The redefinition of social connections

The redefinition of social connections

Social connections are of unprecedented value. The need for connection will for sure never loose its relevance, simply because it is a fundamental human need. What will change over time, however, is how people will fulfill that need. That is why we discuss the manifestations of the need for connection that we can expect in the coming time and what that means for brands.

Before we look into the future, it is important to understand why the need for social connection is so relevant and why it will remain so in the future. Although people have become less dependent on others for survival, social connections are still of great importance for both mental and physical well-being. But despite the fact that we all know its importance, we are not always able to meet the need for connection. That was even before the pandemic – when worrying figures about loneliness and social isolation were already known. But the corona crisis, characterised by social distancing, adds to that. Fortunately, people are inventive creatures who diligently seek new ways of qualitative social connection.

These new forms of connection are often sought in the digital world. Technological innovations enable us to answer our need for social connection. And although digital meetings still consist of awkward moments of frozen faces at not so charming poses, at least we are still able to connect. The digitalization of social contact is not new, but the innovations within this field are rapidly growing, partly due to the innovation boost caused by the pandemic.

What also differs from years ago is the level of embracement of digital connections. Although people still highly appreciate real-life interactions, there’s no way we can deny the power of digital social ties. A development that is partly driven by Generation Z. The formative years of this generation have been characterized by both digital innovations and the arrival of many social media platforms. As a result, Z’ers move flawlessly trough these digital channels in order to find and maintain relationships. Research from PSFK among young consumers in the US shows that 62% of Gen Z ‘strongly’ (34%) and ‘somewhat’ (28%) agree that ‘online friendships can be as meaningful and important online as offline friendships.’

There is one specific industry that seems to inspire us time and time again: the gaming industry. What is interesting about gaming is that it is the place where we see technological adaptions and the human need for social connections coming together. Within games and of course through various gaming networks such as Twitch, the social aspect of gaming is being expanded. A trend that has not gone unnoticed by influencers and brands. Think of Travis Scott performing in Fortnite (12.3 million live visitors) and NET-A-PORTER’s fantasy island in the Nintendo game Animal Crossing. 

NET-A-PORTER in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing

So you probably wonder, what’s in it for my brand? Should I create a fantasy island too? Well, that is not exactly the point. The gist here is that in the coming years, it is highly relevant for brands to look for ways to contribute to social connections and to deepen existing relationships. People will always have the need for social connections, and we expect that there will always be struggles that keep us from feeling connected. Now it is a pandemic, next year it could be something else… The challenge is to give your customers a sense of belonging, without being hold back by any counteracting conditions. Use the tools of the current Zeitgeist while defining the role of your brand in creating social connections. Be inspired by the needs of generation Z and people’s acceptance of digital connections (without loosing its link to the real world). To end with one final piece of advice: we suggest you explore the power of online quality time by extracting learnings from the social aspect of the gaming industry.