Can social media be a "gratifying" experience for your customers and prospects? History and current trends suggest that's up to the messenger.
As early as the 1960s, uses and gratifications theory (UGT) was focused on how the mediums of television and radio could satisfy an audience's needs. In the 1980s, D.L. Swanson expanded the study of UGT into understanding the role of messaging in media.
This expanded study led to further research into how media content can generate different forms of gratifications and lead to content consumption interests. Marketers are now trying to figure out how to achieve similar goals through social media and online content. Once again, the concept of UGT has to evolve.
A 2016 study called Social Media Engagement Behaviour: A Uses and Gratifications Perspective explored the concept of UGT in social media because it is designed explicitly for engagement through different types of content offerings. They broke up that content into four engagement content groups:
Information (resourceful and helpful information)
Entertainment (escapism, emotional release, hedonistic pleasure)
Remunerative (incentives, drawings, giveaways)
Relational (connections, friendships, relationships, support, friends, family)
They concluded that UGT in social media expands beyond traditional media ideas because customers were no longer passive but active participants.
In traditional media, marketers could count on a captive audience to consume their content, but that's not enough anymore. Now, the audience scours their feeds, skimming through posts and choosing content that has relevance to them.
Proposing Marriage Before Having Coffee
When marketers could make an instant sales pitch to a captive audience, it was expected and understandable. Doing this on social media is like proposing marriage before you even have coffee.
In other words, leading with "Will you marry me?" is similar to leading with, "Check out this great deal!" Appeals to "check out a deal" and other calls to action tend to result in lower engagement rates from consumers as they ignore the pleas. That's because they face multiple "marriage proposals" every time they go online - even though research shows that only 3% of buyers are ready to buy (or say "Yes").
According to Customer Engagement in Social Media: A Framework and Meta-Analysis, "Customer engagement is based on trust and commitment that then generate satisfaction and positive emotion."
So, the key to positive response is building trust and forming a relationship.
What's More Gratifying than Tacos?
I bet you were wondering when I was getting to the TACO part, right? You thought I got distracted by coffee talk. Don't worry, here come the tacos!
I don't know about you, but just writing the word "tacos" gets me hungry for them. With that in mind, maybe all a company like Taco Bell would need to do on Twitter is just write and share posts about tacos, right? The rest would take care of itself?
Taco Bell is a perfect example of recognizing the importance of engagement. They launched their social sites (like Twitter) and used them as an advertising tool.
The brand name alone was good enough to generate a "following," but they were significantly behind other brands. This is problematic in an industry that relies heavily on customer gratification and loyalty.
Nick Tran (their former Head of Social Media) said, "We were taking content and commercials from other channels and repurposing them for social media.”
When they completely revamped their strategy to focus on content, conversations, variety and engagement, they skyrocketed their following (three times that of Burger King).
They also became an industry standard in social media success.
A key driver to their change in strategy was also recognizing how many fans (mainly college millennials) were advocates and could be accents to their content. In other words:
They now have millions of loyal fans and online advocates because they evolved from an advertising bullhorn to a conversational companion.
You Don't Have to Offer Tacos to be Gratifying
If you have it in you to add tacos to your SAAS company or product, feel free. However, that's not really the takeaway here.
When you look at the exchange Taco Bell had with their audience, ask yourself:
What would be more gratifying experience with a brand - that example or one that just grabbed stuff and make it work on "social" media?
Just based on the presence of interactions on others, wouldn't you feel confident about asking a question and getting a human response?
Outside of the fast food world, can you visualize how communication instead of promotion) promotion builds relationships?
One of the reasons that building a relationship of trust is so gratifying is because so many other brands are still loading their feeds with self-serving content and demanding calls to action.
Start with meeting for coffee.
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