Tag Archives: community

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

Advertisements

2 Comments

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

Can Marketers Learn Something from The Pope?

The Pope

Yes. I actually asked that question with sincerity. This might be my most bizarre blog article yet. I am not a Catholic or Christian. Heck, I am not even religious. I am a non-practicing Jew that is more spiritual than religious. And with that preamble, I have to tell you that I found some statements from The Pope this week, truly amazing.

In his weekly gathering in Rome, The Pope said that The Church need to embrace people who are divorced as well as their children. “No closed doors!” This is truly remarkable given that The Church has shunned people of divorce for centuries.

And there is a big takeaway for marketers here. Let me ask you … are there any corporate doctrines in place that make your offering closed to a segment of your potential audience. I certainly hope not. But let me take it a step further. Is there anything you are doing in your persona, messaging, or engagement that is potentially repelling people? Here I think the answer could be yes. I am not suggesting you do so on purpose, but there is likely some facet of your marketing that is turning off some.

We need to look deep and hard at the way our brand messages affect our audience. The scrutiny is well worth it as there should be “no closed doors” for our audience.

It is no secret that The Church has been losing followers in part due to their strict, nonflexible doctrine. The Pope’s message this past week says he is willing to ease The Church’s persona, messaging, and engagement with the people a bit to increase his audience. But in doing so, he did not water down his message for the core of his target audience.

This is key. When you develop your brand’s position, you need to appeal to that small group of ideal customers, but at the same time you want to attract a large enough audience to meet the required scale for business profitability. Look at the bull’s eye diagram below. The challenge is determining how far off the center circle you need to go to win the right number of customers while not watering down your position such that it is not compelling to the ideal customer.

Target Market Audience

Consider listening to the entire target audience mass. Understand what they are saying and based upon their behavior, think about tweaking your position. (This is exactly what The Pope did.) Then make sure your brand messaging resonates with the outer most segment of customers and certainly with the ideal customer as well.

I think this is what the modern day Pope accomplished with one of the most historical and oldest market segments. If he was able to stretch the doctrine of an old inflexible institution, you certainly can with your brand.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

4 Comments

Filed under brand marketing, community, leadership, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Building a Strong Community

community

A little over a month ago, I declared that “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Having community members validates that you deliver value to a group.   That group often serves to be your brand’s best costumers and advocates.

By the time you read this, I will have started a new chapter in my marketing career. I am responsible for social marketing and audience development for a company that is providing support, resources, and great information for a particular need, while also serving as a platform for individuals to help/support one another. I am responsible for building a community. As I prepare to build a most engaged community, I thought it would be worthwhile to share with you my strategy and approach for building a community.

To start, I borrow a simple, but profound methodology from Simon Sinek.

Simon Sinek - WHY

Most people start with a definition of what they are doing. As Sinek points out, this is premature. Start with “WHY.” Why are you building a community? Why is there a need? Why will people value participation in your community?

Once you define “why,” then you should define “how.” How are you going to get people aware and interested in your community? It is not initially about getting 10,000 to join the community. It is more about getting 100 influencers on board that will help you market your community.

A word about influencers here … Many people think they will reach out to influencers and get them to advocate on behalf of your community. Wrong. What is in it for the influencer? If you want an influencer to advocate on behalf of your community, you must deliver an opportunity for them to further develop their audience. You must give them an opportunity to shine and receive accolades within your community. Think about their perspective. Why would they want to “partner” with your community? What is in it for them? Make sure you have this well defined before you reach out to influencers.

Now comes the what … what is your community offering? What channels will you use? What will members get? What will they receive and what will they give?

Once you have the Why, How, and What defined here are a handful of rules you should follow:

1) Define the personality, tone, and persona for the community. This personality should prevail independent of which staff member is conversing. Make sure all communication and engagement feels cohesive to the community you serve.

2) Build your own community. Do not assume Facebook or any other platform is your community. But use social platforms such as Facebook and others as an extension of your owned community. Use the social channels to drive people to your owned community. (I touched on this issue three years ago in an article “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”)

3) Produce and curate content that is valued information. Produce and curate content that motivates discussions and debates.

4) Let everyone participate and share.

5) Inspire. Challenge.

6) Highlight contributors and give credit to others.

7) Identify power users and build one-to-one relationships.

