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12/13/2011 Use Social Media to Connect Friends and Family

Brands want people to connect with them through social channels. Social media usage among U.S. Internet users has more than doubled in the last three years (28% to 65% between 2008 and 2011). So brands are increasing the time and money they spend in these channels with the hope of attracting people through deals, content and, in some cases, customer support. 

That’s what brands want. What do most people using social media want? They want to connect with family. They want to connect with their current friends. They want to find old friends. Only a small group of people wants to use social media to connect with other like-minded people around a common interest. 

If you only looked at the marketing efforts online, you might assume that most brands and marketers believe that last group to be bigger than it is. But you would be wrong.

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I think a key question for brands in the next few years is this: What value or utility can they provide that makes it easier or better for people to connect with their friends or family?

A challenge for most is to refocus the gaze from internal needs to external, customer needs. And many times those external needs don’t necessarily have a direct connection to internal “goals” or “plans.” It means moving out of your internal business meetings into a state of empathy.

Here’s an example, imperfectly executed but with a clear value proposition behind it: ShopyCat scans your Facebook friends to recommend gift ideas. Right now the gift ideas aren’t very good, in my opinion. But they have started sending emails to remind me of upcoming birthdays, with those poor gift ideas. While ShopyCat is in the business of selling stuff, they’re doing it by tapping into something that’s very important to me: Remembering my family’s and my friend’s birthdays. They’re attempting to add a layer of utility to keep me connected (and make me look good).

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There aren’t a lot of other good examples, to be honest, although I believe that the ones that support community and charity help will resonate with peoples’ close networks (think Patagonia’s Common Threads initiative). I think there’s a much bigger opportunity for any brand that deals with any kind of food, since that’s a stronger connective tissue between people than we understand.

So when your brand is evaluating your next social initiative, try asking yourself: How can your brand help friends and family connect?


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