Using The Human Touch In Digital Spaces To Build A 3D Brand

Utilising The Human Touch In The Digital Space To Build A 3D Brand
Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager at Protea Hotels by Marriott.

Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager at Protea Hotels by Marriott stated that a few years ago, the demand from clients and agency heads was to create campaigns and posts that ‘go viral’. It didn’t take long for online audiences to prove that to be nearly impossible. But every now and then, with some quick-witted ingenuity, it’s possible to get your brand caught up in a viral tornado.

Where’s the best place to reach relevant audiences? That’s one of the primary questions marketers ask.  Here’s how this can change lives, for a brand and the people involved.

Monitoring the news

Key word and phrase monitoring on the part of media tools relating to your brand can only take you so far. At times, your social media person will be manually working through streams of online content, trying to filter out what’s relevant, which ones require an active response and which ones are just ‘noise’.

‘Seventy-two percent of people who use Twitter to lodge complaints expect a response within an hour,’ according to a report by Lithium Technologies. ‘That puts huge pressure on companies to have both staff and a strategy in place to deal with customers on Twitter.’

In December 2018, our social media team was doing just that when they came across a remarkable story: BA Law graduate in Political Science, Inge Beukes, took to Twitter on Sunday 9 December and said, ‘Called my gran to tell her I got my degree and she burst out in tears. Turns out she’s been using her pension for the past few months to save up for a flight ticket to Gauteng for my graduation. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.’

A lovely Tweet on its own, but what happened next reflects the power of social media and the heart-warming impact when people engage. Airline Kulula took up the call, offering to provide a ticket for Inge’s gran to get to the event.

This was followed closely by Protea hotels by Marriott: ‘Hey @ComradeInge. @ProteaHotels would love to make your gran’s stay in Gauteng all the more memorable. How does putting her up in one of our hotels for the night sound? Maybe a special dinner as well? DM us your details so we can make this happen. Happy graduation.’

Even the Gautrain jumped in to provide a transport option and fast-food brand Nandos also sweetened the deal. Of course, we can’t all have our wishes granted on social media but, when it’s for as touching a moment as this, we’re all thrilled. Fast-forward a few months; Beukes’ graduation is happening, Gogo is on the way, and all the wheels set in motion months ago are rolling. While it took time to come to fruition, this good-news story is happening at a university near you!

Whether you’re a mom-and pop business or a global brand leader, that conversation has to happen. A single Tweet can circumnavigate the globe in less than a minute. Right or wrong, the customer can never be ignored.

Smart companies like Apple understand the power of talking directly to their customers. That’s why the consumer electronics giant launched its dedicated Twitter support account. ‎@AppleSupport has gained more than half a million followers, generated more than 150,000 likes and Retweets, and won the first-ever Twitter Award for Outstanding Customer Service.

It’s not always about customer service or even those #heartmelt moments, brands can engage just for fun, too. Remember that time chicken nugget uber-enthusiast Carter Wilkerson asked US fast-food chain how many ReTweets it would take to get a years’ supply of nuggets? 18 million, the brand’s Twitter account responded without batting a virtual eyelid. Carter managed to hit 3.5 million in the end, but still scored a heap of nuggets from the brand as a reward. Consumers and brands both benefit from the best kinds of interactions.

Marketing takeaways

The lesson learned is this: in a fast-paced social media world, there isn’t always going to be an existing template on how to engage with audiences online. Be prepared to ‘Tweet out of the box’ at times , whatever that may require according to context. Remember, you’re dealing with real people with real lives, and your brand persona should reflect that. Be human, relate to your audiences, and they’ll respond in kind.

It’s not about making narratives, hashtags or images go viral – but about providing the human touch to a digital space.