Research over the past year by McCann Truth Central has found that online users are developing different personalities to manage their online images – virtuous ones for work, and popular ones for play. Over a third in India said they Google themselves over once a month to help manage their online presences.
“People around the world really do get worried about how many likes they have, (and) if people are reading them,” observed Dave McCaughan, director of strategic planning for Asia-Pacific, McCann Worldgroup in a phone interview.
The report “Truth about Social” was based on the aggregate of a series of studies conducted over the past year by McCann. In total the studies span 19 countries and involve over 30 focus groups and more than 12,000 online interviews.
Brands of course are keen to tap into this need to share, and the study found that over 90 per cent of 16 to 30 year olds agreed that if a company or brand impresses them, they will make a point of telling their friends about it. However, when users themselves are savvy managers of their personal brands, the bar brands have to reach to impress them starts to get pretty high.
For consumers to want to interact with a brand, they must perceive substantial value in it. Most (65 per cent) want better access to discounts and promotions and half want goods and services personalised to meet their individual requirements. If these benefits are met, and users trust the brand enough, they are willing to share their personal information.
“In the interest of broadcasting themselves, people are also looking to brands to help communicate to the world who they are,” said McCaughan. “They want input and they want the brand to be their channel.”
The need to broadcast everything they do is acute, the report finds. People today seek to define themselves not only by what they own and what they do but by their ability to connect, to share and to broadcast.” The report quotes a youth in India who said, “I might be doing anything in life, but it doesn’t matter if no one talks about it”.
The role for brands, therefore, is to create unique experiences, said the report. “Brands can win by helping their audience to look cool or fun in front of their friends and followers.”
McCaughan cautions brands to keep track of all the one-off spot promotions they run online. “People are asking, ‘Why don’t brands have a memory?’. The reality is, brands can win by helping their audience to look cool or fun in front of their friends and followers,” he said.
Some things, like friendship however, remain constant, found the study. Despite widening social circles, the definition of true friendship has not changed with online users splitting their acquaintances into “real” and “fake” friends. “Our data indicates that 'real' friends are truthful and genuine,” said the report.
For brands to truly impress, they therefore have to be true and genuine. “Consumers expect the same things of brands as they expect from their most trusted friends. Truthfulness and trustworthiness,” said McCaughan.