Category Archives: loyalty

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

9 Factors Separate Social Marketers that are Ready to Kick Butt

It was seven years ago that my marketing career took a new turn to the world of social marketing. I noticed early, that brands would lose some control of their position and reputation as dictated by the democratized public. The people had a strong set of platforms to share their likes and dislikes for companies, brands, and products. In fact these objective opinions and declarations trump brand-marketing communication. The audiences’ voice is loud and moves fast.

Then I felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill in social marketing. But now I see the struggle easing and a good deal of the smoke clearing. I see that brands want to plug into their audiences’ behaviors and actions. Companies have a strong interest in leveraging digital and social technologies. Trepidation has been replaced by exuberance and to outsource or employ knowledgeable and experienced social marketers. And now I see that there are a number of social marketers ready to kick butt and make a real difference in empirical results that align to companies’ KPIs (key performance indicators).

social marketing success

So what are those successful social marketers doing that set them apart from wanna-bes? There are nine factors or social marketing practices that when executed together distinguish social marketers that will rise to the top.

1) Strategy – A while back I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” You cannot just “do social.” You must start with a mission, goal and objective, and follow up the documented strategy with a plan.

2) Listening – When it comes to social marketing, I know you are talking, but are you listening. A key element to building a relationship is listening. I always liked the line; “we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as mush as we talk.” Social marketing champions listen to people talking on the brand’s digital and social assets and the ones that the brand does not own. They listen for brand mentions as well as keywords that are relevant in the brand category.

3) Empathy – probably the greatest factor in social marketing success is having complete understanding and empathy for your audience. Successful marketers understand their audience. They know what turns them on and turns them off as well as what motivates them to deliver word of mouth marketing for the brand.

4) Messaging Strategy – this is a function straight out of marketing communications 101, but at the same time not an area the social marketer always tackles. Shrewd social marketers know exactly how they want their brand to look and sound in social channels. They make sure all communication and correspondence uphold the brand image they desire in social communications.

5) Content Strategy and Plan – In order to have a successful brand social presence, you need to have a continuous and compelling stream of content. Brands need to think like media companies. Many marketers find it difficult to shift from an advertorial mentality to a softer content marketing approach. (Required as a function of target audience perception and behavior.) To help here, I have offered advice. Start with three articles from this year – a) “4 Tips for Winning Content,” “Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants,” and “The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use.”

6) Sharing – the best social marketers understand and plan how to get their brand content shared. It is more than simply having social widgets attached to a blog article. Rich relationship building and seeding various calls to action spawn greater brand sharing.

7) Personalization and Engagement Plan – in the day and age where just about every brand is going to partake in social media, successful brands need to be most relevant to their audience. Relevance comes from understanding individuals through engagement and personalization. Leading social marketers increase relevancy to their audience by having personalized communication and well defined engagement plans and then fine-tuning them based upon executional results.

8) Community – More and more social marketers and community managers are learning from the strengths and shortcomings of having a brand presence on Facebook. They are learning the true value of having an online community of loyalists and advocates that can be unleashed to do marketing on behalf of a brand. Now, Facebook has practically abandoned non-paid brand presence. At the same time, brand communities activate loyalists to produce advocates. Given these circumstances, I recommend you check out “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

9) Know How to Measure Results – I do not care what role anyone has in any line of business. You have to show results that are meaningful to the executive team. For social marketers this means going beyond “reach and engagement” because most executives I know cannot translate “reach and engagement” to their KPIs. If this is an area that still has you befuddled read “Here is the ROI for Social Marketing.”

So yes … I think there is a fair share of movers and shakers in the social marketing arena. And yes there are still a greater number of fakers out there. But the point is that you now have a large enough talent pool to go after to make a difference in your business. Drill into your candidates and make sure they have experience in the 9 areas I outlined above. And as always, if you have a question or need some help, contact me.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, Facebook, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, content marketing, influence marketing, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Aim for Earned Social Media

Brand LoveIf you are a marketing professional or student, you have probably heard of “earned media.” Earned media is a powerful aspect of a marketing plan. “Earned media refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising. Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence” (Wikipedia).

