When we take a moment to look at the building blocks on which social media is built, humanity is not the first thing that comes to the mind. Yet, when we strip away like buttons, retweets, and comments, we can see an exchange between brands and their audience that would not have taken place without social networks. During TED Women, Amber Case, a Cyborg Anthropologist, made a profound statement about the evolving world of technology: “It’s not that machines are taking over, it’s that they’re helping us be more human.” Brands should examine the way that they communicate through social networks, and focus on human connections with their customers in the digital space.
Brands should be utilizing social media to engage their followers and perpetuate a lasting, beneficial relationship. Rather than using sales as a reason to join social networks, brands should become members because these platforms allows people from every economic class, from every corner of the globe, to SHARE and ENGAGE with one another. These are actions that allow us to organically reach out to followers rather than force connections. That’s when authentic conversation can truly begin.
How Do Brands Authentically Communicate?
All parties can equally benefit and manifest social good by humanely engaging in social media. The guidelines are simple: Listen, Adapt, and Engage. There may be a great deal of noise on Twitter timelines, but listening to what an audience wants to see and hear from a brand is vital. If brands are hoping to adapt to the digital landscape, they should collect this feedback and become the creators of their own tailor-made content. Followers are no longer satisfied by just reading about your latest product release; instead, a behind the scenes video of how that product was made has become the new trend for top brands. Digital interactions are not superficial; audiences want to feel an emotional connection and be exposed to the inner-workings of a brand’s culture. Feedback and commentary from followers allow the opportunity to engage and to evolve the conversation.
What are the Benefits of Authentic Communication?
Like any inter-personal relationship, there is always a give and take. Once ideas and opinions have been exchanged between brand and audience, the lines of communication have been opened. Communities of followers turn into brand ambassadors that not only endorse by word of mouth, but also publish their loyalties on their vast social networks. Meanwhile, labels offer a sense of belonging by encouraging consumers to be extensions of their brand. Sean McKenzie, public relations and digital executive at Epiphany Media, says: “You need to bring your consumer into the boardroom with you. You have to embrace them. In the days of Mad Men advertising, you spoke to your consumer base as if they were children. Today, you have to treat your consumers as peers, because they are just as smart as you. You have to allow them to create the programs themselves.” The days of one-sided conversation are over; brands must now work together with their customers to develop any digital momentum.
How Can Brands Maintain Authentic Conversation and Community?
Personal relationships are challenging enough, but those between brand and follower are even more delicate. The outreach must be constant and come from a genuine place, apart from hoping to achieve tangible gains. It must be relentless because preserving contact with customers is meaningful. A good place to start for brands is to offer incentives and rewards to consumers that take an interest on social platforms. Next, taking your interactions from online to off will confirm the intimacy of the relationship. For example, sending out personal invitations for local launch events or collection previews to followers that consistently engage. This is not simply putting a face to a Twitter avatar, but welcoming the customer into your brand’s inner circle.
When customers foster the relationship between themselves and the digital presence of a luxury brand, the label should reward them with distinguished status. To achieve optimized satisfaction for all parties involved, social networks should be used as a means to perpetuate social good. With so many means of communication, social media can be the link that draws brands closer to genuine relationships with the people that drive their businesses.
Lala Lopez is a fashion journalist, stylist and social media expert based in New York. Her clients have included Betsey Johnson, Steve Madden, Jeffrey Campbell, and Solestruck.com. She has been featured on CNN, Teen Vogue Magazine and Chictopia. Lala shares her views on fashion, art and social media trends on her blog Lala New York City. (www.lalanyc.com)
Author: Lala Lopez
Copy-editor: Gina Conforti
Photo credits: Kirk Edwards