There’s no doubt consumers have become increasingly demanding around how brands engage with them via social media platforms.
According to Exact Target, 89% of customers will switch brands following a poor customer-service experience. This puts serious pressure on marketers to find ways to ensure all possible customer service channels – including social – are ready to properly and quickly respond quickly to comments, complaints and queries.
One way many brands are attempting to maintain customer loyalty is through the use of customer loyalty programs (e.g., rewards programs, point programs, etc.). However, these programs alone aren’t enough. Brands need to adopt a number of customer-centric strategies to build loyalty around their brand in order to make these customer loyalty programs successful.
This post will highlight four ways social media can be used as a tool to build loyal customers, and to reinforce your company’s loyalty programs.
1. Social Customer Care
According to research from the Aberdeen Group, companies who have a social care program experience a 7.5% year over year increase in retention (compared to just 2.9% for those who don’t have one).
But what does an effective social customer care program look like? At its foundation, it’s simply being attentive to and responding to customer complaints, comments and queries.
jetBlue is a great example of a company that excels at social customer service.
They respond to customer queries on Twitter in great detail, often within minutes. While Twitter isn’t their primary channel customer service (that would obviously be phone or email), monitoring mentions allows them to address concerns that may not otherwise have made it onto their radar.
This goes a long way to protecting their reputation, preserving customer loyalty and to potentially attracting new customers.
2. Direct Engagement
Too often, social media is just brands broadcasting their message to their fans and followers. Unfortunately, this does very little (if anything) to build customer loyalty.
Instead of being a nameless, faceless brand who broadcasts to the masses, incorporate direct, personal engagement into your strategy. Obviously you can’t respond to every comment or mention. But you can make efforts to directly engage in a number of ways, including:
- • Monitoring and responding to social media mentions of your business or products
- • Sharing or retweeting customer posts
- • ‘Liking’ all Facebook comments to show you’ve read them
- • Mentioning fans or followers in your posts
The short of it is this: To increase customer loyalty, don’t just broadcast – respond and engage.
3. Create A Community
Part of building loyalty is engaging in both brand and non brand-related conversations with your audience.
Much of social media marketing is about expanding your reach and visibility, rather than going deeper with your current followers and customers. Yet this is one of the keys to achieving customer loyalty on social media.
The loyalty-building strategies covered in this post will all help to build community. However, building community also requires intent. Some ways you can do this include:
- • Networking and participating in other people’s communities (OPC’s) to increase your reputation in your field
- • Sharing user-generated content to show your followers you see and value their contributions
- • Creating your own Facebook and Linked groups and Twitter chats to have one-on-one conversations with your customers and prospects
- • Promoting/mentioning others as a way to bring them into your community. Not everyone is going to go out of their way to connect with your brand; it may take some strategic outreach on your part.
Nordstrom has managed to create a community on a rather unexpected social platform – Reddit. r/Nordstrom1901 was created a little over a year ago as a subreddit “not for marketing purposes, but for service and engaging with redditors” (from their reddit intro).
Fans and customers of the upscale fashion retailer can ask questions, participate in Q&As and offer feedback about Nordstrom, fashion or retail. This has allowed them to maintain transparent communication with their audience, increasing loyalty and positive sentiment for their brand.
4. Maintain A Consistent Identity Across Platforms
While you’ll engage differently depending on the platform, your general tone, values and messaging should remain consistent. If they’re not, you could be confusing your audience, diluting your influence and actually decreasing customer loyalty.
That said, you do need to adapt your approach depending on the medium. This involves understanding how your customers and prospects want to connect with you on each platform.
Are they there expecting speedy customer service? Are they primarily there for the discounts and promotions? Or maybe they just want to participate in your online community?
Know why your fans or followers are connecting with you on each platform, and make sure you’re delivering.
Every action your brand takes on social media can either build up or destroy customer loyalty. Having a customer loyalty program is a great first step, but needs to be reinforced by loyalty-building strategies like the ones above. In a recent survey I conducted of 357 online marketers called “What Works in Online Marketing,” 96% of respondents said they planned to increase or keep their budgets for social media marketing the same over the next year. Clearly, social media offers more value to marketers than just a boost in customer loyalty, so you’d be wise to get started with social media if you haven’t already.
How do you build customer loyalty through social media? Share below!
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