8) Allow criticism and opposing views.

9) Find ways for members to engage with one another. This is more important and valuable than you being the only one to converse with the members.

10) Create sub-groups for niche discussions.

11) Think offline as well as online. Host online and offline discussions and get- togethers. Motivate your community to connect locally in person. Give them tools to do so.

12) Experiment and capture empirical data to know exactly what your community reacts strongly and weakly to.

13) Have patience. It takes time to build a strong community. Strong in engagement. Strong in numbers.

I hope this helps. I am very excited to put these steps and guidelines to work in my new endeavor. The best part about digital marketing goes beyond selling. It allows you to connect with like-minded people to build meaningful and valuable relationships.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

4 Comments

Filed under community, Social Steve, SocialSteve

In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience

community

Throughout my marketing career, I have been focused on the target audience of the brands I represent. I have been working with many companies to make them more vigilant to their audiences’ wants, needs, desires, and motivations as opposed to simply espousing product communication and advertisement.

For example, I worked with a company that had strong SSL (secure socket layer) technology. They would talk about how their SSL solution was superior using technological terminology. One segment of the target audience was the financial services industry. But they were not buying SSL technology, they were buying payment card authorization solutions. Yes, SSL is a key part of that solution. But successful marketers speak in the vernacular of their audience. Not their own language.

So yes, target audience focus is essential. But as brand representatives, don’t we want more than an audience of customers and potential customers? Wouldn’t we love to have “members” and advocates? A community member is a deeper relationship? What if we created a community of like-minded people that support one another? What if this was accomplished under the moniker of a brand? Not using the community as a place for brand agenda, but a community focused on some kind of an alignment with the brand category. That is something people would gravitate to.

How do you actually develop community? It starts by providing outstanding original content that helps your audience in an area that is relevant to the brand category. Augment that original content with curated content that reinforces what your brand stands for and is valued by your audience. Then provide an area for people to discuss topics. Engage with people and give them a platform and opportunity to converse amongst themselves. Seed conversations. Set up subgroups for various topics.

When you build a community, you naturally assent to a leadership role in your brand category. When you build a community, you naturally build relationships that spawn advocates for your brand. People share the content you develop and conversations that are happening in your community.

Yes, building a community is hard work. People are not going to suddenly flock to your nest. A community will be a small subset of your target audience. But look at it this way … wouldn’t you be happy to have five new people sharing your brand; standing up for your brand? Five people are a start. Then it becomes 15; 40; and 100. Even if you developed a community of 100 active people – that is 100 more people to advocate for your brand content and solutions.

I stress building a community. Not only does it produce deeper relationships with your audience, but it forces marketers to truly think and act upon audiences’ needs and engagement. Even if a small set of your target audience becomes part of your community, the marketing efforts to build a community are effective for the entire audience. People want brands to help them. Be there for them. They don’t want advertorial content pushed upon them.

Think of your audience as a potential community. Act as you would as a leader of a community instead of an advertorial spinster. Your target audience will most certainly be more receptive to your brand presence and exposure.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you are interested in building a brand community, also see “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

4 Comments

Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, community, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

5 marketing mustsIt is the end of the year and many are making their predictions on marketing trends for 2015. Yes, I am sure those trends like mobile, content marketing, and big data will make many lists. Heck, I think some prudent blogger will even say smart small data will be bigger than big data.

But I don’t think it should be about trends. I think it is about taking what you have learned about your target audience and putting that to work for your brand. If you want your business to thrive, you need to understand the people you serve. I am often quoted for saying “marketing is the psychology of business.” How do you get their attention? How do you gain their interest? How do you get them to buy your product over the competition’s? How do you make them enthusiastic and loyal to your brand? And most powerful, how do you turn them into your brand advocate such that they share the supreme value of your brand with their friends, family, and colleagues. A business psychologist knows how to motivate people.

So if you take this mentality and examine people’s shopping and purchasing behavior (both B2C and B2B) in the past year you will know what is important and imperative for your marketing strategy and execution. Understand the psychology of your audience. Understand how you appeal to their emotions. Taking this approach I have identified five marketing musts for the coming year.