Well over two years ago, I covered the importance of “Integrating Owned, Earned, and Paid Media.” That article is the most visited post on The SocialSteve blog. Here, I want to cover something as equally important – capturing earned social media. I am kind of surprised that earned social media is not a prevalently used term. I’ll define earned social media as favorable publicity gained through word of mouth referrals by objective users of digital and social platforms.

When it comes to earned social media, don’t believe the hype. Go with empirical data. One of the most telling statistics I often highlight in presentations is that there is “71 percent more likelihood to purchase based on social media referrals.”

When people think of social media engagement, they most often consider conversations on their social channels where users are “talking at them.” But “talking about them” on non-brand digital assets may be even more serving to companies’ bottom lines as depicted in the statistic above. Thus, marketers must aim to win earned social media.

There are a number of ways to motivate earned social media:

1) It all starts with having a great product or service. To quote the cliche, “you can’t put lipstick on a pig.”
2) Produce content that is not about your product or service, but delivers valued and entertaining information to your audience. People often refer and share great content.
3) Reach out to influential users and bloggers and give them something they value. Don’t push your product.
4) Actively participate in communities and forums relevant to your product/service.
5) Search for people “talking about your brand” and engage with them. Thank them … Thank yous go very far.
6) Ask people that have told you that they have had a great experience with your product or service to share it with their friends, family, and colleagues.
7) Run UGC (user generated content) marketing campaigns.

The overall best way to win earned social media is to show sincere care and appreciation to your audience. If you have the right mentality and follow the tactics highlighted above, your loyal customers will become your most powerful marketing and sales team.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, loyalty, marketing, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

We Cannot Segment the Digital Revolution

Blogs. Social media. Interactive. Transmedia. Content marketing. Social TV. Smartphones. Tablets. Mobile. Are all these things really separate? Or should we looking at them holistically from the user and consumer perspective?

Digital RevolutionA few things happened this past week that helped to solidify for me that the digital revolution is a twisted web of marketing synergy and all attempts to segment individual executions and pin-pointed results are flawed. I’ll take you through three “a-ha” moments that happened for me this week that resulted in my position that ”we cannot segment the digital revolution.”

First off, Michael Lazerow, former Buddy Media founder and CEO, now CMO for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, wrote an excellent piece, “3 Steps to Become a ‘Customer Company’.” Lazerow’s 3 steps to become a customer company are:

1) Customer Companies Listen to Every Customer
2) Customer Companies Publish Great Content
3) Customer Companies Service Customers Across Every Channel

The article also includes a video from Salesforce Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff. Benioff makes the point that a customer company is connected … connected to customers, partners, employees, and products.

Then this week I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a great social friend and transmedia expert, Karine Halpern. (Please check out some of Karine’s slideshares, she has some great information to share with you.) Karine and I were talking about moving transmedia forward to deliver commercial success. Now most brand executives are just learning what social marketing is, so I would venture to say, most don’t understand what transmedia is. Transmedia “is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.” Sounds pretty close to content and social marketing integration, but it is slightly different. But the point is that most brand managers are beginning to understand the importance of storytelling, content marketing, and social marketing, so I think the strategy, plan, and execution should stay in that context. That is, keep the marketing plan in the context of what the decision makers understand.

There is always a new buzz term coming out. The new buzz is good for hype and headlines, but if we are really concerned about executing and delivering results, we must stick to fundamentals. And these fundamentals must be in context for brand managers and marketing executives to understand. Marketers now realize the importance of digital marketing, but they remain confused about terminology. I see these decision makers understanding the need for:

• content and storytelling,
• social marketing,
• interactivity and engagement,
• the role of digital influencers and the importance of advocates,
• positive online review presence,
• integration of owned, earned, and paid media, and
• mobile.

So maybe it is best to keep digital marketing terminology in these contexts and not slice things down in greater detail.

And the third point to highlight comes from some marketing headlines about Coca-Cola … “Buzzkill: Coca-Cola Finds No Sales Lift from Online Chatter.” Eric Schmidt, senior manager-marketing strategy and insights at Coca-Cola stated “We didn’t see any statistically significant relationship between our buzz and our short-term sales.” He also cautioned against reading too much into the research, noting that it covers only buzz, not sharing, video views or other aspects of social media.” And yet these elements not included in the study are the power of social marketing.

