By Adam Wakefield

Between June and September this year, global insights firm Kantar TNS conducted its latest Connected Life study. A total of 70 000 people from 57 markets were asked about their media consumption, device infrastructure, digital activities, online and offline purchases, and touch points among other factors.

In its conclusion, the study notes that the impact of greater connectivity on the relationships between people and brands is difficult to predict, but it has created opportunities to grabbed.

“A more nuanced understanding of what connectivity means to people, and the role that different platforms actually play for them, is a great place to start.”

Online, offline and total experience

Rosie Hawkins, global director of client solutions at Kantar TNS, agrees with this assertion. Speaking at a Kantar TNS event in Johannesburg at the end of October, Hakwins pointed out that people spend just under four hours a day online in South Africa. The vast majority of that is through mobile devices, augmented by a “little bit” of tablet and PC.

This is not surprising, as South Africa is dominated by mobile, similar to other markets found in Asia and Africa which have “leapfrogged the PC” in device primacy.

“To paraphrase Wendy Clark form Coca-Cola, ‘If your plan doesn’t include mobile, your plan hasn’t finished’. If your plan doesn’t start with mobile in South Africa, you have no plan at all,” Hawkins says.

This is not to say that digital is the be-all and end-all. In South Africa, Hawkins says there is a close to even split between the consumption of both traditional and digital data. As important as digital is, and will continue being, there has to be a balance between the two, as “every target audience is going to be very nuanced”. A total experience is what should be strived for.

Online activities and moments

An important piece of information brands and marketers can use when strategising how best to reach customers is assessing what they do online on a weekly basis.

Where South Africa is concerned, 92% of people are messaging online every week and this is only one activity, with others overlapping. Eighty percent of this same audience are on social media, 49% are emailing, 26% visit blogs and online forums, 35% read online articles, 18% are gaming on consoles, 46% are doing the same thing through their mobile devices, 32% are streaming music and 19% are Internet banking online.

Amidst all this activity, the challenge for marketers is to reach the consumer at a time where their message is most relevant to them. The high occurrence of messaging and social media use are just two avenues marketers can explore to reach audiences, at just the right time, in micro moments.

“In the US, people unlock their phones an average of 83 times a day. They are constantly connecting typically for very short periods of time,” Hawkins says.

“The moment that you want to be connecting is where your target is, when they are receptive, and at a time that matters for them and/or for your brand. That is the sweet spot.”

In today’s connected world, it is about getting the right content to the right people at the right time.

The importance of social media

Speaking at the same event as Hawkins was Mike Oeschlig, head of analytics and insights at Cerebra, who pointed out that businesses know that social media is important, but many fall into the trap of doing it as a box-ticking exercise rather than taking it seriously as a channel in its own right.

“Many brands understand the need for social media and are on social media. The channels that you engage on are only one small part of what’s going on,” Oeschlig says.

“The other part is what’s going on internally, in your business. To be successful externally, you have to mirror that success internally.”

Companies can no longer just say they are going to do something. They have to back up their promises with action otherwise they will be exposed on social media, what he called the “reputation gap”.

How brands adapt to social media can, according to Oeschlig, be summed up by the acronym CATS: Conversation, authenticity, trust, and sharing.

Conversation, human to human interaction, is what social media is built on. Brands must have conversations with their customers, and ensure they have the right person in place to manage those conversations.

Authenticity is about honesty. Is your brand honest? Are the conversations they’re having with customers honest? There is no room for hyperbole and if you are not authentic and honest, social media will expose you.

On trust, Oeschlig says previously there was mistrust between brands and customers, while social media is built on trust.

“Now you have these two worlds colliding. For your customers to trust you, you have to trust your client.” For brands, equity can be found in trusting their clients, and by extension, their employees.

Lastly, on sharing, what businesses knew was their competitive differentiator. However, in a connected world, knowledge is no longer power, according to Oeschlig.

“What is power is your ability to share that knowledge. That is what content marketing is built around: sharing.”

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*Image courtesy of Michael Coghlan under this license