Lockdowns. School closings. Business shutdowns. Zoom. The year 2020 brought all sorts of new realities to our doorstep. Some requiring reasonable adjustments to our everyday lives. And others that rocked our world completely (especially on the business front).
If you were fortunate enough to keep your company’s doors open during the pandemic, you know that you needed to pivot your strategy accordingly to survive. Let’s take a look at how things have changed for consumers and brands over the past year.
The Digital World Can Be Cold and Lonely
When the lockdowns occurred, it was a no-brainer for consumers to convert to online everything — shopping, hang-outs, business meetings, etc. But the isolation the pandemic caused has led to a growing desire for human connection. People were forced into lives of introversion and are now jonesing for human connection—wherever and with whoever they can get it.
And this very much includes brands. According to a recent CGS survey, 38% of American consumers and 39% of UK consumers stated that having the opportunity to speak to a live agent was a make-or-break factor for a successful customer service interaction. Another 28% of U.S. respondents said they were disappointed when a brand didn’t offer a human-to-human option. And unsurprisingly, there’s been a rise in calls to live support agents.
It’s a growing trend that has to be addressed by brands, especially if you want to thrive in 2021. So let’s take a look at the importance of building that human connection with your audience.
Does Your Brand Need Personality? Buyers Say Yes
Without personality, your brand will struggle to compete for the attention (and business) of your target customers. That’s because today’s buyers, especially after COVID-19, are demanding human experiences with brands.
So it’s not enough to just open up a line of communication with them — they want it to feel personable and relatable. Think of it like creating friendships with your customers, like a traditional mom-and-pop shop would. In other words, your brand needs to feel like an actual human to your customers, which means showing empathy and speaking on topics that resonate with your audience.
Or better yet, if you’re able to build a community for your audience, you’ll see even greater engagement. In fact, your customers demand it. According to a Sprout Social survey, 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them and use their power to help people. Nearly half expect brands to bring folks together for a common goal.
But before you ramp up your email and social media communications, keep in mind consumers want conversation (not marketing/advertising). The same survey shows people want authentic relationships with brands and want to connect with the people behind the brand. This includes CEOs and founders (alongside employees).
As Lindsay, our CEO said at the end of 2020: “As we head into 2021, marketers still face a huge amount of uncertainty and have become expert adapters. They’re applying learnings from last year (A.K.A. “The Year that Shall Not Be Named”) about how important it is to maintain strong relationships with our audiences regardless of our ability to meet in person. This year, marketers will double down on more engaging media like podcasts, videos, and live streams that truly set out to serve audiences before search engines. The brands that put human connection over algorithms will win.”
It’s all about making a human connection and attempting to make a positive impact on lives. If you can build discussions around topics that matter to your audience, then it shows you care and are rooting for awareness and change.
Take, for example, PG&E’s ad “Thank You, Mom.” This showcases a series of stories from various athletes sharing stories about their mothers protecting them in traumatic situations and how they overcame them to become great athletes. It’s brilliant because it resonates with people from different walks of life. If you look at the comments on the channel, you’ll see the impact it’s had on millions of people.
It speaks to those who’ve gone through similar problems—people who just want to be inspired to get through their own issues.
Find ways to engage with your audience through storytelling, and you’ll make it easier to connect and build trust. You may even find greater success by turning these into discussions on podcasts, social media, and other platforms (vs. using ads).
How Podcasts Help Create Human Connections (and Relationships)
Podcasts are paving the way for experts, brands, and influencers to connect with their audiences in a genuine and real way. It’s an intimate experience that creates a connection between you and the listener. On top of that, podcasts are accessible to most, a convenient and multitasking form of media, and full of passion.
As Scott Monty, the CEO and Principal of Scott Monty Strategies put it on our podcast: “I think podcasting is probably the most intimate medium that there is. Why? Because you’re going directly into someone’s ears, whether they are on a treadmill, out for a walk, working in the garden, commuting, it’s you to them. It isn’t on a screen, it’s not on a billboard. It’s not a video that you’re watching. It’s actually communicating directly into someone’s brain.
“When I talk about podcasting being intimate, it’s you having a relationship with the listener, and the listener is one person at a time. They don’t know how many other people, they’re not in a studio or an auditorium as part of our presentation. It’s you to them, one to one. And the opportunity to treat them like it’s you and them having a conversation or like you’re bringing them on the inside, that’s so powerful. If you make them feel like a participant, rather than a spectator, the opportunity to build the loyalty and the trust and the relationship with the brand is absolutely yours for the taking.”
It’s About People, Not Algorithms
As marketers, we’ve spent years trying to appease the algorithm gods at Google. And it just so happens that Google’s top priority was always to deliver great experiences to its users. Yet, many brands are thinking about the algorithm over the human when creating content. So it’s time to focus more on the human and you can do that through conversations.
The brands that build campaigns using tools that enable conversations with their audience will have a higher chance of excelling. And as Lindsay put it:
“That’s so important. It’s connection. It’s seeking first to build that relationship and to serve and to provide relevancy.”
At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that your content, whether it’s a podcast, blog, ebook, video, etc. focuses on putting humans first. Make sure you’re creating content that pushes human connection, that’s from you, as a brand, directly to them, your customer. If you can refocus your efforts on bringing a human-to-human approach vs. targeting algorithms, we have no doubt that your brand will succeed.
For more info on how to focus on the human-to-human approach in marketing, and how that fits into your amplified marketing strategy, click here!