Category Archives: brands

For Brands, Community Members Trump Loyalists – Really?

Brands should be more concerned about building a community than building loyalists. The rationalization for this is that brands are better off having emotionally connected customers as opposed to repeat customers.


Let’s break this down a bit. Loyalists believe in the product or service that a brand provides. They see value in the product/service compared to other offerings in the market and reward the brand by being a repeat customer.

A brand community member is not necessarily a loyalist that is a repeat customer. BUT, a community member has a vested interest in the brand. They have a genuine interest in what the brand offers and/or what they stand for.

The distinction that I make here is that you get more out of a community member. The community member will help you better shape product/service success by providing continuous feedback (good and bad) and they will also advocate on your brand’s behalf when you deliver excellence. Your community will help you stay on top of the competition. That is if you listen to them. And when you do listen to them, the community members as well as their audience reward you. The added value of a community member is that they will market and advocate on your behalf because they are an emotional bond connection and customer.

While putting together thoughts for this article, I came across an absolutely fabulous article, “The New Science of Customer Emotions.” The premise of the article and supporting study is that if “companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.” The article states, “’emotional motivators’ provide a better gauge of customers’ future value … including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.” There is no better way to create an emotional connection with an audience than to make them feel like they are a part of the brand. A community where their comments and opinions are listened to. A community where they can engage with others that share common interest. People just like them.

As a brand’s community builds, there is no better place to understand your target audiences’ needs. You learn from your audience AND you create emotionally connected customers. These customers have greater lifetime value than loyalists, because they provide further word-of-mouth about your brand and help you win new customers.

Two points I will make in closing, hopefully to make you contemplate about my position that a community member is far more valuable than a loyalist.

First, I recognize that it is often difficult to build a community around certain products/services. Could there be a community around soap? The answer is yes. Just look at Dove (both men and women products) and look at the social movements and communities they look to build. This is more about brand imaging than brand features. There are many takeaways to learn from their approaches. Examples you can see are here and here. There are many others as well.

Communities come in many forms. I do not mean a Facebook page or a forum per say. Yes, these are examples of platforms that help to build a community that may or may not be part of the execution strategy. What is important is to create a social movement that aligns to both your audience and your brand values. Then determine the strategy and execution channels.

When I talk about building a brand community, I define this as platforms and vehicles for engagement between brand representatives and the target audience. A community must also allow communication among the target audience without the brand necessarily being engaged in the conversation. BUT, the brand needs to be able to listen to these conversations. Having this audience engage in a platform that is a brand asset is most imperative for a couple of reasons. 1) It allows the brand to listen, and 2) The fact that the conversation is enabled by the brand creates reinforcement and emotional commitment to what the brand stands for.

I have worked on building brand communities for the past 10 years. I confess – it is difficult. It is definitely a new methodology of marketing for winning over an audience. But unequivocally, it pays long-term brand value and financial reward.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, loyalty, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”


Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

Two Very Different Ways to Use Social Media Successful

I manage two brands. I focus on building awareness and advocacy for both of them via social marketing. But my strategy and execution is very different for both of the brands as shown below. These descriptions are provided with complete transparency. I hope they provide you with strong insights that help you drive brand success via social media marketing.

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Consider the two brands I manage – “Social Steve” and “DivorceForce.”

Before you even start with any marketing endeavor, you must clearly define the objectives you look to achieve. There are definite differences in the objectives I look to accomplish for “Social Steve” and “DivorceForce.” Let’s look at each brand’s objectives and then how these objectives drive different social media marketing approaches and executions.

Social Steve –

I blog and tweet under the moniker of “Social Steve.” I do so for two reasons: 1) I am passionate about sharing what I have learned about marketing, brand marketing, digital marketing, and social media marketing throughout my career; and 2) I look to reinforce my marketing leadership, knowledge, and value in order to sustain a strong career by appealing to potential employers and clients. I want to continue to be known as a true marketing leader – no hidden agenda.

