Tag Archives: brand 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.

community

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

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Social Media: Get Your Online Brand, Personality Right

“Who are you, who, who, oh I really want to know …” Pete Townsend, The Who.

Sometimes, musicians say the most profound things. This famous line from a late 1970’s classic is the best advice anyone can get prior to dipping their toe in the social media waters. You must first make a conscious decision of the personality you want to convey independent of whether you enter social media as an individual or a brand.

This is always the first conversation and exercise I go through with clients – defining who you are. The recent announcement of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine magnifies the importance. As NPR reported, the idea of Web 2.0 suicide “is to abandon your virtual life — so you can get your actual life back.” That is, if you have said something stupid or do not represent your intended personality or brand, you just erase it all (and then start all over again if you wish). Facebook responded that it would block such an application service.

I am sure there will be legal battles over this issue, but get it right from the beginning and there is no need for anxiety or worry. Here are some suggested steps:

1) Determine who your desired audience is – friends, professional associates, customers/clients. This is likely to be different depending on if you are using social media personally, professionally, or for brand awareness and loyalty. If you want to engage in social media for multiple purposes (personal, professional, and/or branding), I recommend keeping separate social identities. For example, my Facebook account is for friends and family. I once had someone I was doing consulting for “friend” me on Facebook and I accepted. I still regret this. Now when it happens, I reply to the “professional friend” that I value our connection and I am interested in building a stronger professional relationship with them … let’s connect on LinkedIn. Here is my litmus test for Facebook friends – Do I want this person to see me and my family in our beach pictures. (Yeah, not too harmful – there are much worse things said or shown on Facebook.)
2) Define your positioning statement – while this is typically a “brand term”, it is most certainly applicable to individuals as well. When one defines a brand position it is usually defined by what is offered, the target market or audience, the value and/or benefits delivered, who the competition is, and how the brand is differentiated. Similar attributes can be set for individuals; even in a social setting. This really becomes the bases for how you want to be perceived. Not that the positioning is communicated, but it becomes a stake in the ground that you can test your social communication and participation against.
3) Reinforce your position – your conversation in a social media context should underpin and emphasize your position and desired portrayal. If you are using social media on a personal level, remember, history is hard to erase. Also, this is not to say that you can not put any personal information in a professional social media context. I use Twitter professionally and I tweet about music (because I am a music junkie) and things I do with my family (because they are extremely important to me). This may not be on topic of a social media marketer, but there is a person behind the SocialSteve Twitter account and including some personal touches builds connections and relationships.

I strongly recommend you at least think about these three areas independent of using social media to engage with friends, family, professional colleagues and partners, network extensions, or as brand. There are slight twists to strategies and formality of implementation, but all should be considered on some level. On a personal level, you may not need to produce formalized definitions, but at least think about it. For brands, I strongly recommend looking at this as procedural steps that receive organizational buy-in and are communicated internally. If you are using social media to strengthen your professional network and image you may want to consider taking the formalized steps.

I’ll just close with one more point to think about … It used to be that when you applied for a job, you would go on the Internet and research the company of interest. Now, companies that consider you for employment are turning the tables and researching you. There is likely a catalogue of information about you, out there, that you have authored. Does it portray you as you want to be perceived and seen?

Make it happen.
Social Steve

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