Quickly after this initial report, Coca-Cola’s Wendy Clark, senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities, defended Coke’s social media stating it was crucial. I’ll put it this way … what is the value of having your audience feel positive about your brand? Does it turn immediate sales? No. But does it define long term customer loyalty and brand sustainability? Yes. If your audience feels strong about your brand, when it comes time to make a purchase, their brand preference will show.

Clark turned to Coke’s own blog
to state that it was true … social buzz or chatter does not generate sales lift in isolation. But she also added that the key point is that “no single medium is as strong as the combination of media.”

And I agree. As I tweeted earlier in the week …

SocialSteve Coca-Cola Tweet

(If you want to see to two videos I referenced, they can be viewed at “Social by Design.”)

So if you pull the three examples together that I have highlighted above, I am suggesting that marketing strategy, planning, execution, and measurement is getting too siloed. We cannot segment the digital revolution. The consumer uses all digital technologies, platforms, and services to support all of their purchase decisions. If you are to be a customer company, you will follow the behaviors and actions of the consumer and build a holistic digital strategy. If you are responsible for a specific digital marketing effort, find connection points with other marketing efforts. Build synergy. And lastly, and probably the most important, no one digital marketing endeavor should be credited with sales. If you look at the journey of the digital consumer, you will notice that they hit multiple touch points before ultimately making a purchase. Should we be crediting the last digital touch point as the only sales enabler and element that carries an ROI? This is flawed.

Thus I strongly suggest that you do not segment the digital revolution. Long live the revolution and what it stands for … connecting with the customer.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under behavior, blogging, brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, digital media, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, owned-earned-paid media, sales conversion, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social reviews, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Lessons Learned in Social Media

There is no shortage of trending lists, reviews, and top 10 lists looking back at 2011. I know many are cynical and think they have seen enough of them, but frankly I like them. They give me an opportunity to learn some things I missed. The problem is that anyone can produce these lists and get them out in the public … the “power” of social media. Yes, there is some good stuff out there, and there is some garbage.

When I look back on 2011 and think about the social media takeaways from my perspective, it is simple … just look at what I have written about. OK – I spared you the pain of going through all of them and did it myself. Funny enough, I pulled the best of the best together and grouped them together and what happened? You get the summary of important social media themes and learnings for 2011. Here is what you may have missed:

Understanding Social Media

The Simple Explanation of Social Media provides an easy to understand explanation of what social media is, what success might look like, and important considerations.

Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media explains how the three different types of media should be planned to produce synergy and great results. (This was my most popular and top rated article)


Content is the core of social media. Content must be awesome … would you ever share something that was just okay?

4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy calls it like it is.

There actually is something more important than content. Find out what it is in Content is Super Important !!! (But Not King).

Social Media in Your Company

Social Media at Your Company – Policies prepares you and your company to leverage the power of your employees while putting some best practice rules and regulations in place.

It is easy to be impressed by someone that appears to know much about social media, but are they going to produce results for you? Before you get underwhelming results see 3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media.

Why Most CEOs and Top Execs Don’t Get Social Media explains some key issues from the C-Level Suite perspective.

Planning and Understanding Your Audience

Why is “empathy” The Most Important Word for Marketing. You better understand your audience through and through. How else are you going to appeal to them?

7 Things You Need to do to Turn Social Media Successful Results provides some common sense that is often forgotten when social media planning takes place.

Marketing Demographics and the Ramifications of Social Media:
Introduction to Psycho-Demographics
explains marketing beyond traditional demographics.

Ever wonder Where is the WOW in Social Media? Take a look at what might be missing in your social media approach.

ROI and Measurement

Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term is probably the biggest mistake people make when it comes to social media. Get a reality dose here.

The Social Media ROI Conundrum is a solid examination at the challenge of forming a defined social media ROI and what to do about it.

Social Media Models

Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel takes a look at the traditional marketing model and how social media is applied complete with metrics.

Digital PR and Outreach for Important Social Media Conversations goes beyond your Facebook and Twitter implementation and explains an equal, if not more important aspect of social media strategy and implementation.

Unifying Loyalty, Rewards, and Social Media is an explanation of yet another integration point for your existing marketing and social media activities.