In order to achieve the Social Steve objectives, I generally execute in three manners. 1) I produce a regular blog article on The Social Steve Blog; 2) I tweet regularly looking to provide valuable information to my followers; and 3) I participate on LinkedIn in regularly. Here are some notable things I do not do and the reasons why:

• I no longer work to increase followers. My information is there for those that value it. If you follow me, great. If not, so be it. I am not concerned with a numbers game.
• My blog contains my content only without ads (except ones wordpress might insert) or guest bloggers. I have had offers from people to guest blog on my site, but I have no interest in guest bloggers on my site. It is my site to share my knowledge and perspective. (I do allow reblogging of my articles.) I have had offers by advertisers. I am not interested. I do not want any influence of paid media.

DivorceForce –

The objective of DivorceForce is to build a community of people that are contemplating, navigating, or have been through a divorce. We look for people to help one another, to share expertise by a wide breath of subject matter experts, and allow people affected by divorce to gain the support and inspiration they deserve. DivorceForce is a community as opposed to a pure information resource. Yes, we provide valuable content, but we are not the sole experts on divorce. We value diverse inputs and perspectives by other contributors and members of the community.

Driven by the objectives stated above, I work to drive relationships between DivorceForce and two groups of people: 1) people affected by divorce; and 2) subject matter experts in various topics related to divorce (legal, finance, therapy, relationships, etc.). This means that I actively look for people mentioning their divorce. I look to engage with them, help them, and suggest that they checkout I also use many tools to search for valuable content for the divorce community. I highlight others that offer great information for the divorce community. I mention them and their articles in tweets. I connect and look to build relationships such that the subject matter experts contribute content to DivorceForce and share DivorceForce with their audience. With DivorceForce, I look to engage on all channels where my audience participates – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I go where my audience is.

There are two distinct differences in the Social Steve brand and the DivorceForce brand. The Social Steve Brand is a brand that looks to create authority on a particular topic. DivorceForce is a brand that works to bring together many points of view on divorce. Social Steve looks to be the voice of expertise while DivorceForce looks to attract experts to be part of the community. The social marketing strategies and tactics vary between the two brands.

Of course, there are more specifics to the strategies and tactics of Social Steve and DivorceForce brands. Hopefully the two disparate approaches I have described (driven by brand objectives) provide you direction on how to use social media to work for your brand. Understand what you want to achieve and how you want your audience to perceive your brand. Make sure your social media marketing reinforces your brand presence.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

The New Way of Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants

motivate audience

I get it – marketing is all about getting your target audience to move in a direction that is beneficial to the brand. It is a company initiative that must turn measureable results. It is a business function that must be accountable to company goals and objectives. It is not an altruistic function.

But something has dramatically changed. Your audience is skeptical of your marketing ploys. Your audience rejects your marketing push if it is interruptive and lacks relevance. Remember, your audience engages with their own network. They often market for your brand and also against your brand. Your audience’s behavior and influence of your brand success has changed, so you must change your marketing approach.

In marketing, we aim to have our audience respond to brand “call to actions.” But we can no longer go straight for desired brand outcomes. We must first build relationships, build trust, and cultivate our audience. Old school marketing communication no longer works. Marketing communications cannot push brand agenda and be a way one pushes brand content. Audiences no longer react positively to this form of brand marketing.

Look, I know I go by the pen name “Social Steve” so you would expect me to push the importance of social media, social marketing, social media marketing – call it what you want. My recommendations and actions are driven by one facet – audience behavior. Current audience behavior dictates the need for you to change your marketing approach. Not social media hype, but mainstream audience behavior.

Last week I presented to 60+ top level executives at an executive forum. I stressed the importance of their need to change their understanding and participation in social marketing. I would say my message resonated with about 1/3 of the audience. The other 2/3’s of the audience seemed very uncomfortable with my push for them to change their marketing approach given current audience behavior. Far too many seasoned professionals are stagnant in their leadership approach. The need to change makes them uncomfortable. All I can say is “shame.” If you are a leader, you must lead based upon the behavior of the audience you want to capture.

So what is the change that must occur to “Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants?” From a theoretical approach that is easy. You want to build relationships so that your target not only loves your product or service, but they love your brand as well. They love what you stand for and your commitment to customers. The hard part is the execution of this because it takes times. There is rarely love at first sight from a customer to a brand. You must earn their trust, love, and commitment to your brand.

