Cultivating Online Connection Takes Intelligence

November 16, 2023
Woman on Bench

Yesterday, WHO declared the epidemic of loneliness a global health priority and launched a new Commission to help people deepen their social connections. But to foster new social connections – to meet others that you have any interest in starting or maintaining any level of relationship with – requires you to first meet them.

And that’s easier said than done.

Our new Citizen Connections Report, launched just this month, shows that people across the globe have become much more thoughtful about who they spend time with (74% said they think more about who they spend time since the pandemic), limiting their chances of making those impromptu connections. Polarization has made us lose friends (nearly 30% are less likely to talk about anything controversial), so even those that could help grow our social bubbles are susceptible to being socially pruned because of where we are in society today. When we do take the leap to engage with new folks online – whether it’s with the random egg avatar on X or the interesting username on Twitch – only 12% of us trust who we’re talking to. And this ends up affecting brands who’re trying to break into the online space.

Like I said, making social connections is hard.

So we need to make it easier.

While in-person connection is indisputably desired, we need to move on from the “online versus offline” debate as there are clearly unique benefits to both. Our Connections Report clearly shows that online communities are one way to make socially connecting easier.

How? When asked to cite benefits of being part of an online community, respondents said:

  • Can be very specific to my interest
  • Focused on having fun
  • People are just like me

Online communities have the benefits that can help address some of the issues impacting people’s ability to connect with new people. People are way more thoughtful about who they want to spend time around and online communities being filled with people who are just like them and are focused on having fun can be seen as reasons to participate. These benefits also combat the fears and consequences people are facing because of polarization. And when it comes to the issue of trust online – online communities are largely a place where people are bonding over like interests, so there grows a basis of comfort because of that initial relationship building.

Given the role online communities can play, brands should make a concerted effort in developing and supporting their own online communities. But in order for brands to be able to do it strategically and successfully, it will require some extensive intelligence gathering. Why? Before brands can build and manage their online community they need to understand what they are getting into.

Two of the most important things, call it homework, that brands need to do through intelligence gathering before building online communities of their own is to 1) dig deep into understanding their audience culturally, and 2) investigate the relationships and truths that exist between the brand and category and their audience.

Understanding the audience: In order for brands to build online communities it’s imperative to do the work in understanding how their audience operates culturally. Although your audience may purchase and support your brand they exist as a consumer and as a citizen above and beyond the interactions with your brand. It’s important to understand their interests, attitudes, and opinions at large. Once understanding your audience on a more cultural and psychographic level this gives you the ability to identify possible segments within your audience to help you strategically decide how you want to focus and or curate these online community spaces and experiences.

Understanding the relationship: In order for brands to build online communities it’s imperative for brands to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly of how their audience sees and engages with their brand & category. Without this level of intelligence work, without this transparent look inside, it will be difficult for brands to develop the type of community and participate in it as a brand in a relevant but more important – authentic and credible way.

Citizen’s new “Conversational Intelligence” offering is perfectly suited to lead and execute this level of work for brands globally. Our mix of first, second, and third party data sources allow us to paint a clear picture of brand audiences through a cultural lens as well as allow us to present an accurate and insightful read on how a brand’s audience perceives and talks about that brand and its overall product category.

If you want to learn more about Conversational Intelligence or the 2023 Citizen Connections Report, reach out today!