Emotional and Social Engagement: What is the future of emotional and social engagement through digital experiences?

Man Watching a Zoom Meeting

I believe that, in the future, emotional and social engagement is going to adapt to new platforms; however, the basic principles will remain the same. For example, In the olden days, you had a crowded marketplace with people coming to the market from all over the place. Suppose you had a fruit stand, where you sold apples. If you wanted to sell your products at a good price, you would make sure that the apples (at least the ones that are on the top of the pile) are nice and shiny (your content), and that they are properly arranged for display (your presentation and layout).

You would also want to position your fruit stand in a location that would give it maximum exposure to interested passersby (distribution). Upon the arrival of prospective customers in the general vicinity, you may begin shouting, “Apples! Come and get your fresh apples!” (promotion). You may make eye contact with someone who ventures too close to you and lure him into sharing some of his hard-earned money with you, in exchange for some delicious looking apples (engagement).

Analyzing this example, shining the apples and arranging them in an aesthetically pleasing manner is the emotional engagement. You want them to feel good when they look at your apples. If they always FEEL good when looking at YOUR apples, versus the apple vendor the next stand over, you have a major competitive advantage. Then comes the shouting part. That’s the social engagement.

Here is where you’re promoting your business to prospective customers. Now, here is an important factor. In order to get people to feel good when looking at your apples, you have to get them to come over and look at your apples. You may have the best-looking apples on Earth! However, if prospective buyers aren’t coming over to your stand, it doesn’t really matter what condition those apples are in. They won’t sell.

What if there are 10 apple vendors at the market, and they’re all right next to one another. If everyone screams the same thing, everyone may as well save themselves from getting a sore throat, because it’s not really helping. All the screaming does is generate a lot of noise, and adds no real value.

What if you were to change one aspect of your “sales process”? What if, instead of shouting, “Apples! Come and get your fresh apples!”, You presented your message as follows: “Did you know that an Apple a day keeps the doctor away? Apples are loaded with nutrients. They are high in fiber and are one of the top food sources of Boron, a mineral which is key to building muscle and strong bones. Would you like to try some of this precious source of health? Come and get some right here!” In this version of the sales pitch, you’re providing value to your audience.

You’re letting them know that apples are a great source of health, and you’re educating them in the specifics. For the health-conscious consumer, you’ve clearly differentiated yourself from the competition by providing them with this education, which is something they won’t get at the other fruit stands.

As a counterpoint, this method is only effective for people who are interested in eating healthy food. What if the passersby don’t really care about eating a fiber-rich diet or building muscle and strong bones. In this case, you have great content, but no distribution. You’re no better off than the other guys shouting “Apples! Come and get your fresh apples!”

In her book, Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist, Sally Hogshead writes about fascination as being one of the most powerful ways to attract attention and influence behavior, and how businesses, products, and ideas can become irresistible to consumers. She talks about the seven languages of fascination: power, passion, innovation, alarm, mystique, prestige, and alert.

For example, our fruit stand vendor can employ a little passion, which is about emotional connection, and create a reputation for himself by weaving a fascinating tale, every day at 12:00 pm, about a princess who gained mystical powers by eating a luscious red McIntosh apple. With his imaginative tale, he will fascinate and emotionally connect with his audience like no one else. He can also employ a little mystique and end every story with a cliffhanger, which will make his audience thirst for more. If he plays his cards right, all of his “competitor” apple vendors may band together and offer him a royalty for every apple they sell as a result of his daily stories.

Believe it or not, there is actually some science behind all of this. There are 3 parts of the brain. First, there is the Amygdala, which is also known as the reptilian brain. This is the “oldest” part of the brain, on an evolutionary scale.

This is the part of your brain that is programmed to keep you safe. It operates on pure instinct and bypasses the thinking part of the brain. For example, if you’re driving on the highway, and traffic suddenly grinds to a halt in front of you, your first instinct will be to slam on the brakes without even thinking about it. This is your Amygdala keeping you safe. If you tried to use your “thinking” part of the brain, you would think yourself to death, quite literally. By the time you thought “hey, perhaps I should press on the brakes?”, it would be too late.

The next part of the brain is the Limbic System. This is the part of the brain that’s responsible for emotions and feelings. This is the second level on the evolutionary scale, and more developed than the Amygdala. The third part of the brain is the Neocortex, also known as the thinking part of the brain, and most developed on the evolutionary scale.

When looking to engage prospective customers, the first thing you need to do is establish trust and show that you’re safe. This is because you first have to get past the Amygdala in order to have a chance at doing business with this person. If you try to discuss features & benefits at this point, the reptilian brain won’t understand what you’re saying. It will sound like gibberish and activate the fight & flight response, which will shut the door on you before you could say another word.

The next step is to engage their emotions so that the Limbic System will engage and connect with you. Again, features & benefits at this point will sound like gibberish and kick you back down to the Amygdala, which closes the door on you. Finally, after getting past the first two gatekeepers, we get to the Neocortex, which is ready to hear about features & benefits, as it contains the thinking element with which to process this data.

In conclusion, while the setting today has changed from a physical to a digital marketplace, the principles remain the same. Everyone is clamoring for your attention. Social media is full of copious posts screaming “Buy me! Buy me!” Everyone comes with a declaration that they are the “best”, or “most qualified”, or “top quality industry experts”, yet none of them give the consumer any reason why they should choose one vendor versus another.

The digital marketplace is only going to get busier as time goes by. More and more businesses are entering the digital marketplace, and technology is evolving rapidly. Yesterday it was radio & TV. Today it’s Social Media. Tomorrow it will be Augmented and Virtual Reality. Who knows what will come beyond that!

The person who is able to engage their audience on a social level gets their attention. The way to give your audience their “why” for choosing you over another, is by leveraging the platform your target market chooses, to connect with them emotionally.

My question for you is what are you doing in your business to better connect with your prospective customers?

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