Hootsuite, the most widely used social media management platform, has declared that the “age of experience” is over, and we’re now entering the “age of the individual.”
As a result, there will be multiple shifts in social that will redefine customer experience.
But what does this mean for the business, or the customer?
For starters, popularity will no longer be the name of the game – instead, unique and personal experiences that the customer can identify with will lead the way.
Penny Wilson, Hootsuite’s Chief Marketing Officer, opines that when everyone shares everything, uniqueness becomes a premium.
Customers expect an authentic and personalized relationship with the brands or the influencers that they speak to. They want their interactions with the businesses they speak to, to know who they are, what their goals are and what experiences they want to happen.
The “age of individual” as Wilson described will see customer-led experiences, personalized content, advertising in private spaces, and social data become social intelligence. These realities will result in major paradigm shifts in social media marketing.
From Aspirational to Inspirational Content
This shift in content marketing is about customers owning and championing their own experience. The experience only becomes authentic and relevant when customers define what it looks and feels like.
Unlike a brand-led customer experience that idealizes experiences from the brand’s perspective, a customer-led experience is both personal and personalized.
In short, customers must be inspired to lead that experience and share it.
Personal means more authentic and human, while personalized is being relevant and timely.
“Marketers must find a way to be comfortable shifting to spontaneous, often unscripted and sometimes even challenging conversations in the quest to be authentic,” Wilson adds.
But for content to be personal and personalized, it has to inspire. Brands will need to inspire their customers – existing and potential – through inspirational storytelling and conversations.
Real-life experiences of users can also help restore the trust in social media that has been eroded over the last 12 months and beyond, especially as a result of the Facebook controversy last year over data privacy and security concerns.
Two years ago Forbes challenged brands to change marketing goals to inspiring customers, especially millennials who bring individualistic rather than idealistic goals to the consumer marketplace.
The post-aspirational customer is distinguished by “being able to make a personal statement” through style and brand choices, not the old luxury concept of exclusivity bound by purchasing brands favored by the happy few.
The key to this content strategy is “story-living”, a shift from just storytelling. This type of content goes beyond storytelling and actually living it.
Customers want to experience the brand’s narrative. This humanizes the brand and satisfies the demand for authentic unique experiences.
Toms Shoes has exemplified both inspirational content and story-living in their “A Walk in their Shoes” campaign, an immersive virtual reality experience where customers can view the impact those shoes had in the lives of those helped by the proceeds of the sale of those shoes.
Cardboard VR viewers were given to customers so they could watch the immersive film through Facebook 360, YouTube, and a dedicated iPhone app.
As well as showing the culture behind Toms, and the good work it does, it also inspired their customers to spread the word about not only the campaign, but the brand behind it.
When brands showcase customer narratives, peer-to-peer marketing takes off naturally.
Kieran Mathew, CEO of Amplify Solutions defines story-living as modernized storytelling because “it goes beyond telling people why a brand does what it does, and offers crucial dialogue and consumer engagement.”
Wilson cited Shopify, an e-commerce platform, as the best example of a brand that embraces story-living content strategy.
Their campaign “A Day in the Life of a Shopify Partner” was a collaboration with key customers who took over Shopify’s Instagram and Facebook accounts to share their stories.
Moving the Buyer’s Journey from Multi-channel to Just One
In the “age of the individual”, the customer determines what and where they want to communicate.
While today’s average customer journey from marketing to purchase typically requires six different channels, Wilson believes the new model will require just one.
Beauty retailer Sephora pioneered the use of a messaging app where customers can receive makeup tips, view products, watch video tutorials, as well as the ability to make a purchase directly from the app.
As Hootsuite’s Penny Wilson shares,
The journey will shift from brand-led to customer-led, with customers moving from awareness to evaluation to purchase in one channel, either messenger or voice.
Hootsuite reported that 9 of 10 consumers expect to communicate with a brand through a messaging app.
The new customer experience needs to be optimized so that marketing, sales, and customer support are all delivered in one, easy-to-manage channel.
From Manual to Automated Social Interactions
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will see audiences shift from public spaces to dark social like voice or messaging apps, with conversational marketing made easier by AI-powered bots.
Additionally, AI will help marketers and community managers keep up with multiple conversations and human interactions.
“AI can automate customer’s questions, route messages to different parts of the business, and identify when a customer may need help from an actual human being,” Wilson said.
By automating repetitive tasks or questions, the customer support team is optimized for those important cases that bots can’t answer (brand damage control in a crisis, for example).
Beyond customer support, AI can also be used to process social data to social intelligence. Because of the interactions with customers, AI can collect customer insights that sales and marketing teams can use for more personalized marketing.
As the use of AI grows, we can begin to collect emotional insights from customer interactions through tone and voice, even facial expression in video calls.
As Hootsuite’s Wilson says, “80% of business decisions made daily are based on emotions. Emotion is data too.”
If you want to make the shift and explore ways to enhance your social and customer experience, check out BONDAi.