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Apps and Social Media Platforms Failing in Emotionally Connecting with Users

Though social media platforms and mobile applications are widely used in the modern Connected Age, new research suggests that their weak emotional connections with consumers mean they need to strengthen their brands and build stronger relationships with users.

Social media share prices plummeted back in July—Facebook lost US $120 billion of share value and Twitter lost US $5 billion. The annual 2018 Gustavson Brand Trust Index—a study that measures Canadian consumers’ opinions of about 299 corporate and product brands across 26 categories—found that Twitter ranked at 296, Facebook ranked at 295, and Snapchat was at 294.

These are also among the brands that Canadians are least likely to recommend.

The Trust Index findings are also reflected in the annual Brand Intimacy Report that was released earlier this year by brand agency, MBLM.

Measuring what’s called “Brand Intimacy,” MBLM’s findings revealed an almost industry-wide lack of performance when it comes to apps and social media platforms connecting with their users in an emotional way.   

MBLM’s report revealed more specific insights:

 – Apps & social platforms ranked number 12 out of the 15 industries the agency covers, with an average Brand Intimacy Quotient of 18.0, below the industry average of 27.1.

 – The exception to the trend is Apple Music. Apple Music was ranked number six in the study’s top ten last year, but this year jumped to number one in the industry. Apple Music also ranked #1 with millennials and men, whereas women preferred Facebook.

– Consumers do rely on smartphones to keep them connected, and the apps that accompany them are viewed as utilities or expected functions of a smart device that everyone with internet access feels entitled to.

Why do users feel disconnected from apps and social media?

The question is: what is Apple Music doing differently? Why is it able to build stronger connections with its user base?  

Apple’s strong branding has always been built on the next cool thing—innovations that people can easily incorporate into their daily lives. When a user ingrains a brand into his or her daily actions, it becomes more than just habitual behavior—the brand becomes a vitally important part of daily existence.

Perhaps these findings also point to the wave of cynicism and disconnect regarding the assumption of privacy for the average consumer in the wake of this year’s personal data breaches. People use all these services, but it is unlikely they have an affinity with the platforms themselves. MBLM notes that there’s not much trust around search engines, either: down to 42% from 53% last year.

The proliferation of bots, fake accounts and irritating advertising (which is on the rise), especially the pop-up and autoplay forms, may be contributing to the cynicism and weakening connections apps and social media platforms have with their users.

The takeaway here is that social media brands need to adapt quickly or else they may fall victim to indifference, commoditization and distrust. As mentioned earlier, we have seen tangible examples of these brands losing ground, so building connections with users is key.