I’ll give you an example. I currently head up audience development for a start up. I am constantly under pressure to increase the number of subscribers. I understand that is the company’s main objective. I get directions from my executive management to communicate, “respond by signing up today.” I know that I cannot ask for that call to action until I have built up some trust from the individuals I look to convert. While my management measures my success on number of sign ups, I must stay committed to building relationships with my audience. I cannot give in to the pressure of pushing for sign ups too early. That will not turn winning results. So while everyone wants results immediately, I have been cautious not to push my audience too early in the relationship. Now, four months into my stint at the start up I am seeing inertia and momentum. I am building strong relationships with the target market and our audience is responding most positively.

Moral of the story, it is easy to give into the objectives and KPIs (key performance indictors) of your company. But in the long run, the results will not be successful. Patience and commitment is required.

If you want to motivate your audience and drive brand objectives, understand your audience first. Play to the audience’s whims and do not be myopic to your company goals. This may sound trite, but play nice, make friends, and then ask for what you want to accomplish. Think about it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under behavior, brand marketing, brands, change management, leadership, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

5 Keys to Audience Development

audience developmentMarketing must change because audience behavior has changed. Customers and clients are skeptical of brand claims. They no longer accept brand advertisement and most of their communication. Brands must build strong relationships with their audience in order to build emotional connections, convert customers/clients, and motivate advocacy.

Recently I suggested that “Companies Should Eliminate Marketing Positions.” I emphasized that marketing communication aimed at the push of brand messages is obsolete. “Marketing” (as it is practiced by an overwhelming number of companies today) must change. A marketing approach must now be aimed at audience development. Commitment to audience development yields winning long-term brand success.

Audience development takes time. Everyone wants to have a million followers that connect with their brand on multiple social channels and convert (sign up or purchase) on their brand site. The reality is that people are not going to just connect on the channels that you want; they will connect on the channels they want. Thus, you must be active on all the key channels that your audience participates in. And audience development will not happen over night. (That is why it is called “development” as opposed to “conversion.”)

There are five key elements to audience development. Invest and stay committed to the following:

1) Monitor and listen. We have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we communicate. Monitor all digital platforms, channels, and forums for keywords within your brand category. Listen to what people say. Learn about their needs. Make sure you monitor for your brand name. When people mention you in a positive light, make sure to thank them. If someone says something negative, take the high road. Apologize and whatever you do, do not try to win a debate. There comes a time to just let it go.

2) Engage. When you find someone that mentions a topic applicable to your brand category, reach out to him or her. Offer help, information, and/or inspiration. Be congenial; do not push your brand agenda. Make a friend.

3) Find influencers. It is great when you have others helping you to build your audience. But remember, influencers are not compelled to build your audience; they are compelled to build their audience. Thus you need to find a reason that influencers would want to work with you. For more on this see “Stop Looking for Influencers; Find Great Partners.”

4) Have a content strategy. Content helps to get the word out of your brand. Brand content serves a number of winning purposes:

a. It helps to establish the brand as an authority in a specific category.
b. With the use of social marketing it is a way to proliferate valuable information that gets associated with your brand.
c. It allows others to share your brand.

Get more information on setting up a content marketing strategy and plan here. Consider the different types of content you need to manage here.

5) Use paid media. Consider using digital paid media such as Facebook ads and SEM (search engine marketing – Google ads). These types of digital ads integrate well with your organic audience development endeavors. They are low cost ad vehicles that can be implemented in a non-user-intrusive manner.

I believe that marketing communication has reached its useful end. While brand communication remains important, it must be executed with the objective of audience development. Not as a method to pound brand position. Customers/clients behaviors drive the need to change this mentality. Brands need to change and have a build audience mentality, strategy, plan, and execution.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Here is an Example of Why I Love My Social Marketing Job

One of the things I love about being a professional social media engager is that I get to connect with people. There is nothing better than getting the feeling of helping someone. Are you doing this with your social presence?

social media helpThe best way to win people over is to help them. This seems pretty straightforward and obvious, but how many brands actually do this. Social platforms are a strong enabler for helping people and not enough marketers are leveraging social in the proper way.

