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June 19, 2024
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Ripple effect: Connecting with the connected

Recently, we carried out quantitative and qualitative research with more than 2000 people across New Zealand and Australia to understand how people connect with brands.  

The research, titled Connection, found that humans have developed a new set of skills to connect with people with the same interests and world views as us. The lines between people, ideas, friends, influencers, entertainment, and brands are blurred, especially online. Now, they are culturally driven.  

We also found that social media makes people feel more connected in life than those who aren’t regularly on social media. This differs slightly for Australians (who are 1.8 times more connected) and New Zealanders (who are 1.3 times more connected), but the numbers remain significant. These people feel more connected to a broad range of things – from social and community groups to sports teams. Understanding these super-connected people creates a new opportunity for brands and organisations, here’s how.  

It's not just the message that matters, it’s who it’s from  

People who feel super-connected to something – whether a brand, a community group or interest – can act as well-placed messengers. This is because their connection to different networks creates a ripple effect that influences the behaviour of others. This is useful for amplifying and sharing messages that encourage behaviour change, where other channels might not be as useful or appropriate – sometimes organisations and brands simply aren’t the right messenger. Harnessing the ripple effect of the super-connected can bridge this gap.  

Any topic where people don’t want to be told what to do by an authority is an opportunity to use this approach. This might be, for instance, when communicating sensitive or nuanced topics like mental health, quitting smoking, or anti-racist behaviour. Even if people don't want to hear a message from an organisation, they may be more open to hearing it from their peer group, or from someone they look up to. This is often referred to as someone’s ‘reference group’ or ‘reference network’.

That’s why messaging that comes from the super-connected is often more trusted, better at striking the right tone and more effective at normalising behaviours. To truly make the most of the ripple effect, these supporters must have everything they need to inspire and prompt the desired action in others.

How to create a ripple effect  

1. Support the supporters    

Super-connected people often need a helping hand to promote desired action in others. This means arming them with what to say, do or share with their network to inspire others.  

In the mental health space, for example, friends and family are often the best messengers for people struggling with depression or anxiety, yet those friends are family are not always set up to support their loved ones.  

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the ‘How To Do Nothing’ campaign by Te Hiringa Hauora Health Promotion Agency called on young people to just hang out and do nothing with their friends who are feeling down. The campaign showed practical examples of friends being there for each other – sitting on a couch, in a park, cooking ramen together – using dry humour to play into awkward silences of nothingness.

In Australia, The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program set up ‘You’ve Got This Mate’ – a campaign dedicated to friends of family of rural men and how to best support them.  

We’ve developed a ‘Support the Supporters’ guide, with more information on how to help:  

  • Identify your target audience and the super-connected supporters who are best placed to deliver the message.
  • Arm your super connectors with what they need to inspire others.
  • Look beyond friends and family for messengers that matter.

2. Get the tone right

It’s important to get the tone right and create something that super connected people feel comfortable sharing – whether it’s content, a phrase or a soundbite. This means working to truly understand your audience, including the language they use, such as the social and cultural norms, and what feels acceptable to them and their networks –otherwise the ripple effect will fall flat.  

3. Incentivise Dial up referrals

Super-connected people are more likely to be connected to a broader amount of people and groups, making them the perfect cohort for ‘refer a friend’ or ‘bring a friend for free’ opportunities. The super-connected people identified in our research are more likely to post online – so consider how your organisation can provide these people access referrals to share with their network. Offering them a gift they can share with their friends and family will provide reciprocity and help set up a ripple effect.    

4. First-time behaviours require a foot in the door

It’s common for organisations and brands to want to tap into new audiences or encourage people to carry out a first-time behaviour. Whether that’s trying out a new product or service for the first time or getting someone to take the first step on a behaviour change journey.  

The super-connected are a great audience to consider as your early adopters for these first-time behaviours. They have more people to share their first-time experiences with as they are more connected.

Getting someone over the first hump of action requires a lot more energy than repeat behaviours do. To lower the barrier to entry, offer a low-stakes chance to trial or practice the behaviour before commitment, such as through a free trial or sample. Another way to do this is by providing a window into what the experience will be like. For instance, a ‘what to expect’ explainer video that familiarises people with the process.  

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June 19, 2024
Contributed by
Tagged with
Behaviour change
Brand & creative
Customer experience
Cultural insight
Lindsey Horne
Behavioural Insights Director
With a background in neuroscience and applied behavioural science, Lindsey works across behaviour change projects with social and government clients. Her approach to behaviour change is holistic, from broader cultural and social change through to behavioural economics and nudges.
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