Social Media Model that Defines the End of the World as We Know It brings it all together and provides the balanced formula and approach for the winning social media program.

So we actually covered a ton this year and made some great advancements in social media. Social media is no longer that thing people are thinking about doing. It is part of just about every company’s, every brand’s plans. 2012 will show greater success and more defined best practices. And I plan to be there with you every stride of the way. I am looking forward to providing greater help and guidance and connecting with more of you. Thanks for being an extremely important part of my little social world. Let’s make an effort to engage more in 2012 and help each other out.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, CEO, content marketing, employment, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, owned-earned-paid media, PR, rewards, Social BrandAction, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, social media performance, social media policy, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Unifying Loyalty, Rewards, and Social Media

A little over a week ago, eMarketer ran a very interesting story, “What Do Facebook Users Expect from Brands?” that speaks loud to social media affect on rewards programs. The article examined an ExactTarget study and “found that 58% of US Facebook users expect to gain access to exclusive content, events or sales after ‘liking’ a company, while 58% also expect to receive discounts or promotions.”

So let’s think about this for a moment. What this is basically saying is that consumers expect special considerations for liking a brand from the start. In other words, they expect rewards (something the “general public” does not get) right from the get-go … possibly even before they start purchasing anything. And yet loyalty programs are typical designed to reward the best shoppers of the brand.

Once again, this demonstrates how social media is changing the way brands are required to market and sell to consumers and smart brands will view this as an opportunity. Let me outline how this can be achieved by modeling a hypothetical rewards program that leverages social media and rallies around the reality as supported by empirical data in the ExactTarget study.

I suggest formulating a tiered loyalty program around two social media channels and then taking it one step further. Our objective here is to create incremental consumer commitment to the brand.

Tier 1

Do exactly what the survey states users are looking for. Create a Facebook fanpage for users to like and give them exclusive content, events, and small discounts and promotions for liking your brand. (Do be aware that Facebook “Like” will change soon … users will soon specify varying degrees of “Like.” You may “like” one brand, but “really, really like” another.) I am not sure of the future classifications for “likes,” but there will be some variance.

The value here is to get users to “opt-in” to a brand and stay engaged with the brand. The shortcoming in using Facebook for “community” is that Facebook does not provide enough user data for companies to do strong marketing campaigns. Still I see positive steps as this is an “introduction” to the brands loyalty program.

Tier 2

Create a brand community accessible from the brand’s home site. A community that requires people to provide their email address to enter and join the community. A community that delivers great content, allows users to engage with the brand and other users, and contains a compelling feature set typically provided by community software vendors such as Jive Software and SaaS companies like OneSite.

Brands must provide some incremental benefit for users “opting-in” to the community sign-up over a Facebook Like. In this scenario, the user is giving you more information about them (you need to have a plan of collecting richer data on the user over time), thus allowing the creation of target marketing programs. The value here is having that users data and targeted marketing programs increases monetization likelihood.

You cannot just “build the field of dreams and they will come.” The same is true for online communities. You have to have an awesome reason for them to come. Focus on great content, an easy to navigate user interface, a high level of engagement, and ability for users to provide their own voice. There are numerous articles available about considerations for great online communities. Here are a couple … “Where Audience Fits in Social Media” and “How 7 Startups Are Building Their Online Communities.”

Tier 3

Now we move off of social media (yes I can do that :)) and move to even greater brand commitment from users. The highest degree of commitment comes if your consumer is willing to pay an annual fee for their loyalty. In return they get great benefits – assuming they are truly loyal to the brand. Membership has its rewards and American Express is a great example. Starting at $40 per year, you can sign up and earn points for great products, travel accommodations, concerts, and much more. The benefits are extremely rewarding if you use the card often and the fact that you paid is psychological motivation.

The loyalty tiering model I have laid out highlights two very important facts:

1) Unequivocally, social media is a game changer. It is changing the way people do business and the way they make purchase decisions. Those companies that do not adapt will be trumped by those companies that do.
2) Social media is not a stand alone function. It must go beyond integration with other marketing endeavors and be unified.

Where do you see other opportunities for unifying social media with existing programs?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, Facebook, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, rewards, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized