By Cyndi Pyburn

Fact: We are all social animals. Seeking acceptance and staying in touch with friends and family is an important part of our lives, and social media is a great way to do this. In fact, social media is today’s ‘glue’. It is also a great way for marketers to connect with their target customers. However, social media can easily turn into an intense and frantic activity with the unintended outcomes of backlash and social isolation. When social media becomes a tool to ‘keep up with the Jones,’ its value diminishes rather quickly.

Fact: Research links heavy Facebook and social media use to depression.

“Compared with the total time spent on social media, use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults, researchers have found in a national survey. People who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.”

Science Daily, Dec 2016

In addition to feelings of depression, over-use can ignite many powerful and often negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, stress, and pressure. Like any vice, the rule of thumb is to use it in moderation. But when social media is used to fill a void, it can be worrisome.  Are you in danger?

Constantly and relentlessly checking your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts illustrates obsessive compulsive disorder traits. Doing so is exhausting and takes you away from more important things in life. The syndrome of the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ can also set it where it seems like everyone else seems to do more, be happier, and lead more exciting lives.

Social media does have a dark side. More serious problems include bullying, alienation, stalking, and stranger-danger, but our own innocent behaviours cause problems too. Oversharing can lead to lost friendships, jobs, relationships, and cell phone privileges. A Facebook share of your hilarious night out could inadvertently get a friend into trouble because you forgot you had also added their mother as a friend. It happens! On the other hand, that innocuous share could be misinterpreted by another friend and create distrust.  Seeing a group of friends hanging out together, without you, could easily lead to feelings of envy and less worth – why weren’t you invited?

So what’s a marketer to do? First, connect smartly with your target customers. Know who they are and what they want. Second, share relevant content only. Don’t over-communicate or constantly re-target them causing them to feel like they’re being stalked. You know how annoying it is to keep seeing ads on your computer for a product you bought a week ago! Third, put the retailer or brand in a positive, helpful light.

Use marketing tools to connect authentically with customers, perhaps online communities. There are many great examples of branded communities that engage with their fans and build brand ambassadors.

  • Harley Davidson Community connects riders for rides, roadside assistance, touring handbooks, mileage recognition, insurance – all designed to help fans get the most out of their hog.
  • Lego Education Community connects teachers for lesson plans, activities, and professional development.
  • Frank & Oak Community helped the retailer curate products and expand into physical locations.

Experiential marketing can create a closer bond between consumers and brands by immersing customers in a fun and memorable experience. If a brand event stirs genuine positive emotions within people then they are more likely to associate those emotions with that brand. This is far more effective than just showing them a Facebook ad. Examples of experiential marketing include:

  • Competitions, contests, prizes
  • Giveaways, free samples
  • Athlete sponsored events and interactions
  • Pop-up stores with interactive virtual reality
  • Local corporate philanthropy

As video becomes a huge part of the social media experience, companies can take advantage of this technique too. Brands that prioritize social videos over traditional web videos will generate greater success, particularly if those videos are short and inspirational.

Connecting with consumers has never been easier nor more difficult at the same time. Understanding the desire to have both an authentic and a real connection with people, despite technology, can help guide marketing and spend decisions.