First of all I want to explain what a digital campfire is. A digital campfire is a term coined by Sara Wilson who defined them as micro-communities of people communicating together. These are people who are sharing online experiences and exchanging private messages. Some of the best examples of digital campfires are: Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats, Slack communities and Close Friends on Instagram.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication”.
These campfires are becoming increasingly important, as the younger generation veer away from social media, in favour of private messaging. After spending some years cultivating their online communities, they now want to share their experiences with smaller groups of friends. You guessed it – these smaller conversations are taking place within private chat spaces.
Brands and businesses have made a noticeable shift in their marketing focus, as they have realised that they are losing younger fans to these private messaging platforms. It is important to note however, that although Facebook is losing its younger fans, it still owns Instagram and WhatsApp. In fact, in the US alone, Instagram is the only social network to show an increasing fan base amongst younger consumers.
How are businesses using digital campfires?
Businesses are using really interesting techniques to reach these younger users. Some of their methods include: using chatbots to interact with their customers outside of ordinary working hours, in order to mimic real-life conversations. These chatbots are handy because they help brands connect with new customers, as well as maintaining their relationships with current clients.
The changing face of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
There has been a noticeable shift in the digital landscape, because companies like Google and Amazon are using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to mimic human conversations. They are literally listening to our day-to-day conversations in order to predict what we will buy next.
Personalisation is the next big thing, because these companies want to provide an experience that is highly personal. In the future, this will ensure that you will only see ads for things that you actually want. These chatbots and Artificial Intelligence machines are adapting to our every want and need, and will act as filters, filtering out anything that is irrelevant to us.
What do influencers have to do with digital campfires?
Another way in which brands are adapting to these online micro-communities is by working with influencers. It can take time to cultivate your own digital campfires, but it’s well worth it in the longer-term. Some of the benefits include having a much better idea of what your ideal clients want and need.
Companies such as Sprite are already using influencers to reach out to their customers, and to talk about issues such as loneliness. For a previous digital marketing campaign, they set up Reddit forums and assigned an influencer to each. Their goal was to work with an influencer who had personal experience of the issues that were being discussed within the forum. This resulted in greater brand awareness on the behalf of Sprite, but it also gave them insight into their consumers’ issues.
Shared Experience Campfires
Shared Experience Campfires are private or public forums where people participate in a shared experience. These groups usually occur around a shared interest, such as a game. Examples of these are Fortnite and Twitch. Fortnite is a multi-player video game, which has a huge following amongst video games enthusiasts. 50% of teens use Fortnite to interact with their friends, and up to 8M are online at any given time. Wow!
Twitch meanwhile, is a live broadcasting and viewing platform. Again, this platform has an almost cult-like following. It’s users are chiefly gamers. 592 billion minutes of live-content streaming was consumed last year on Twitch alone.
How can we identify the right digital campfires for our brands?
- Firstly, we need to identify the communities and parts of the culture that align with our brands.
- Secondly, we must determine the sorts of online experiences that these audiences are seeking.
- Thirdly, we need to form relationships with these consumers by interacting with them regularly
- Finally, we need to share interesting and relevant content within these private chat areas.
What are the key points to remember?
- Customisation is key.
- Monitor the people in the campfire that you want to reach – what are they talking about? What are their likes and interests?
- Think about the value that your brand brings to the party (your USPs).
- Get creative with your products and the associated messaging.
- Use stunning visuals to amplify your marketing messages.
The future of the digital campfire trend looks set to continue, as more brands switch their focus to personalised messaging and groups. The larger social networks, such as Facebook, have already made the switch towards digital campfires. These so-called campfires are important as they are becoming the fastest growing areas of online communication. Therefore, as brands and businesses we need to ensure that we get ourselves into a position where we can talk to the people in these groups.