All of us have experienced drastic changes as a result of the pandemic. Recently, I shared my struggles with elevated levels of stress and anxiety.
It appears that I am not alone. According to a recent BlueCross BlueShield Association (BCBSA) report, the prevalence of mental health issues is rising. Since the pandemic began, people have reported an increase in negative behaviors that may further increase conditions like anxiety, major depressive order, and also tobacco, substance, and alcohol use disorders.
- Alcohol consumption (21 percent increase)
- Smoking tobacco products (12 percent increase)
- Vaping (8 percent increase)
- Overeating (47 percent increase)
- Substance abuse (7 percent increase)
Another prevalent issue that's widespread but not often talked about is loneliness. We've been living in isolation and quarantine. I’ve watched as grandparents endure the pains of missing their grandchildren. I've seen families deal with feelings of helplessness and heartbreak because they’re not allowed to visit their elderly relatives in nursing facilities. Many of us are still learning to navigate the new methods we must use to connect and keep in touch. We’ve had to accept that many of our face-to-face interactions must now take place via Zoom or video phone calls. All of this change creates stress on top of our loneliness and sadness. We long for a genuine connection with other people.
The Need to Feel Acknowledged
Mark Schaefer wrote recently, “The more time people spend on the internet—especially during this time of crisis—the more lonely, isolated, and depressed they feel. Our customers are literally crying out to belong.”
People, including your customers and social media followers, want to be recognized. They want to feel important. In Dale Carnegie’s iconic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” he references philosopher John Dewey who said that the deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be important.” He goes on to reference other prominent folks who said that same thing—in a different way. For example, philosopher William James said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
I would take things a step further and argue that people crave to simply be acknowledged—to be heard— especially now. It validates their self-worth. We’re living in a time when people need to feel they’re valued. And without as much in-person interaction, they are seeking it online.
How Social Media Can Help Fill the Interpersonal Connection Void
Karen, our community manager, told me once that she can feel the loneliness in some of the responses from the audience on our clients’ pages. Some respond to posts immediately and share very personal information. They love it when we respond and thank them (on behalf of our clients) for sharing their story with us. This is especially true of the social media accounts we manage for a television station. The audience not only feels more connected to others through the show but also via their interactions with us as “the brand.”
They want to be a part of a tribe…to have a shared interest. They want to make a connection.
Building a Customer Community that Facilitates Connectedness
In Mark’s blog post, he makes several points that I believe are important considerations for building a customer community that will help people feel more connected and valued:
- “Customer community is not just a marketing ploy. It’s a total company commitment.”
- “Brands that position themselves as essential members of a cultural movement foster emotional connections with consumers.”
- “The signs that people want to belong to a brand are all around us if you know where to look.”
He also explains that a shared belief in a company’s mission drives a community. At #Strella, we’ve seen this firsthand with our clients. One client, in particular, has a mission to create purposeful, engaging viewing, and listening experiences that entertain, inspire, uplift, and improve families and communities. It’s a mission people can get behind, and it’s one that has enabled the brand to create an engaged and interactive customer community.
Can Your Brand Do This?
Although some businesses may have an easier time than others, I believe it’s possible for any brand, yours included, to create that kind of connection with its audience.
What will it take? You will need a shared mission—something you believe in and stand for and something people can get behind and believe in, too. It will also take a serious commitment to cultivating your community.
As Mark said in his blog post, "As traditional advertising and PR decline in this streaming era, belonging and community—true community—might be the last effective marketing strategy we have left. I don't believe most business professionals realize that.
"Building true customer community is a very significant effort, but it also might be the most important and rewarding accomplishment of your career."
How Do You Start?
To build a community on social media, you must focus on creating a conversation with your audience. You must also respond to them when they offer feedback, ask questions, raise a concern, or reach out to you for any reason. Remember, they need to feel listened to and valued—now more than ever! Yes, it can be time-consuming and require a lot of effort, but the return on that investment will increase exponentially as your community grows.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it all alone. Building communities on social media is what the #Strella team does for our clients. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more about our community management services!