When social media landed a few years ago, many of us scratched our heads for a while before we set about sharing the details of our takeaway sushi lunch with the world. At the time it felt important, but a few weeks down the line we couldn’t help but think these platforms were designed for more than extolling the virtues of shredded ginger and wasabi.
It’s fairly typical to attempt to pigeon-hole alien concepts and ideas; we’re comfortable with labels. It’s even more typical to assume we’ve seen something very like it before so we already know how to utilise them. So the next step for many of us was to use social media as a broadcasting platform, because it was just ‘a new name for marketing’, right? Hmmm. Not quite.
Today we’ve grasped the idea of mutually beneficial two-way communication, and social media is helping many businesses fairly and squarely get their name on the map, not because they’ve thrown loads of dosh at their marketing budget, but because they’ve tuned into what people want and what people value.
And whilst we’ve certainly made progress, we’re still a long way from having got this ‘social’ thing licked. The truth is we’ve barely even scratched the surface.
What’s proving to be the case is that people primarily want to be part of a community, because communities support, assist and, most importantly, they care. And from a marketing perspective, companies would do well to take onbaoard that we’ll take notice of our community long before we listen to a brand.
It’s the sense of belonging that people want, because that’s where they can speak freely and where they’re listened to. And it’s not about becoming weak and dependent, it’s about adding strength and resilience to the foundations of independence.
Have you seen the jocular images of herds of people staring down at their smartphones in restaurants, bars and other notably crowded public venues? We laugh at the absurdity of individuals who shun actual face-to-face contact in order to stare at their phone, but the truth is they are making contact. They’re communicating with people who have shared interests and values; they’re just not the people they’re sat next to.
Of course, there’s a line to be drawn when it comes to continually checking Facebook when you’re out to dinner with friends, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that we’re turning into passive automatons who have no contribution to make. If anything it’s the reverse that’s true.
Supported, strong communities result in prosperity for everyone, and prosperity as many of us are now realising is about far more than simply money in the bank.
And whether those communities exist on or offline really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that they exist, and that they thrive.
If social media continues to evolve as a conduit for care, compassion, kindness, support and understanding, then so be it. That’s a trend I’ll happily support.