I introduced the four most powerful human motivators (accomplishment, freedom, connectedness, and growth) in my post, “Is Poor User Experience Slowing Your Conversion Rates?”  In this post, I zero in on the motivating power of connectedness.

Q. What do these three pieces of trivia have in common?

  1. Sociologists found that students’ degree of social connectedness directly affected retention rates in their third year of college. In other words, if they had a solid group of friends, they were a lot less likely to drop out when school got tough.
  2. Consumer researchers discovered that feelings of nostalgia and empathy make people more generous with their time and money.
  3. With a simple personality quiz app, Heinz attracted more than 20,000 quiz takers, 10,000 shares, and 30,000 new Facebook fans.

A. They all demonstrate the motivating power of positive social interactions.

Motivated by Connectedness

The desire to form and maintain social bonds is one of the most significant human motivators. The rise of social media revolutionized digital marketing when it became clear that people were engaging with online communities more deeply and frequently than any brand imagined possible. Marketers and conversion optimizers must consider how they can integrate social interactions and feelings of belonging, resonance, and trust with their brand messaging, content, and products.

Facilitating a sense of community among your customers can motivate them to stay involved, and come to identify with your company. Connectedness is indisputably one the four primary human motivators that digital marketers need to harness for steadily rising conversion rates, alongside accomplishment, freedom, and growth. But how can we go beyond “likes” and shares to inspire genuine feelings of connectedness in our audiences?

What Makes People Feel Connected?

Even a very slight sense of social connectedness “can cause people to internalize the goals and motivations of others and thus shape people’s motivated behavior even in private settings.” It turns out that our personal identities are sensitive and suggestible enough to respond to the smallest signs of affinity in others. It’s the reason presidents take photo opps in “normal” settings, with their sleeves rolled up, playing basketball, or walking the dog.

Just like human relationships, brand-to-consumer connectedness can be highly nuanced, which is why I’ve isolated several types:

1. Emotional connectedness. We feel emotionally connected to a brand when we are able to humanize it. A faceless corporation does not invite people into a relationship; a responsive, personality-driven online presence does. When we feel a company is run by flesh-and-blood people, and we believe they actually care about us, we develop an emotional connection.

Subaru doubled its market share over three years through its “Love” campaign. The brand didn’t focus on price or feature comparisons to win consumers; instead, it targeted its active, outdoorsy, family-oriented customer base with a series of emotionally poignant commercials that depicted family outings, young love, and even a man’s bond with his dog.

2. Contextual connectedness. The more relevant your products, services, and content are to your customers’ day-to-day struggles, needs, aspirations, and values, the more connected they will feel. Contextual connectedness is measured in how much meaning your brand has for individuals beyond a transaction, and how well you are integrated into the social context of their lives.

Luna Bar built its brand on strong contextual bonds with its target market: health-conscious women. The company’s 2013 Web series, “Debunking the Diet,” followed a comedian as she interviewed women about their opinions on diet myths. The series—which declared “strong beats skinny any day of the week!”—focused on funny, relatable content, and hardly mentioned Luna bars at all. One loyal customer said:

“I love that the company cares about the environment, community, and their employees . . . . Not only does a LUNA Bar satisfy my taste buds and growling stomach, but it also makes me feel connected to like-minded people and reminds me of the bigger world I live in.”

3. Involvement. Involvement can also be thought of as feelings of belonging, respect, and mutuality. Delvinia surveyed its followers and learned that one in three is not particularly motivated by deals or contests:

“That one third actually want to be engaged more deeply. For example, people want to be involved from a product-development perspective. They want to be involved in expressing what they like and what they don’t like about your products and services. They want their voice heard and action taken.”

The Canadian Tourism Commission invited citizens to submit video of themselves showcasing what they love about their country. Eight thousand submissions were whittled down to a popular two-minute TV spot, 35 Million Directors, which was also widely shared online.

4. History and trust. Remember that nostalgia study? Our history of personal experiences informs our gut reactions and decision making in all areas of life. Shared experiences with others create deep bonds, and feelings of commonality and trust. We empathize when we can relate to another’s experiences, and this empathy can drive us to give and participate more than usual.

Microsoft Windows boosted its brand power with a nostalgic campaign promoting Internet Explorer. The company’s viral video showed a timeline of 1990s fads like Lunchables and troll dolls, culminating in the tagline, “You grew up. So did we.”

Form Unique Connections

What form of connectedness can your brand excel at? Can you publish authentic, consistent content that speaks to the broader context of customers’ lives? Deliver targeted and highly personalized digital experiences that foster an emotional connection and sense of trust? How can you involve users in the growth and development of your products and assets? The connectedness your audience experiences will be unique to your brand, which is exactly how you want it to be. Motivate them with a special connectedness they won’t find with a competitor, and you’ll earn their allegiance for the long haul. 

Take a look back at accomplishment and freedom, and follow along as I explore the final motivator: growth.