The Magic ‘E’ In Social & Digital Media. No It Isn’t Engagement – @robinjabraham

In a guest post Robin Abraham, co-founder at Drizzlin Media talks about the magic letter E which stands for empathy & why is it important in social media

Empathy social media

Editor’s note: In the first of year-end article series on various facets of Indian digital and social media, Robin Abraham shares his thoughts about the magic of ‘E’. Robin is the co-founder at Drizzlin Media and dabbles in his role as Business & Strategy Head Research in the agency.

In his acclaimed book, Wired to Care, Dev Patnaik relates the story of the management of Delta Airlines which refuses to accept market research findings that point towards customers being unhappy with the service levels offered. Lousy service, irate customers &and baggage losses are all attributed to media hype.

The disconnect, the author surmises, stems from the fact that senior professionals at the brand have never had to travel economy class and with the corporate office right next to the Hartsfield Jackson airport, all it takes is an on – call shuttle ride right on to the tarmac in front of the gate. In other words, the executives were quite comfortable in the world they thought was also the world of the consumer.

The Magic ‘E’, while many of you would assume is Engagement, I am actually referring to another E which we at Drizzlin firmly believe to be the foundation of a relevant and successful engagement: Empathy.

The Delta Airlines example showcases a lack of it which results in brands not being able to put themselves in their consumers’ shoes and see the world from their lens.

Empathy is a natural association we all have with each other. We feel the joy, pain and sorrow of loved ones all the time. Interestingly, this is also the association we have with the brands we love. How many of you felt miserable when Nokia fell? Or felt elated when Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New year performed exceedingly well at the box office?

Robin AbrahamYou may wonder how is this relevant to social and digital media. Social, by its very definition, calls for a human to human relationship and for any human relationship to work, you need empathy. Think of your relationship with your spouse or partner or your best friend. The relationship blooms because both the individuals understand each other’s functional, emotional and social dimensions. On the other hand, the starting point of any discord between individuals in a relationship is usually attributed to one not understanding the other.

Empathy is also a two way process. Coming back to your best relationships, they work because both of you are expected to open up yourselves to each other. Your personalities and tastes have a connect and they’re consistent across time.

Put yourself in your consumer’s shoes.Understand how your product or service fits into his/her emotional and social dimensions. When you start catering to these dimensions, you build a relationship that moves beyond the functional aspects of the brand.

For a mother, buying cooking oil may not just be about cooking healthy or tasty food but about feeling validated in the family or an expression of love itself. Fortune’s recent ‘Ghar Ka Khaana’ TVC focused on family ties and while the TVC was brilliantly executed, it is disappointing to see that they could not build the dialogue further on social. This is a big disconnect and true for most brands.

The root of this is the campaign focused style of engagement which focuses on building awareness and recall but fails to establish any meaningful and sustained relationship with the consumer. From a consumer’s perspective, the brand personality showcased in the TVC is not consistent with what is happening on social and chooses not to take the relationship further.

On the other hand, the brand in its quest to increase engagement starts running contests with very little resonance to the emotional/social dimensions of its consumers. What this eventually leads to is a transaction based relationship where consumers are more focused on what goodies they can win from the brand versus genuine dialogues. A look at engagement levels on Twitter and Facebook for brands is evidence enough of this disconnect.

Going Social is not as easy a decision as ‘let’s do Facebook, Twitter & Instagram’. It is about relating to your consumer in the language he understands and building strong relationships through sustainable communication. It is about building empathy.

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