How to successfully connect and engage with your customers and consumers via social media is the natural focus point of our blog, as this is Mindjumpers’ field of expertise. We guide and advice brands on how to take on the challenges of brand communication on the various social media networks and platforms. But to be truly successful, you initially have to think beyond the business aspect. You have to understand the basics of the human needs and wants: How we constantly seek relevance, confirmation, identity and interaction. And though it is basic needs, these needs can have different shapes and sizes depending on culture and demographics.


Social media moves mountains – and governments

In recent times, we’ve seen many examples of how the dynamics of social media can be utilised for other communicative needs than sharing the casual update, photo or link. During The Arab Spring, especially Twitter and Facebook gave younger protesters and activists the perfect tool to voice their protests and, more importantly, to quickly gain the support of the masses by sharing real-time visuals and statements. Threatened by the information provided by the Internet, the government decided to shut it down. Ironically, the shut down of the Internet in Egypt ignited the riots even further. As Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, elaborates, the Mosque activated and organised the older part of the population, Facebook organised the younger population:

“A lot of young people see the freedom to connect as a fundamental right. When the government shuts everything down, and you’re completely unable to communicate with your peers and get access to information and each other, you run into a risk, as a government, of turning something into an issue for people who otherwise would have watched it from the sideline.”

Despite these observations, the threat of the information spread via social media has scared, amongst other countries, The People’s Republic of China to a permanent Twitter ban and even the British Prime Minister threatened to shut down the social network completely during the civil unrest during 2011 – not to mention the strict Olympics restrictions this summer.


The social storm

This week, Hurricane Sandy showed how the same dynamics of social media are utilised to help and support each other despite great distances or immobility. Facebook’s recently acquired photo sharing network, Instagram, experienced an impressive 10 photos pr. second hashtagged #Sandy when the hurricane was at is highest on Oct 29th. Photos of the storm and of people preparing for the potential flooding and electricity fallouts. People interacting by sharing visuals of the situation bringing them together despite great distances. Facebook saw a series of different support groups and pages popping up and quickly gaining huge numbers of members and likes.
To inform and connect the users affected by the storm, Google maps created an interactive map that tracked the hurricane, located the Red Cross emergency shelter closest to the user as well as provided real-time precipitation figures in areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. To make the map as precise as possible, it has integrated YouTube, so that videos uploaded by the platform’s users concerning the hurricane are shown on the map. Furthermore, the map showed already installed webcams that gave the users a real-time view of the different locations.


How to buy into this behaviour as a brand

So, what’s this to you? As a brand, it is important to understand these forces of dynamics in order to give your consumers what they are looking for. Since the recent changes of Facebook’s EdgeRank, it has become increasingly crucial to understand the mindset and behaviour of your Facebook users in order to create content with relevance to your target group and thereby reach their News Feeds. Furthermore, the examples of the dynamic use of the social media platforms also share another learning: How some brands and networks have already realised how to employ themselves in a way relevant to their users and consumers. Twitter and Facebook helped facilitate the revolutions, the help pages etc. on their platforms. Google employed its brand and product to create a super relevant and engaging tool for those either affected by the hurricane or anxious about their loved ones in the area. A local activation of their brand relevant to a specific group of their users. None of which were seen as advertisement from a user perspective, but who nevertheless will help build a positive brand image in the unconsciousness of users.


Give them what they want!

Due to traditional media’s potentially censored and only close-to-real-time nature, social media is filling out an information gap that was previously missing in the natural flow of human interaction and expression. This is the true value of social media: Real-time interaction with content of the highest relevance to the individual. People want content they can relate to, identify with and share amongst their friends. Content and products that they can employ in their search for self-expression and identity. The Arab Spring and Hurricane Sandy are just a few examples of how social media has generated and facilitated this need for connectivity and a shared sense of purpose and relevance at a bigger scale – meanwhile showing the power of local activation. If we see something immediately relatable, we are more likely to share, like or comment. Knowing this, you have to be in sync with your fans in order to ignite this relevance.


The value of social media

As a brand, this huge engagement on social media shows the natural place in human interaction that these networks have gained. They fill out a space. It shows the connectedness and the necessity thereof in our culture. It is a symptom of the real-time, sharing network we live in. As a result, knowledge and news sharing becomes much more effective and wide spread – a great advantage when connecting with customers, but also a huge advantage in the time of need.


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