1) Storytelling – disruptive advertisement is out. People do not want ads thrown in their face. They react negatively and many now ignore ads. 86% of people skip TV commercials. 44% of direct mail is never opened. 91% of people have unsubscribed from company emails they previously opted into. On the other hand, people love compelling stories. “Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides… Storytelling can be used as a method to teach … Learning is most effective when it takes place in social environments that provide authentic social cues about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories function as a tool to pass on knowledge in a social context.” (Source) One thing has not changed since the beginning of mankind … People like stories. People remember stories.

2) Holistic User Experience – Consider how your audience captures information. Who their influencers are? How they become aware of products and consider them for purchase. What path do they take on their journey to purchase and how do they remain loyal. What motivates them to become an advocate? Aim to get your target audience emotionally bound to your brand by having deep empathy for them. And then leverage that knowledge of empathy by delivering a user experience in every company-customer touch point that is truly appreciated and valued by the target audience. (By the way, if you want some excellent suggestions on integrating storytelling with your user design, checkout Adam Kleinberg’s article “Storytelling and User Experience Are on a Collision Course” in AdAge.

3) Personalization – people are rejecting brand communication because they are inundated with uninteresting and irrelevant correspondence being thrown at them. Companies need to use information sources to better understand their audience. Companies need to deliver meaningful engagement based upon social listening and profiles, purchase history and other CRM data. Individuals are much more likely to accept brand communication if it is relevant to them personally.

4) Community – A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Don’t be preoccupied with the number of community members. Rather, think of each community member as a potential brand advocate. Your brand should not only demonstrate that it shares common values with its audience, but also be the source for people to engage with other likeminded individuals. If the conversations between people with common values happen in the brand domain, the brand is further associated and valued to each member of the group. Learn more about the business value of community in the articles “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community” and “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”

5) Advocates – Nothing is more influential then an objective person telling another about the greatness and value of a brand. The word of friends, family, and colleagues clearly trumps a company marketing their brand. So what if a brand focused on a finite relatively small group to engage with to get them to love their products and brand. What if the marketing strategy was to then unleash this group to rally support for the brand? I am not suggesting forgetting about the mass target audience. It is not an either-or brand-marketing proposition. Do both. But recognize the results you can drive with a set of advocates. Make advocacy one of your marketing pillars.

And there you have my marketing suggestions for the next year. It is not a list taken from assessing technology wizardry. Not a list based upon trends and hype. It is customer centric. Always going back and understanding the behavior and motivations of your audience will drive success.

Marketers need to evolve because their audience is smarter and has more control than in previous years. Marketers’ brand position and reputation is now partly defined by the democratic people. I believe that marketers now need to think of themselves as running a successful media company. That is, they always ask themselves, “How do I get the audience to consume my brand, my story, my video, my picture, my article? What will make them share it with their friends?” If you follow the five areas I outlined, you will get there with measured success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

4 Comments

Filed under behavior, brand marketing, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Facebook is Dead for Brands, Now What?

Facebook deadIn the summer, Facebook reduced the organic reach of brand’s posts to less than 2% of the brand’s likes. With dismissal results like this, why are brands continuing to have a social strategy that includes Facebook?

According to a Facebook spokesperson, “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

Fast forward to the present and Facebook is reporting record growth. The company earned $2.96 billion in ad revenue in the third quarter, up 64 percent from just a year ago. So yeah, Facebook is not dead. It is just dead as a social sharing option for brands. For brands, Facebook is nothing more than another mass audience platform to deliver advertisements. Smart companies no longer use paid Facebook to produce blatant sales ads. They create paid stories on Facebook to adapt to users’ behavior. So yes, Facebook is a good platform for targeted paid media. But what should brands do to build relationships and grow their target audience organically?

A good two years ago plus, I suggested that “… Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community” over two years ago. While Facebook has changed much in the past couple of years, my premise has stayed the same. And now it is punctuated more than every.

When it comes to Facebook (or any other platform) you must remember – You do not own it. You never owned the complete data set of your likes and that should have been a yellow flag all along. Facebook has changed its rules of engagement for brands more than any other social platform, but you can expect other platforms to follow course. If you want to manage your own social strategy without having your strings pulled, think about embedding your community on your own site.

The first response I get when I tell (non-strategic) people this is, “But Facebook has a gazillion users that I need to leverage. I could never get as many ‘likes’ on my own community.” And you know what … they are correct. You could never get as many followers on your own community. But your own community can still yield great results.

