Can social media heal society’s divisions and reconnect people?

People today feel more divided than united. And with social media rapidly spreading opinions, it is easy to see why.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

If you look across your social feeds you will see posts you love and posts you hate. Political discussions drive opinions to what is 'right' compared to what is 'wrong' and create an 'us' versus 'them' environment. 

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If you share your opinion on line, you could see it rapidly descending into a spate of name-calling and fighting amongst friends who do not see eye to eye. Every day, heated discussions fill social media feeds and negativity dominates the news cycle. 

America certainly does not feel united, and new research from Chicago, Ill-based social analytics platform Sprout Social finds that people agree. It surveyed 1,013 Americans in November 2018 to find out how they felt about the divided society.

It found that four-out-of-five respondents believe society is more divided today than ever before.

Online users see social as both a cause of and solution for societal division. Over half of respondents (55 percent) say social media is a cause for societal fractures, yet an overwhelming 91 percent of people still believe in social media's power to connect people.

People are looking to brands to mend the current societal divide and facilitate connections on social.

Almost four out of five (78 percent) of people said that they want brands to use social to bring them together and 81 percent say brands can be good connectors because they carry products and services that appeal to a diverse range of customers.

People crave human to human connection, and brands can help here.

Over half of consumers (55 percent) want brands to use social to help connect like-minded people with each other, 52 percent want to meet people different from them, and over one in three (36 percent) are looking for communities they can belong to.

Connection breeds loyalty and helps business growth. When people feel connected to brands, 57 percent will increase their spending with that brand and 76 percent will buy from them instead of from a competitor.

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So how can brands use social media to connect consumers?  Most popular responses were: Create interactive social content (46 percent), highlight common interests (43 percent), create private groups (41 percent), and promoting offline events (39 percent).

Can social media heal society’s divisions and reconnect people zdnet
Sprout Social

Social media has made it easy for brands to talk about their goods and services to large groups of potential customers. But people want to have more than product information from brands.

Consumers want to learn more about the people who make up their favorite brands. 

If a company wants to foster a genuine connection with its customers, then it will need to think beyond what they sell and consider the needs and desires of the people they are selling to.

Social listening enables brands to craft content that people will want to read and can help brands pivot to a different topic when they feel their audience's attention is waning.

Brands can use their social platforms to raise awareness around important issues, invite people to join meaningful conversations and even build communities that spark long-term connections both online and off.

The platforms are there -- businesses just need to use them to really connect with their audience.

Social media cannot be trusted without these features

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