For Smith-Wilson, doing DEI differently means totally rethinking where it sits and how it functions.
When people find their people through niche interests and groups, they engage with platforms more deeply. Brands can take this beyond social for innovative immersive experiences.
These days, there’s no need to explain how we’re a nation divided – but it goes beyond politics. The country’s media landscape has splintered into a sea of channels and streaming platforms that require us to wade through the vastness of their content to find something to watch. At the same time, social platforms have given us opportunities to join groups tailored to our most niche interests, creating personal interest graphs as unique as our own fingerprints.
This is not by accident. Social platforms have encouraged people with niche interests to find each other and galvanize their fandom. When Facebook realized people were less engaged with posts from friends and family – especially as politics got more and more contentious – they pivoted to focus on Groups. With their “More Together” campaign, launched during the 2019 SuperBowl, they advertised the ways people can find and connect with others like them. Obsessed with corgis? There’s a page for that. Are you a Black woman who owns a Peloton? There’s a group for you. Are you a New York City plant parent? There’s a group for you, too. And it’s working – over 1.8 Billion people have joined Facebook Groups to find their people.
It goes beyond social
When people do find their people, they tend to engage more deeply. Twitter cites that interest-based users engage at 4x the rate of demographic-based communities. But social isn’t the only way people can immerse themselves and expand their engagement with a particular interest. For example, rather than simply watching a one-way broadcast of a TV show, people can become part of a two-way conversation with the creators through live streaming or NTFs. They can even write their own narrative building on the foundational stories and characters through fan fiction (fanfic) or engage in live role-playing scenarios (LARPing), as Disney has started to do with its Star Wars franchise.
The at-home viewing experience is also expected to become more immersive with the continued adoption of sensory-enhancing, visual and audio technologies, as well as limitless virtual worlds. Combined, all these aspects encourage a nonlinear state of flow – a deeper immersion in a fandom or interest. Younger audiences in particular are getting used to expecting this seamless interaction with unique interests across platforms and real life from their brand and social experiences.
Bringing this to life
How can brands explore ways to engage with those looking for a deeper, more immersive experience with their interests?
- Evoke wonder through sensory experiences. Don’t just tell people a story or about a product. Let them feel like they’re in it by leveraging 360-degree surround sound or haptic technology. For example, a soda brand can layer sound, AR visuals, and haptics, that let people experience the effervescent tingle of carbonation and the exciting sensations that evoke.
- Encourage co-creation. Set your IP free. If you’re an entertainment brand with beloved characters and storylines, why not propose two potential paths at a pivotal moment in the narrative? Let people decide for themselves which direction the story should follow. Or, you can host a fanfic contest where stories are reviewed by the production team. The winner’s storyline can be produced as a special episode.
- Engage fans on their turf. We know people turn to social to talk about what they’re watching, whether it’s a Facebook group, Twitter, or Reddit. Have the show’s cast and creators participate in conversations on this platform. Of course, it won’t all be complimentary, but that’s ok – and sometimes even more engaging. It’s an opportunity to hear from potential viewers and earn their respect just for showing up with an open mind. This can be through Facebook Live, Reddit AMAs or live-tweeting and responding during the show.