First off, of all the likes you have converted on Facebook, an overwhelming majority of them never really followed you to begin with. Most of them were enticed by some promotion and then never paid attention to you after that. And now with a practically non-existent organic reach, just about no one sees your post anyway.

The second reality is that if someone opts in to be a community member on your own site, they really are interested in your brand. Yes the number of onsite community members will likely be significantly smaller than the number of Facebook likes. But the community members are true brand loyalist (assuming you give them compelling information, stories, and promotions as a community member). Would it not be great if you had 500 community members and 100 of them were true advocates spreading the word about your brand? What is the value of having 100 objective people sharing your brand, marketing your brand to their friends and family?

Early this year, I gave you pointers on “Successful Social Marketing Integrating Content and Community.” In another article I told you ”Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-investment.” Consider these two strategies going forward. Make sure the digital assets you own are most valuable and compelling to your audience. Build a marketing strategy based upon the capture and conversion of your target audience on YOUR OWNED digital assets. Then use other social platforms and channels to drive traffic to your digital asset.

In summary, let me ask you a rhetorical question … where do you think you can best monetize your target audience … on your digital asset or one owned by the other person?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

10 Comments

Filed under community, Facebook, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

Yes, it is that time of the year. Sure the leaves are falling and nature reinforces her beauty, but I am not talking about that. It is budget season and everyone is looking at what they have done in the past year and tweaking allocation numbers.

But before you finalize your budget by simply modifying last year’s budget, you need to take a fresh look. What will truly yield growth of brand awareness, consideration, sale, loyalty, and advocacy? I’d expect website revitalization was not on last year’s budget. I will also bet that many say, “websites – oh that is so ‘90’s,” but I will tell you a “correctly designed” website is so 2020’s. Let’s explore why.

website reinvestment

First, let me state that I am very bullish on social marketing as a way to win over an audience and turn them into your most valued customers – advocates. But if we look at social media platforms today, we see that the platform evolution now hinders brand engagement with target audiences. Just look at Facebook. They have practically eliminated organic reach of brand postings. And you know just about all social platforms main objective is to optimize their own monetization. They also look to appeal to their audience. Not the brand’s audience. Social platform’s first concern is their success; not marketers success. Don’t be naive.

Second, I always state that marketers must have complete empathy for their target audience. Culture has been transformed by digital technologies. More people get information online (social networking, mobile, and the Internet) as a primary source. This consumer/client behavior means your website would be extremely compelling if it was a) dynamic with continuous content updates (posts), b) more interactive and social, and c) mobile ready.

The first step in revitalizing your website is to start thinking like a media company. Think about being the “Buzz Feed” for your brand category news, information, and entertainment. Produce original content regularly. Curate relevant content and include it on your website. Think about what it takes to be a resource for your audience such that they want to go to your website daily to get up-to-date information.

The next step in revitalizing your website is to make it more interactive and social. If we look at human behavior, we see that they do want to engage with brands. That is, if the brand makes it worth their while. Converse with your audience. Listen to your audiences needs and wants. Produce compelling content based on their input and comments. Build sustainable relationships. Facebook and other social networks have clamped your ability to engage. So bring that functionality to the digital platform you own and you control – your website. Consider building a community integrated within your website. True, you may not get as many subscribers as Facebook likes or Twitter followers, but certainly you will get individuals that want to remain engaged and are likely your best customers/clients.

At the same time, various social platforms do continue to be an important part of your marketing mix. They should be used to proliferate the content on your website. Additionally, paid media of social platforms is a very important budgetary consideration. The greatest value of paid media on social platforms is the ability to target specific demographics. I have seen paid media deliver very strong click through results (back to your website).

I hope it goes without saying that your website MUST be mobile ready. More and more people access the Internet via mobile device. Do you really want to eliminate access of your website to a majority of the population because you have not made the investment to make it mobile ready?

I have given you the three areas to focus on with regards to the revitalization of your website. Staying consistent in numerology, there are three reasons why website revitalization must be part of your 2015 budget:

1) Audience use of digital is not only ubiquitous but their individual use is very strong,
2) Your website is something you completely own and control … you do not have to worry about the usage rules being changed, and
3) Your website is likely the strongest digital source to monetize your brand.

Make sense? Can do?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Leave a comment

Filed under community, content marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, website