Everyday individuals are more likely to share life milestones on social media, providing brands with an optimal opportunity. Source: Shutterstock

Social media turns life milestones into opportunities for brands

SOCIAL MEDIA has become entirely embedded in the fabric of human experience, and brands have taken notice by bringing onboard new user-generated content (UGC) features to engage consumers and get them to buy into their ecosystems.

According to a report by social media services firm Sprout Social, there are certain factors that drive users to want to share personal life milestones through social media. More than ever before, people trust and rely on social media for recommendations and ideas.

The report, which surveyed 1,200 customers to find out how consumers decide how to navigate between their online and offline lives, cited Nielsen statistics that indicated that endorsement from friends and family rank highly in terms of credibility.

“Birth announcements, vacation photo albums, engagement parties: Humans are wired to want to share their most significant life events with those closest to them,” the report said.

“So it’s no surprise that so much of what consumers post about on social involves the full lifecycle of planning, celebrating and sharing our major milestones and most meaningful moments.

“Because milestones are of substantial significance, people want product and service suggestions they can trust.”

Social media plays a huge role in that for its ability to boost the reach of a milestone announcement, as well as its ability to connect users across geographies. The report noted that more than half of consumers rank Facebook above every other source, while Pinterest (42 percent) and YouTube (34 percent) come in at second and third.

Millennials, however, leaned heavily on Instagram, with as many as 35 percent using the photo-sharing app to find recommendations and research.

“Now more than ever, people are sharing major life milestones and special moments in their lives on social,” said Sprout Social’s vice-president of strategy and brand engagement Andrew Caravella in a statement.

This shift in thinking about how we relate and use social media is indicative of a change that’s taken place in our Internet-driven culture. Sharing milestones online in a public forum was once thought of as gauche and revealing, however our perceptions of this trend has shifted as more and more people continue to do it, and more social media features emerge to facilitate such activities.

As many as 80 percent of respondents said that sharing major life milestones online is a really normal occurrence for them nowadays, compared to doing it in person or via text. This makes these postings extremely personal and presents a form of authenticity that could be extremely beneficial for brands who leverage on this phenomenon effectively.

While conventional wisdom might make one think that people want to keep brands out of their personal lives, Sprout Social found respondents said they were in favor of bringing brands into their social and personal lives, provided that it’s at the right time, place and done in the right way.

The report said that 47 percent of consumers said they were happy to include brands in postings about holiday celebrations, while another 43 percent said that brands were welcome in their travel or vacation memories.

What’s even more significant for brands is that one in three people said that even intimate moments have space for brands to come into play. These include weddings, engagements, the birth of a baby, or a new home.

It’s important for brands to recognize here their presence in these intimate social postings can lend them a veneer of familiarity – they’re almost a part of the family, in this case – that a regular old advertisement could never achieve.

“The burgeoning opportunity is for brands to connect with people by encouraging them to celebrate, commemorate and share those major moments with the people, products and services that helped along the way,” Caravella said.

“When used authentically and effectively, brands can weave together people’s natural inclination to share with inspiration for user-generated content, cultivating brand loyalty and advocacy in the process.”

This is even more evident when you consider the fact that when people like a certain brand, they’re not shy about making it known. Sprout Social reported that half of the consumers (50 percent) are motivated to recommend a specific brand through their social postings because they see a deep connection between their positive experiences and that brand.

For brands, being included in these moments has serious momentum. Around 48 percent of respondents said that they’ve bought a product or went with a particular business because they saw it on social media.

However, brands should also tread carefully. As the report warns, there are some milestones that aren’t that great to be associated with – say, a funeral.