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.

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