18 Nov 2014

Reach Out Beyond Your Fans and Followers on Social Media

Article on - Reach Out Beyond Your Fans and Followers on Social Media

How brands can tap on Social Media to build loyalty in their online community
Today, using social media for marketing is the in-thing for many brands. Some managed to do it successfully while others are struggling with it. If companies managed social media well to their advantage, there will be many benefits. Other than marketing, there are areas where brands can utilise social media such as Customer Service, Recruitment, Public Relations and building Brand and Customer Loyalty.
There are different types of Customer Loyalty programmes. One of the common programmes is getting customers to join a programme and reward them with points whenever the customers make a purchase. The rewards vary from discounts, vouchers and gifts. This type of Customer Loyalty programme, commonly known as the Point Redemption programme, is so successful that many industries such as the retails, banks, hotels, airlines and many others have implemented them. The downside of this programme is, whenever a customer makes the redemption, the redemption process is known only between the brand and the customer. The customer’s friends may not know about the redemption unless she/he shared with them.
In this article, we will look at how brands can tap on Social Media to build a customer loyalty program that extend beyond these groups of loyal customers and how they can become the brand advocates to bring in more customers.  We can breakdown this process into three stages:
  • Segmentation
  • Identification
  • Rewards and Recommendations
For simplicity and easy recall, we can use the acronym SIR for each stage in the process.
  1. Stage 1: Segmentation
In each Social Media channel that brands use, there is an online community who Like, Follow or Subscribe to these channels. In social media jargon, we call them Fans (for a Facebook Business page), Followers (for a Twitter Business account or LinkedIn company page) and Subscribers (for a YouTube channel).
Statistics show that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the four most popular channels in their categories. They are listed as:
  • Social Networking Channels – Facebook
  • Microblogging Channels – Twitter
  • Professional Social Networking Channels – LinkedIn
  • Video Sharing Channels – YouTube
  • Photo sharing site - Pinterest
The main reason why these people do that is because they have shown interest in the brands, normally through their brands knowledge, their personal experience or word-of-mouth referral by their online friends who are using these Social Media channels by liking, sharing or commenting on content posted by the brands.
In this community of Fans, Followers and Subscribers, which ranges from hundreds to tens of thousands for some brands, it is often overlooked by the brand that there are different segments of people with different levels of knowledge about the brand, products, services and the purchasing experience they have with the brand.  One method of segmentation is to use Personas to describe the knowledge and the purchasing experience.
The diagram below is an example of how brands can segment their online community and Personas is used to describe the segment of the people based on their knowledge and experience.

The Personas can be based on existing segment brands use in their traditional marketing, but with the added understanding of their social web activity.  To do that, we need to identify which segment these fans or followers are in. This brings us to the next stage, Identification. (Note: If your brand does not currently approach your target audience with personas, this is a good time to develop them. Use information that you know about your customers to do this segmentation.)
  1. Stage 2: Identification
After creating Personas, the online community is segmented and the challenge for brands is to identify the “Supporters” and “Die Hard fans” on their Social Media channel.  Below are some ways to do this:
  • Observation
Whenever a post is made on the brand’s Social Media channel, the brand can monitor and observe in the online community who frequently liked, shared or commented on the post. The more frequent the liked or shared and the more positive the comment is, the higher chances that these people are the “Supporters” or the “Die Hard fans”. The challenge here is that the monitoring and observing process requires time and is a little tedious. However the new “Supporters” and the “Die Hard fans” can be identified earlier.
  • Survey
A simpler and direct way is for the brand to conduct a survey on the brand’s Social Media channel. Traditionally, surveys are conducted via one-to-one interview. The process is costly and time consuming. By using Social Media, the brand can now reach out to a wider audience in a shorter time. This is more applicable for Social Networking channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn where they have applications or features that allow surveys to be conducted. The questions used for the survey can be the same as the offline survey which the brand uses to find out the sentiments on brands, products or customer satisfaction. From the information obtained in the survey, the brand is able to identify the “Supporters” and the “Die Hard fans” in the brand’s Social Media channel. However, survey is usually conducted over a fixed period of time (example: quarterly) so identifying new “Supporters” and  “Die Hard fans”  will take some time before they can be identified.
  • Contributions
Other than observing and conducting survey on the brand’s Social Media channels, the brand can also request and encourage their members from their online community to post and share the products they have purchased or the positive experience they had with the brand. They can post questions on their Facebook page such as “Hi Fans, post a photo of your friends and you celebrating an occasion in our restaurants” or “Share with us by posting a photo of you wearing our latest shoe collection”. When the members share, this inevitably leads to “Earned Media” for the brand. The members who have regularly responded to these invitations to share are normally the “Supporters” and the “Die Hard fans”.
Once the loyal customers are identified under the Personas of “Supporters” and “Die Hard fans” from the brand’s Social Media channel online community, the next stage is to get them to support the brand by buying more, be the brand advocates by recommending the brand or product to their friends and bring in new customers and this lead us to the next stage, Rewards and Recommendations.
  1. Stage 3: Rewards and Recommendations
This stage is where brands reach out to the “Supporters” and “Die Hard fans”, get them to buy the products and reward them for their loyalty. More importantly, this stage is to get them to talk about the brand’s products and services with their online friends; what is good about the brand’s loyalty program and what are the redemption benefits. As discussed earlier, the point redemption program has its limitation. But Social Media has the viral effect and this is just one click away.  Here are some methods that brands can consider using:
  • Integrating Existing Loyalty Program with Social Media Sharing buttons
Many brands have an online reward redemption microsite on their main website, where customers can visit to redeem gifts. Social sharing button, which does not take a lot of space on the webpage and is easy to embed, can be placed below the individual gifts. When the customers find the gift interesting or when they need advice from their friends whether to redeem it, they can simply click on the social sharing button. It will in turn share on their personal social media wall, where their friends can see and give their opinions. When this happens, the customers are sharing the brand’s customer loyalty program, helping to create awareness and bringing new customers as their friends will see how rewarding the redemption program is or how exciting the gifts are, they will consider buying from the brand. The customer claiming the item, in return will receive instant advice from the friends.
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