Building meaningful connections through social media

Building meaningful connections through social media

10 minutes

The Social Media mix

We recently held a roundtable discussion on how to build meaningful connections through social media. While pondering how I would begin a short talk to introduce the topic, it occurred to me that Social Media often means different things to different people depending on their experience and interaction levels. A relatively simple explanation is offered in Google Dictionary.

Social media: ‘websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking’.

So let’s briefly consider a few of the main contenders, to broaden our view of what’s on offer. 

There are the usual suspects, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest and Youtube. And then there are all the messaging apps from Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, to WeChat  - China’s largest social media channel, that all enable content sharing, photo group chats and more. 

Social ideation tools for the workplace are in constant development to allow users to differentiate between what they are comfortable sharing on a personal level as opposed with their employer and work peers and include Jive, Yammer and Facebook’s Workplace.

Participation in social networking includes ‘Social curation,’ a great example of this is Pinterest, ‘Social bookmarking,’ with Reddit and ‘Microblogging’ with Medium.

Social exchanges began long before the emergence of the popular social networking sites that we’ve come to form (love and hate!) relationships with today.
The first recognisable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997. It enabled users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. In 1999, the first blogging sites became popular.
The surge really took place in around 2003, with Myspace and LinkedIn and Youtube in 2005. Somewhat hard to imagine - life before YouTube!

I’d almost forgotten Google+ - yes, it is still going! 

What’s the opportunity?

GlobalWebIndex conducted a recent study of 16 - 64 year olds, to find out how people spend their time online. 

On average over 30% of the total time is spent on Social media.

That’s an Average of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on social networks and messaging apps, and an increase of 45 minutes per day, per user from 2012.

Global Web Index

So with all of this at our fingertips and with active users spending that much time online each day - how do brands make the most of this opportunity?

Making connections

Brands are all competing to standout in a world full of attention grabbing media, and we have just a few seconds to make that ‘meaningful connection,’ which may be in the form of an impression (being viewed in a feed), a comment or share, referral or click through.
To connect meaningfully with people we need to ‘humanise’ the way in which we connect. It’s all too often the case that brands hide behind the channels, pushing distant and corporate messages out.
If we instead consider ourselves facilitators of ‘community based input, interactions, and collaboration’, Social Media can provide a rich and rewarding experience for both brand and audience.
So before we leap onto the vast array of channels, there are a few fundamentals.
Social Purpose

First and Foremost we need to define our ‘Social Purpose’. 

Let’s start with an example, one that’s close to home for us. In this case in the property sector and directly related to a major consumer purchase. A new home.


  • Our mission was to increase leads and Sales to Crest Nicholson through social media for their residential development, namely Paintworks in Bristol
  • We needed to grow an online community around the development to create interest and to spark the desire to live there
  • In order to connect with people, we first needed to listen to what they have to say - we started with the local community within Bristol itself
  • We identified that potential buyers are looking to join a vibrant, creative community that thrives on collaboration and the sharing of ideas.
  • They want to be inspired and need information to be creatively appropriate and motivating.

We wanted to sell the idea - that you can now live at ‘Paintworks’, and focussed our Social Purpose on developing a community around the idea that:

‘Paintworks provides a creative haven that blurs the distinction between living, working and socialising and a place to be inspired and connected to like minded people.’


Our Social Purpose goes beyond the desire to promote product and drive sales and if we get that part right the rest is entirely possible. 

We can then move onto developing our social strategy. 
Which considers;

  • Who we want to reach? - personas
  • Where can we find them? - which channels
  • What are our content pillars? - the mix of the content that we want to share
  • Our ‘tone of voice’ - in words and in pictures
  • What is our Customer care policy? - response times, approach and sentiment.

Real Time

If we are going to invest in all of these things, then we have to be ‘real about real time’ and what that means. Complaints or indeed positive feedback or questions often go unanswered on social channels through lack of monitoring or understanding of how to respond. Often it is due to fear of getting it wrong in this public space. 

However, responding in real time makes customers feel listened to and if we gauge the tone required and respond appropriately, it’s possible to diffuse many potential problems, with personal friendly responses that make people feel valued.

The personal touch is the defining element of many brands, but how much is too much before it goes from personable to laughable?

Witty comebacks can pay dividends for some brands that can afford to be more tongue in cheek, but this really depends on your social purpose and what you are trying to achieve. This is where a tone of voice workshop can really help.

Driving results

If we can get these things right in equal measure, Social is a serious channel to be reckoned with.

We can use it to build meaningful connections with people, and gain brand advocacy. These connections can provide unique insights, candid feedback, recommendations and reviews.

Metrics that get measured regularly are the number of followers and engagements. If we delve deeper, we can look beyond the numbers and identify the quality of the followers and sentiment in engagements to gauge how people really feel about our brand, idea or product. 

We can listen to what motivates and inspires people to take action, what they value and identify key influencers, rewarding them with acknowledgement by joining the conversation. And we can discover when and where conversations take place. 

Ultimately, with the influencing power of Social, we can drive qualified leads to our websites and footfall to a physical destination.

Building meaningful connections through social media graphic
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Marina Popova
Marina works alongside our content and design team, specialising in social media strategy and boosting online engagement.
Get in touch with me