When social media first came along, there was a lot of hand-wringing about how this would see the end of face-to-face experiences. Everyone would be too immersed in digital technology to bother going out into the ‘real’ world. We would conduct our lives without leaving home, whether working or socializing.
However it just hasn’t worked out like that. Now we can do (almost) everything without leaving home, it seems that we have come to value face-to-face experiences much more highly.
Take music as an example. Summer festivals . Each year, there is more demand for tickets, and more interest in what is happening there. This is paradoxically because of the ready accessibility of music via streaming and the sharing of experiences via social channels.
Generation Y, the Millennials, are often said to be focused on experiences, not things. Now a question rises: when everyone has access to the same music via streaming, how can you create a unique experience? The only way is by going to see artists live. The balance of revenue for artists has also changed as a result. Twenty or thirty years ago, their main source of income was from selling records. Now it is live events. Social media helps to spread the word about new artists, and about live events, and make these events even more popular.
B2B live experiences
The same is true for business. The digital economy means that buyers can do their research before engaging with any suppliers, and places buyers very firmly in control. suggests that around three quarters of business buyers do more than half their research online before buying.
Firms have, of course, responded to this. There is significantly more information available online. Ideas are much more accessible. And those who share ideas, especially if they seem to understand potential buyers’ pain points, become a useful source of good, reliable information, and therefore an ‘expert’. This, in turn, creates curiosity about their companies and teams. Potential customers want to know more about these people who seem to understand exactly what they’re going through.
Workplaces are also changing with the rise of the digital economy. Teleworking and remote working are no longer just for the privileged few, but very much part of the mix for the majority of firms. . Not only does it improve productivity and employee satisfaction and work-life balance, but it also saves both employees and employers money. Some businesses are now entirely virtual, with no offices at all.
There is a downside to this. It is harder, although not impossible, to build strong relationships without face-to-face contact. Remote working works very well for sales teams, who have plenty of contact with other people at client companies. But even so, sales team managers have long recognized the importance of regular meetings with their staff to build team coherence.
What this boils down to is that humans are, at root, social animals. is necessary to all of us, and few of us are designed to live as hermits. Businesses that have embraced remote working are starting to realize that it is important to offer face-to-face experiences and contact to staff.
The rise of digital experience
This combination of developments—changes in both buyer behavior and working environment—offers a real opportunity to marketing teams. The opportunity is to create not just good content, but also good events, with a shared central message.
found respondents were 96% more likely to buy after attending a live branded event. And a live event is not only for those actually attending. Social media offers potential to build connections with people many miles away. Live-tweeting events allows you to respond to attendees and others in real-time. using apps like Periscope mean that non-attendees can feel close to the action even from a distance, and creates an experience all of its own. The buzz spreads far beyond those actually attending. There is a reason why TED talks use an image of a pebble dropped into water, with ripples spreading slowly but widely.
The key to success is making and sustaining connections: between people, and between people and brands. Brands that are successful in a digital economy have realized this, and also understand how shared live experiences can contribute to this.