Getting ‘emo’ with my insurer: How to forge valuable relationships with your customers on social media

Judges of The Drum's upcoming Social Buzz Awards sound off about the big social media issues on their minds right now.

Relationships. They are a complex thing, new or old, on and offline.

When Philippa Snare, UK CMO for Microsoft, announced earlier this year that she ‘did not want an emotional relationship’ with her insurance brand, I had some sympathy.

A desperate attempt from a brand trying to hijack Mothers’ Day or worse, a sensitive and highly emotive news development is just down right uncomfortable. Assuming an emotional connection can be insensitive, crass and held up online with public condemnation (*fan girl moment* see: Jon Ronson; ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’. Excellent read).

But the truth is no one relationship is the same (be that personal or between person and brand) and such a blanket statement is, in my view, somewhat naive.

Creating valuable relationships might be emotional. Even with an insurer. When you need your insurer, it’s often a VERY personal and emotive experience. Look at More Than or NFU Mutual. Do these brands ‘get away with it’ because they’ve invested heavily in telling this story in their ATL activity? Or does this give them permission to engage on an emotional level because they’ve made this initial investment?

You don’t want insurance (or indeed any other) brands to be flippant and inappropriate, but you want them to be human. And being human surely is understanding emotion?

Be authentic. Be personable. Show personality. Define a role online that benefits your audience.

What’s more, it pays to show your emotional side.

In a recent study, Gallup Organization showed that "if you do not make an emotional connection with customers, then satisfaction is worthless." Customers, they say, do not buy strictly for rational reasons; it is much more important to engage customers on an emotional level.

I’ve seen much written recently about social media lurkers and understanding your social audience when it comes to measuring engagement and the effectiveness of x over y content. The truth is, social audiences vary considerably but most community managers will quickly be able to tell you who the most regular commentators are on Twitter or Facebook talking about their brand. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, we’d like to increase and inspire more people to engage. But many people are happy to observe. To let others do the talking. We shouldn’t be naive and pretend they’re not there.

They just want a different relationship with us. Because, after all, relationships are different and boy are they a complex thing.

Sally Rushton is head of social strategy at Jaywing. She tweets @SallyRushton