Building meaningful connections

January 3, 2019 | by Neal Lewis

I’d like to launch The Drop Digital blog with a few words about our belief in ‘building meaningful connections’; why it’s so important to us, and how meaningful connections nurture the growth of social communities and ensure brand efficacy.

One of the reasons behind the birth of The Drop Digital was a personal need for more control over the brands (and in turn the people) we work with. I wanted us to work with people that shared interests and goals, have an understanding and respect of our wants, needs and pain points as a business (as we will theirs), and that would support us in our growth as a partner, not just a ‘supplier’.

Photo from Sundown Festival

After just a year we already work with some incredible brands that share a common ambition, drive for excellence, respect for each other and our other partners – and we’re growing by building meaningful connections with each other, our audiences, and the social communities that care about our business.

Why are social communities important?

Social communities grow faster than ever through an increasing number of online channels and offline chatter, and word spreads through those communities like wildfire. Like any community the relationships at the heart of them will be talked about, the problems and solutions will be shared, people will support each other and offer advice; and social media provides the perfect platform to build a community around a brand doing just that.

In the book Contagious by Jonah Berger, Jonah explores the 6 ‘STEPPS’ that make an idea become contagious, and go viral. Those steps are social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value and stories.

When reading this book I noted that a lot of the ‘STEPPS’ are just community chatter; social currency gives us something to share with our peers, emotion gives us a deeper connection, practical value helps us learn, and stories keep the fire stoked and provides entertainment. It’s nothing new, they’re just conversational tools that help community growth… and have done since the dawn of time.

Boiler room

In music, a fantastic example of a community built around meaningful connections is Boiler room. Boiler room started in 2010 with a webcam stuck to the wall of a warehouse in London, where they set out to broadcast underground music and showcase DJ’s, club nights and live electronic acts. Since then they’ve featured over 4,000 performances by over 5,000 artists, across 150 cities in the world and amassed a Facebook following of over 2.5 million fans.

They put back into the community too, working on projects such as the “open dancefloors” policy, which ensures their spaces can be enjoyed by everyone, free of intolerance, and regardless of religion, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity and physical ability.

By building meaningful connections with their audience through a shared purpose, giving back and offering stories and social currency in their output, they’ve built one of the largest online communities in music with a fiercely loyal fan base, coupled with an offline community where people travel far and wide to be a part of that community.

Luckily, we’re not alone in thinking this.

In an econsultancy article last year, the question was asked “What happened to social communities? Do brands and businesses still care?”. I read this with baited breath, wondering whether our hearts were out of date and in the wrong place. Luckily, we’re not alone 🙏

When asked the question, Kerry Taylor, MTV International & Chief Marketing Officer Viacom UK answered “We do! It is our biggest connection to our audience and helps us get the most immediate sense of how we are doing and where we need to go.”.

Ros Lawler, Digital Director at Tate, also shared this view: “It is essential in the museum sector as a means of reaching and growing new audiences. Particularly when trying to engage young audiences.

The article reminded me that not only are social communities key to both building audiences and gaining a deeper understanding of them, but the only way to truly do this and ensure brand loyalty, is by creating a meaningful connection through desired, engaging and relevant content.

Facebook groups give us a deeper understanding of what our communities desire.

It’s no secret that with the decline in organic Facebook page reach and engagement last year, came the growth of Facebook Groups. A place where like minded individuals can share a voice on a subject or brand, and more often be part of a moderated group where the content is controlled by them, and not the brand.

Last year we launched a Country music festival (The Long Road) and soon after a number of Country fans launched their own group for ‘The Long Road Attendees’ and began conversing. From line up predictions to camping plans and “who everyone’s most excited to see?”; it gave them a space alongside the brand to build their own community of like-minded festival goers with a shared love for Country music, lifestyle and culture.

A big concern around groups is that brands won’t be able to control the conversation, and instead it’s in the hand of the customer, no matter what their opinion. But from a businesses point of view, why wouldn’t you want honest feedback from your fans? This can help develop your product, services or processes and puts you directly in touch with someone who’s already considering moving away from your company, giving you a chance to rebuild the relationship and their trust.

The likelihood is people will be having these conversations anyway, whether they’ve had a negative experience or not, so embracing a space for them to do that and using that as a place to gain open feedback is invaluable.

How does all of this help us build meaningful connections?

So it turns out people are building their own communities around a shared interest, purpose or product that they truly care about, discussing the pain points, the pros and cons, and finding safe spaces away from brand control that will allow them to have an honest opinion.

By gaining a deeper understanding of these conversations, addressing pain points through efficient community management, sharing content that is not only relevant but desired and joining in the conversation, you will build trust and a relationship with your audience, and in turn they’ll build a blossoming community around your brand.

To quote Facebook’s recently adapted mission statement “Give people the power to build community, and bring the world closer together.” ✌️