Tapping into Social Convergence

This article is the first in a series that will look at convergence across society, technology, industry and context; and the implications this will have on consumer behaviour and the ways we help brands to communicate.

People have always come together to discuss and share their passions, from local community groups to parents groups. The difference in more recent times is that the internet has created a range of platforms to help facilitate this. From brand lover to band lover, the internet has given people a community and a forum to come together and share these interests.

Known as social convergence i.e. communities with a singular interest, this, along with technology convergence such as the smartphone as an entertainment hub, industry convergence such as businesses like Amazon creating content, and context convergence i.e. the influence on consumer behaviour; is greatly impacting and changing the media landscape, resulting in more devices, more channels, and the proliferation of on demand services.

In this fragmented media landscape, social convergence presents numerous opportunities for brands to harness the power of fans loyalty and passions. They can tap into communities grown organically around joint passions or life stages such as Reddit, or build and nurture platforms to unite fans such as the PlayStation Forum.

Here are my 5 key rules for brands tapping into social convergence:

  1. Get communities to help shape the company

Nobody knows or cares about your brand more than your loyal customers!

Star Bucks ‘my Starbucks ideas’

The ‘My Starbucks Idea’ forum is a brand funded and supported platform for customers to provide suggestions, ideas and general feedback about their Starbucks experience. By creating a community that encourages Starbucks lovers to share their experience, the brand is able to capture and mine this data to make fast acting business improvements as well as crowd source ideas (over 275 have been implemented to date).

  1. Create events to unite and celebrate fans

Investing in and developing platforms to bring together fans can result in big rewards.

League of Legends & Esport

‘League of legends’ by Riot Games is currently one of the world’s most popular ‘real time strategy’ video games with 85 million players. The final global tournament attracted more than 27 million streaming viewers (9 times more than tuned in for the AFL grand final), filled a 40,000 seat stadium in Korea, and had over US $2million prize money. Big brands such as Coke and American Express are now sponsoring these tournaments to help them connect with millennial audiences.

  1. Building a community is not a short term endeavour

Brands that sponsor a community passion e.g.  Sports sponsorship, can benefit from incremental brand awareness, positive association, and sales and broadcast rights that block competitors. However this takes time.

Telstra & NRL/AFL

Australian icon Telstra is a long term sponsor of the NRL (15+ years) and the AFL (13 years), this involvement gives the brand access to a range of in-program, talent and on-field integration opportunities that help to drive brand health and product sales.

  1. Provide something of real value that reflects brand values

Giving fans and loyalists of a product something of value that goes over and above simple discounts and aligns to brands core values can further cement loyalty and turn fans into advocates.

Nike Run Club

Nike launched the ‘Nike Run Club’, as a way to get casual and enthusiastic runners to run more and form a community with other runners in major cities around the world. The club is free to join and offers free training classes, the ability to track results, and to compete against friends via the app. This program is deeply aligned to the Nike mission statement of ‘bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’.

  1. Be transparent about your brands involvement

Brands that speak to consumers through their passions online e.g. via social media, need a clearly defined policy of what they will say, who will say it, and most importantly if an employee is speaking on behalf of the company or as an individual. This is key to an authentic and lasting relationship, and helps consumers understand not only who they are communicating with, but also whether that individual speaks on the company’s behalf.

Adidas and its online policy

Adidas is one of many global brands with well-defined and transparent online policy which states “Employees are allowed to associate themselves with the company when posting but they must clearly brand their online posts as personal and purely their own. The company should not be held liable for any repercussions the employees’ content may generate.

So why should brands care about social convergence?

  • It can bring together groups of consumers who love your company enough to help shape it’s outcomes (and offer timely and relevant feedback)
  • It can create opportunities to turn fans into advocates who will tell others (power of word of mouth)
  • It presents an opportunity to build positive affinity by leveraging a property or interest e.g. a brand that sponsors a sport can tap into a fan base or a group of loyal consumers
  • It means talking to consumers via mutual interests or passions points, which can be more powerful and effective than targeting people via life stage or demographic segmentation
  • It means advertising can be more focused and more relevant. Less reliant on reach, and more driven by community engagement to increase sales

Social convergence will continue to create new opportunities, and pose new challenges to brands who want to connect with consumers. While fragmentation may make it more difficult to communicate and create cut-through with consumers, the convergence around communities is an opportunity for brands who are willing to invest the time and resources to align to passion points.

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