4 Steps To Establish Authentic Digital Connections

By Guest Author:  Dolores Semeraro 

Things have changed. Let’s set things straight. But while you are wondering why the followers of your social channels have become numb, your conversion rate has gone down and your organic engagement levels are struggling, your audience is probably glued to the latest TikTok video or hooked to the news waiting for the next big headline to come.

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Truth is, YOUR audience has been very busy re-framing their set of priorities lately, and while they were at it, a whole new type of coronavirus-related language has been absentmindedly adopted. No wonder during the first half of 2020, the search for words related to the pandemic soared. But with that, an undetected digital language defined a new communication pattern, which is what you want to unlock so that you can win your audience back.

1. Overcome the culture block

With the pandemic, we all took a closer look at the world map to understand how the global lockdown would impact our mobility and our travel plans. But we also got to see how different countries dealt with the virus differently within their borders. Each culture expressed their ‘common sense’ as they saw fit and the practicality of each approach was globally observed and criticized. The same happens when we connect with our audience. We often overlook the fact that each culture has a very unique take on what we could define ‘common sense’ back at home. This often leads to problematic misunderstandings in business transactions, hospitality standards, and tourism trends. Yes, think about it. In 2012, when Chinese tourists started flooding the tropical beaches of the Indian Ocean, very few hotel operators could meet their demands. Today only the destinations with a proactive approach to the Chinese culture remain in the leading segment of this very specific market.

2. Go beyond fictional reality

Today’s digital world has turned real people into avatars where each age group, gender, and race are analyzed and framed to offer an ever-accurate image of who our audience is supposed to be. We translate preferences, archetypes, and tendencies as ‘likes, shares, comments, reviews…’ when the actual formula to gain and retain your audience’s attention lies in taking that extra step to get a little closer to them. In light of the recent global events, the desire to not “feeling alone” or to be part of a “community” or to seek and give “support” were among the most searched on Google. Even Facebook, with its range of emoji on a post, felt the need to add one more: ‘the hug’. So, isn’t that a way of going beyond fictional reality? People wanted to express more than just a ‘like’ or ‘love’, they wanted to make sure their peers would ‘feel the hug’. Simple, yet so relevant. When we go beyond fictional reality, we take the time to read through the lines, understanding our audience’s current needs so that we can create exactly what they think they need, even before they do so. And just like ‘the hug’, they can’t do without afterward.

3. Master how to bridge the gap

It took a pandemic to unify the way we speak to each other. Top searched words like coronavirus, virus, infection, symptoms, vaccine; tests are going side by side with homeschooling, education, job search, and health insurance. The real people behind the screens out there are swiftly recreating a whole different vocabulary made not only of what the mass social media serves them but also of their most desired digital content. Pivoting your message to bridge the digital gap between you and your audience is crucial to ensure a sustainable connection. In the wake of the recent events, mega hotel brands like Hilton and InterContinental heavily communicated about their new hygiene standards, support to their employees, and the communities they live in as well as guests’ safety. Did they launch any special offer lowering their price to call for more bookings? Not quite, they looked at how the ground under their customers’ feet was shifting and they aptly responded by communicating around what mattered to their audience keeping their rankings and engagement levels high.

4. Achieve true connections

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is WeiJi formed by two characters which translate as ‘danger – opportunity’. In a time when our audience has never been more sensitive to the danger over their health and financial wellbeing, many have used the opportunity to gain digital traction at so many levels. And if that means to open a TikTok account, so be it. Downloaded more than 300 million times in Q1 of 2020 alone, TikTok App appealed to its audience with its raw, unpolished, fun content just when millions of people out there were just looking for simplicity and a little entertainment while being surrounded by complex and scary coronavirus-related figures and data. Big shake to the current influencers marketing strategies and quite possibly the most obvious proof that to achieve true digital connections with your audience, all you need is a big dose of empathy and authenticity.

We are all online, however, how connected are we? More than that, how connected we think we are to our audience today? The ‘Pandora’s Box’ analogy comes to my mind. The box is our desire of growing our digital leads but the thoughtless need to uncover it unleashes irreversible counter effects for which the trust our potential audience might be lost forever.

Profile photo of Dolores Semeraro
Photo: Dolores Semeraro

About the Writer: Dolores Semeraro provides strategic direction and training courses for companies and tourism institutions to help them speak today’s digital language of their audience. Her vision is to create a sustainable digital connection between travel industry stakeholders and their desired customers.

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