It makes you step back and think and eventually realize that those who follow us will be born into a purely digital society where eBooks and augmented reality have gone from exotic to everyday.
Thinking about what this means in the future is intriguing, but it’s equally interesting right here and now in 2013. Technology, software and the devices we use, have of course shaped our social and human behavior on a number of levels, from shopping, to leisure, to business. Lives are lived online, and the opportunity to have a live feed into the minds of those you care about is becoming a clearer reality. People are more willing to share and consume horizontally through their social networks, rather than vertically. The organic spread of ideas, relationships, and trade can now be observed and measured on scales of unprecedented detail.
There is no doubt that as more and more businesses advertise, show and deliver online communications, they have had to adapt to a world of highly concentrated digital consumption. This, however, can provide opportunities through and alongside their digital marketing to show human connection. An online retailer, for example, can still bring visible human aspects to their business. They can:
1. Show the people within the business on their website people pages and social channels, e.g. LinkedIn profile page and Facebook.
2. Personalize your twitter with a unique or a range of social media staff administrators, giving a personal tone to the messages and responses provided.
3. Ensure that sales and support emails come from employee addresses and use appropriate signatures to show real people behind the aspect of customer service and gain confidence.
4. Deliver video and audio content, including staff, and connect to the audience in real terms and improve the personality of the brand.
5. Personalize marketing emails on the basis of preferences, both through whom they are addresses.
In the case of Twitter, a number of companies place images on their background image of their help team to show people what they look like.
It is a small move, but it is effective in demonstrating that there are people there who will engage with you, irrespective of the query. A high street retailer with an “inevitable” online presence can also humanize the digital experience of their consumer and at the same time complement the real experience in store by:
1. Promoting online special offers and promotions, but only available in store to drive footfall and human interaction.
2. Building online knowledge among employees to help deliver personal sales and consumer loyalty.
3. Use social media to help inform consumers about products, local teams and staff.
4. Have real employees actively engaged in online customer service and social media contexts.
5. Ensure that telephone numbers are clearly promoted online and customized to ensure more voice contact where possible.
I think we all know, out of necessity, the inevitability of an increased trend towards more digital consumption and communication, but that doesn’t mean we need to be any less human. It’s about equilibrium. We must continue to act, sound and appear human even online and I hope that the norm isn’t that we get lazy and devalue personal contact by default over a more convenient digital equivalent or alternative.
I often refer to Starbucks as an outstanding brand that appears to be making all the right moves in terms of their digital brand strategy and in terms of humanizing their experience, they are actually doing the following very well.
1. Promote online a wide variety of special promotions in cafés.
2. They have a very personal and responsive presence on social media led by fans, not the brand.
3. They have a strong global presence, but they have great local content and activity online.
4. Starbucks on mobile for the benefit of the café.
5. Humanizing and content that is socially engaging and accessible.
A great example of this last point is in the “Join Us” section on the.co.uk website. The content on this page helps paint a picture of an inclusive, social and people -centric brand built on community. This is what their product and experience stands for yet here it is simply using social media and technology as the delivery mechanism. This avoids many of the big mistakes many brands make, by adopting technology and digital platforms, yet they have no brand supporting or strengthening content strategies.
For more social reasons, Google Glass and its competitors are another example worth noting. This product due to its launch in 2014 has the potential for us to be more human from the perspective of being able to consume our digital media consumption while interacting normally-connected to the real world. An argument to this, however, is that we can disconnect from the re as users of the product.
Related to this discussion from the perspective of social media is a really good Q&A worth checking out with Nicholas Christakis from the TED series, entitled: “Our modern, connected lives.” It’s interesting because it raises many points about our influence and behavior driven by our modern connected online social experiences. It is a well-balanced series of responses from a real world vs digital perspective to issues of friendship, social influence and even online.
In Conclusion One thing is for sure, digital media has the potential to dehumanize our lives as we live our lives online, interacting with devices rather than with individuals. We do know that as inevitable as this is, from how it can help us connect instantly on a global scale with people, we can take positive steps. We can also be encouraged by brands ‘ activities providing people with digital content and engagement strategies that are centric and accessible, initiating and motivating personal and brand contact on a regular basis.