
“What we learned from the research is how human a space social media is,” Posner says. “It is immediate, raw and unfiltered—which expects and requires authenticity from individuals and brands alike.”
During the conversation, Posner went on to share that the emergence of social media has created a different relationship between a retailer and consumer than ever before.
“For retailers, you used to talk to the customer or just give information, it was in most cases one-way communication,” she says. “Now, it’s two-way, and it hasn’t been this way for too long. The challenge for the retailer now is how to listen, get to know the customer in a different way and use that data.”
According to Posner, companies and brands that are most beloved by their customers are those who have a human relationship with the consumer. For example, the person managing the social media platforms for a business shouldn’t act like a robot, but rather a real person who cares about the customer. Posner says social media interactions from a retailer to a customer must be authentic, sound like a real person, show interest and genuinely care for others.
Another tip retailers should understand is that admitting mistakes and asking the customer for feedback or suggestions on how to improve is much better than avoiding feedback. A retailer who portrays their brand in a raw and vulnerable way has a much better chance of winning people over, Posner adds.
To ensure your social media presence is well received, understanding the various platforms and languages of each of them is essential. As Posner explains, Facebook is a site where people project their best self; Twitter can be a bit snarky; Snapchat is a goofy space.
“Every different space has its own world you have to play to fit into it,” Posner says. “The landscape is a world of human beings with different ways to interact.”