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Empathizing with Your Audience in the Age of Social and Mobile

At Social Media Week NYC Laura Simpson and Nadia Tuma, the global and deputy directors, respectively, of McCann Truth Central, gave a presentation on privacy and sharing in social media. They spoke at length about the varying attitudes people of different generations possess regarding the ownership and use of their online data.

At the end of their presentation, they unveiled a pyramid graph entitled “the hierarchy of compensation.” Organizations scale the pyramid by using an individual’s data to provide benefits that are increasingly intrinsic in nature. In other words, companies move from merely providing transactional benefits to enabling self-actualization by using the personal data they collect to actually make the lives of their customers better (as opposed to just making their purchases less expensive).

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As I listened to Laura and Nadia speak – I sat on the panel that followed their presentation – I couldn’t help but think of Percolate Design Director Dom Goodrum’s post on the role market research plays in product design. He wrote:

One of our big goals for the year ahead will be to ensure that the distribution of our findings works harder for the company. If our research is empowering us with empathy around our customer’s lives, then we’ve got to make sure that empathy is served on a never-ending conveyor belt so everyone across the company can easily pick learnings up all day long.

Empathy is the key to ascending the hierarchy of compensation Laura and Nadia created. Whether a B2B or B2C organization, if you aspire to provide not merely cost-saving solutions but life-altering ones, deeply understanding the challenges and concerns of your customers is critical.

Great marketing, like any form of storytelling, needs to make an emotional impact. But in order to do so, you have to understand your audience. You have to empathize with them. In the third, social and mobile-driven phase of marketing technology, we can do so in ways never previously imagined. The data we now have access to, both in terms of its scale and its specificity, is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s dramatically changing the ways in which marketers can make their content compelling.

When discussing our audiences, we can talk in terms of billions, not just millions. At the same time, we can target small groups of individuals with highly tailored messages. And we can do them both on the very same platform. The more information an individual provides, the better we can ensure we’re telling stories and providing solutions he or she will be impacted by. We can ensure we’re talking to the right people on the right platform and in the right ways.

I mentioned that Laura and Nadia’s presentation was actually about generational attitudes regarding privacy, sharing and the corporate use of data. How do marketers ensure that the content they create – content that appears in feeds along with photos and messages from friends and loved ones – will be well received? Empathize with them. Produce content that genuinely speaks to the reality of their situation, and distribute that content at the appropriate time through the appropriate channels. If you do so, branded content won’t feel invasive. It will be welcomed.

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