How Social Media Reflects Human Behaviour

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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Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.


Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.


Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.


At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.