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Applying Chip Conley’s Emotional Equations to Social Media Marketing [SXSW Panel]

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

Look familiar?  Your anticipated experience falls short of the real thing, leaving you, well… majorly bummed out. This emotional equation and many more were talking pillars for Chip Conley as he explored the crossroads of psychology and business and how emotion, when used correctly, can allow for a deeper connection with your customers, business and yourself.

Conley is CEO (Chief Emotions Officer) of Joie de Vivre, the second largest boutique hotel company in the United States and author of  Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness and Success.  He spoke Saturday at SXSW Interactive and with help from my colleague, Erin Ledbetter, we took his session a step further to identify three of his emotional theories and translate them into tactics for social media marketing:


Mojo from Maslow

Using a three-tier abbreviated version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Conley first showed how the layers applied to your employees and then how it could apply to your customer base. Starting at the bottom tier with survival, he discussed how customer expectations have grown over time.  What may have been a benefit in the past (i.e. – a diagonal strip of paper letting you know your hotel toilet was cleaned) is now so ingrained in our expected experience, it’s unfathomable why any brand would want to brag about it.  In social media, I believe this translates to having social media presence for your brand.  It’s no longer cutting edge for consumers to find brands on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn–it’s an expectation, as it should be.  If a consumer cares enough to want to like or follow your brand, or engage in a conversation, you should make sure you give them the opportunity to do so.

Moving onto the second tier, which is considered success, is desire.  Consumers desire that after they have joined your presence in social media that you provide content that engages them. This involves a two-way dialogue, so be prepared to listen as much (if not more) than you talk. Finally, the top tier of transformation or meeting unrecognized needs, relates to surprising and delighting your customer in the social space.  Offering exclusives, incentives and just plain going out of your way to thank your customer base in social media will create advocacy among your network and grow affinity for your brand.

Authenticity = Self Awareness x Courage

It is important to remember who you are, especially in social media, as transparency is key for success.  To understand one’s self and have the confidence to be true to your human nature takes courage.  Amplify both and you get authenticity.  In his session, Conley identified three questions to ask your company, each one five times consecutively, in order to test your authenticity and stay true to your business.  This same exercise can be applied when finding your tone of voice in social media marketing.  Conley explained when you answer each question five times in a row, you will find that each answer takes a deeper dive into the root of your business. From there you should be able to identify key themes, that when applied as brand tone and content in social media marketing, can connect to a consumer on a deeper emotional level.

The three questions for testing authenticity are:

1. What business are we in?

2. What courageous, rebellious decisions have we recently made that could be perceived as brilliant or foolish?

3. What would it mean to the world if we didn’t exist anymore?

Using Psychographics

Your customers won’t always fit into a neat demographic package, so it is just as important to identify attitudes, values, lifestyles and opinions they have as well.  Conley spoke to an example of this with how they decide on the identity of a new boutique hotel.  They actually base the look and feel off of different magazines, such as Real Simple or Rolling Stone. Magazines not only have a target demographic, but they also explore important psychographic qualities that could appeal to someone outside of the target demographic window.  

A good example when applying psychographics to social media marketing is Pinterest.  Brands looking to gain a presence on Pinterest cannot simply say, ‘We want to appeal to women, 25-35 who are engaged and planning their wedding.’ Brands must take a deeper look at the values of that demographic, such as, what attitude do we want them to have?  Light-hearted or sophisticated?  What values?  Sociable or private?  This allows the brand to become more successful and defined to reach a further place with users.  Conley named about five psychographic qualities when discussing each of his hotels along with traditional demographics.

You can read more about Chip Conley and his latest book at emotionalequations.com.

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