As some of you know from my recent blogs, I head up audience development for DivorceForce. DivorceForce is a safe and supportive community for people navigating all aspects of divorce. Recently, I was monitoring Twitter and other platforms for people looking for help as it related to their divorce. I came across one user that merely mentioned she was pursuing her divorce. My response is below:

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A simple, “wishing you the best” type of response. A small expression of caring. She then responded with a “thanks”, but the second response really surprised me …

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Friends were not there, but she thought the response was from a bot. I quickly replied …

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Once she followed DivorceForce, I DMed her my email to contact me. This opened the door for a more personal engagement, opportunity to help an individual, and shine as a brand. I love this! What more could a professional look for? An opportunity to help people and at the same time represent a brand in a positive light.

Now I know that DivorceForce has a natural social mission of helping people. Not all marketers have this luxury with their brand as it relates to having a most positive social presence. But I do believe that EVERY brand has an opportunity to make a positive difference for their audience.

If you want an example of a brand that does not have an inherent social mission, but creates great care and value for their audience with their social presence, check out Dove. Just Google them. Look at what they do for self-esteem for women.

Now, I want to give you a challenge. We are approaching the end of the year for 2015. How about you make a commitment to using social to help people for the rest of the year. How about you use social, not to push your agenda, but to help your audience. I will bet that if you take this challenge you will hit 2016 with great momentum building your audience and building advocacy for your brand. Are you ready?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under audience development, brand marketing, brands, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Social Followers – What You Need to Understand

During most weeks at work, I stop to think about what I am doing and what I should share with you on my blog. This week I was working on increasing brand following and thought it would be good to share with you some tips and perspective. But there was one problem – what I do for my company’s brand, I do not practice for my Social Steve brand. I had a dilemma. How could I make recommendations that I do not practice?

social followers

So I need to share some honesty about the Social Steve brand and my company’s brand. With regards to the Social Steve brand, I really do not care who follows me. I do not mean this with any disrespect to anyone. I just feel that if what I have to say resonates with someone and they find good value out of what I have to share, I am truly thrilled to have them as a follower. If it doesn’t, no harm done. My life does not get enriched based upon having 5,000 followers or 500,000.

But with my professional job, things are different. It’s not that I solely care about a follower count. My main objective is to get potential users to experience the brand on our site. And part of the user journey is to experience the brand on social channels, so I want to increase following numbers on the brand’s social channels.

Remember, numbers do matter, but it is not just about the numbers. You want to have people following that really care about what your brand has to offer. You want them to share the positive experiences with your brand with their network.

So the one important aspect that is the same for a personal following and professional following is to be useful and/or entertaining to your audience. This is the most important factor for winning over any type of audience.

I created of list of other things you should do to create a strong following on social channels. After I created the list, I realized that I do not do all of them for my personal brand but certainly do so for my professional endeavors. The truth of the matter is that I do not have KPIs (key performance indicators) for my personal brand. Thus I just wing it for my personal brand. Maybe that is okay, maybe it is not. But for a professional brand you do have KPIs and you cannot just wing it. This is a very key distinction.

So here are three added tips for creating a strong brand following for commercial and professional brands:

Curate your influencers and audience content and postings. Show your audience you are listening to them. Share their valuable and entertaining information with the other members of your audience.

Don’t be the know it all; let others shine. Many brands feel that being the leader in a competitive space hinders them from sharing other good content on their topical area. That doing so diminishes their authoritative role in the competitive space. This could not be further from the truth. Being a leader in a particular space means that you provide the most intriguing original content AND that you research the space for other valuable information. Sharing what you find with your audience reinforces this persona.

Credit others that contribute to your industry. This point is an extension of the previous point. Not only do you want to share other valuable information, but you must also credit the source. This is not only ethically correct, but doing so is likely to broaden your audience. When you credit others, they likely retweet or repost your mention of them. By doing so, the referenced contributor shares your brand with their audience.

At the end of the day, you need to make sure you understand what you are looking to accomplish in your social channels. You need to take appropriate actions to accomplish your exact objectives. I highlighted this by describing for you my different approaches to my personal brand and company brand. Hopefully I have inspired you and led you on a path of success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – I head up social marketing and audience development for DivorceForce. DivorceForce is a safe and supportive community for anyone to navigate all aspects of divorce. Please checkout and share with anyone that is looking for information on and assistance with divorce.


Filed under brands, social media, Social Steve, SocialSteve