In 2020 we have all become more connected. There are currently 4.54 billion people spending an average of two hours and 24 minutes online everyday – with nearly half of them reporting increased use of social media and messaging apps. But more significantly, communities, inspiring ideas and common causes have connected us.
Brands across every industry have had to go back to the drawing board and change the way they operate in response to the shifts in customer behaviour. As the recent Global Retail Trends  report from KPMG showed, consumers want to buy from brands that stand for something bigger than profits. In fact, brands that demonstrate a positive impact on people’s lives grow their value 2.5 times  more than brands with a low perceived impact.
As we look to the future, brands that lead with social-first strategies today are strengthening relationships with their customers—and gaining a distinct competitive advantage in a more connected world. Today, they’re leading with purpose-driven messaging to create emotional connections and build long-lasting relationships.
Creating such meaningful connections is not always easy. Tapping into the current zeitgeist and adapting to every swing in the online mood requires a deep understanding of your audience, timely response and direct action. This is where many organisations realised the true value of social media for their businesses - it drives, supports and maintains relationships. Not only is it a medium to broadcast the company’s values, it is also a place where they can engage, have conversations and foster relationships.
The next generation of business innovation will be driven through understanding human connection, not channels. Companies will need to know as much as possible about their customers’ pain points, expectations, reactions to different types of content and what platforms they prefer to use and when. Nearly everyone will now have online expectations, and businesses need to respond to these.
The power of social listening
Customer insights are hugely valuable not just in marketing but across the entire organisation from sales to customer service, human resources and finance. An average person today has almost eight social media accounts, which makes these platforms an integral part in the process of understanding your audience.
For example, social listening and sentiment analysis  can provide game-changing data to inform strategic decisions across an entire business. After all, what better way to understand customers than actually to listen to them?
That said, 96% of the conversations happening on social media are unbranded , which makes it difficult to see how audiences feel about the company, its network or other players in the market. Social listening can help brands tune into these subtle conversations, capture sentiment, and contextualise their messaging—creating opportunities to build meaningful connections across all channels and touchpoints.
Creating meaningful connections
So what constitutes a meaningful connection and more importantly, how does one achieve it at scale? Regardless of the industry, connecting not only with audiences but also employees has to start with empathy - acknowledge the challenges they are facing and offer help where possible. It could be as simple as this message from the Wall Street Journal:
An emotional message sent at the right time through the right channel can be very powerful. If the tone and the intent resonate with your audience, even sponsored content can strike a meaningful connection. From marketers’ standpoint, this means that brand building and performance marketing efforts unify and contribute to the same KPIs including conversions, customer lifetime value and retention.
From the long-term perspective, it is critical to build trust in your brand. Much like in real life relationships, honesty is the best policy on social – be as transparent as possible and follow through on your promises to turn your meaningful connections into long-lasting relationships. Many brands start building trust by inspiring confidence within their organisations. This is not surprising, considering 75% of people look at employees as the most reliable indicator of the company’s intent and values.
Looking back at the past few months, brands that have focused on building meaningful connections with their audience, rather than solely chasing short-term gains, showed themselves as clear favorites among local communities and internationally. Whether you are launching a large-scale campaign or talking to a small local group, stay connected and make it meaningful.
If you’re interested in learning more, download this Social Connections Playbook.