The Implications Of 'Digital Courage' For Marketing

Keyboards and digital screens can act as a catalyst for bravery to talk to people and say things that would often be avoided in person. The anonymity of the online world tends to bring out "true" personality and allows individuals to be more open, opinionated and outgoing than they are in face-to-face interactions.

This is especially true for Millennials. As part of the "Subscribers, Fans, and Followers" study I recently directed, we asked consumers how outgoing or reserved they are both online and offline. One person described it this way: "I am definitely somewhat of a different person online than I am in person. I am more outgoing, I will talk to anyone, and I am not shy. In 'real life' I am the exact opposite. Anxiety will get the best of me and keep me from doing things that I want to do."

A third of Millennials describe themselves as being more outgoing online than they are in-person. Less than 20% of Millennials consider themselves more reserved online than in person. For Gen X, the numbers are the opposite, with a third of people saying they are more reserved online than they are face-to-face.



Don't Mistake Bravado for Disinterest in Online Privacy

In recent privacy debates have, some assert that young people are not concerned about online privacy. However, two recent and highly credible studies suggest otherwise.

First, Pew Internet found that Millennials are "the most active online reputation managers." They proactively take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online, customize privacy settings, delete unwanted comments from their online profiles, and remove their names from photos.

Second, a study from the University of Pennsylvania and U.C. Berkeley found that U.S. consumers are overwhelmingly opposed to having marketers collect behavioral information about them (whether online or offline at the point of sale) even if it means getting less relevant ads, offers, and news. While Millennials were more receptive to the idea of letting companies collect information about them online, more than half still said no to targeted ads and news. Thirty-seven percent said no to tailored discounts.

Converting Online "Support" to Real-World Action May Become More Difficult

Since Millennials tend to feel more liberated to express themselves online, the bar has effectively been lowered for who and what they support online. According to our research, Millennials are less selective about which brands they Fan on Facebook or follow on Twitter than older consumers. Not that they are indiscriminate about what they support online -- just less so than older generations.

A study released this week from Syncapse found that Fans are likely to spend more money and be more loyal to brands than non-Fans. While the positive correlation is encouraging, it doesn't show causality. The big question is do Fans spend more money as a direct result of becoming Fans? And if so, how many?

In our study, only 13% of Millennials said they were more likely to buy from a company/brand after becoming a Fan on Facebook. This is significantly less than the 19% of older consumers who say they are more likely to buy after becoming a Fan.

At the end of the day, marketers are likely to get more online "support" from Millennials in the form of Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers. The challenge going forward is how to propel this audience to take action, which requires that social media measurement goes beyond traditional reach metrics to looking at bottom line impact.

Millennials Feel Empowered to Hold You Accountable

Customer service issues turned public relations nightmares have led some to suggest that social media should take a more active role in customer service. True, but this does not mean companies should take staff off the phones in lieu of Facebook or Twitter accounts.

When faced with company's product or service issue, only 1% of Millennials say the first place they turn is social media. 70% will either call or submit the issue through the company's website. Another 25% will send an email.

However, Millennials are quicker to turn to social networks with their grievances. 12% of Millennials, compared to only 5% of older consumers, turn to social networks in their second or third attempts to get support. One participant said it this way: "If I don't get good support [the first time,] I hit up their Facebook and Twitter with my complaint since a ton of people will see it. They can't ignore it then."

Customer service issues that crop up in social media point to earlier failures. Make sure that customer service reps understand the increasing significance of "first call resolution," even if it's at the expense of increased phone call length.

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