This post first appeared on Forbes.
The idea of humans as contradictory beings isn’t a new one, but social media is making such personal dichotomies more evident than ever before, even in life’s happiest moments, according to a new report launched by off-price luxury e-commerce site, The Outnet.
Written in partnership with audience intelligence platform, Pulsar, the study analysed 33 million posts related to the way in which consumers share moments of “joy” and “thrill” worldwide across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during May 2016.
Central to the findings is the idea that consumers are indeed extremely fickle. We celebrate uniqueness for instance, but we seek to be part of a tribe. We’re less concerned about material wealth, but what we wear and how we display it is more important than ever in our images. And we’re eagerly searching for time to disconnect, but we continue to capture those rare moments by digital means.
None of that may sound at all surprising, but the depth of the study provides some valuable lessons for businesses playing in the content marketing space and looking to figure out what motivations lie behind consumer behaviour today.
The perfect example lies in the selfie – one third of all photos in the study included a person or people in them. Rather than being solely about personal image or a means to draw attention to the creator, however, the report suggests these portraits are increasingly leaning towards supporting individuals’ growth and development.
Social media has long been a place for users to curate and edit the best versions of themselves, but the focus of that is moving to being primarily about positive steps to self-improvement and the achievement of one’s goals.
In fact, personal growth as a theme was the number one driver of discussions around joy and thrill globally (49%) in the study, which maps to broader evolving consumer trends currently in existence. Wellbeing and mindfulness have moved the topic of health, for instance, beyond a conversation surrounding just diet and exercise, to entire mental and physical lifestyle choices, which are in turn impacting businesses at every level.
This makes personal growth as a whole a really interesting one for companies to consider in terms of the way they speak to consumers – it’s not only about selling products to them anymore, but ideas and emotions that will both fit with and help fulfill such lifestyles. Brands should be thinking about how to help consumers feel more empowered, and to provide them with a service that improves their lives.
As Andres Sosa, EVP of The Outnet, said: “Having these results available for the business will be a key focus point in helping to drive our communication strategy forward. We can create touch points in relation to these moments, ensuring what we offer as a brand truly replicates and resonates with [them].”
The same goes for the way in which consumers look at the idea of belonging (referenced in 31% of posts globally). There’s desire to find joy in solidarity with others, even with the individuality that so anchors social media otherwise.
The digital era has brought about a quest for uniqueness as well as the idea of existing as part of a tribe. Businesses today should therefore be thinking about offering greater personalisation than ever, but ensuring their fans and followers feel a part of their community alongside.
The final trend in the study surrounds the idea of joy and thrill as it relates to experiences and discovery (16% of posts). Consumers are not only travelling more than any other time in history, but valuing such adventure in order to have greater things to share on social media. We’ve shifted to a time of less conspicuous consumption and instead happiness in discovering and capturing the everyday beauty of the world.
This directly relates to the fact that shoppers are valuing experiences over material wealth to a greater extent than ever before. According to the Boston Consulting Group , 55% of all luxury spend today is on luxury experiences, and that number rapidly scales when looking at the millennials market specifically. This is about being able to say “I did this” rather than “I bought this”.
Again, it’s crucial for businesses to respond to these changing motivations to best serve their customers – to think about experiences and that broader lifestyle piece as a part of their brand in the same way they curate their product proposition.
The Outnet, which is part of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, focused on thrill and joy as the foundation of the study to relate to its recently launched #TheThrillOfTheFind social campaign and its “Everything Reduced But The Thrill” tagline. Overall, the results serve as a positive outline of seemingly incongruous trends to consider for content strategy, but in a broader sense, they’re also a unified reminder that consumers today seek meaningful relationships and not just transactions.
Disclaimer: The author Rachel Arthur served as a consultant and contributor to this study on behalf of The Outnet.