In business your most valuable customers are the ones who have a strong emotional connection with your brand. In some ways it’s best to think back to our younger days when we just wanted to be BFF—best friends forever—with the people around us whom we really liked.
As in life, in marketing building a friendship takes time. This relationship requires a great connection, constant engagement, and having memorable experiences together. In our increasingly digital world, the channels to cement this relationship are flourishing.
Consumers, followers, fans, superfans
One effective tool in pursuit of such a relationship is sharing and co-creating branded content, which can be done by encouraging input, such as photos, Tweets, and videos, from consumers.. Also, you can offer exclusive experiences that you know your best friend will love through content partnerships with publishers, entertainment companies, and other content providers.
But, sharing customer service and support tasks with your most engaged consumers and customers is the best strategy for improving your company’s ability to successfully blend social networking engagements (fans) with communities of members (followers) and direct interaction (consumers) and relationships (superfans).
When it comes to these efforts, some key trends for marketers are:
- Integrating mobile and location-based marketing with brand strategies
- Executing customer service functions with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter
- Extending branded-club concepts reward programs for big consumer brands
- Ensuring real-time personalization to increase relevance to the consumer
Join the club, get benefits
Brand-related reward programs of collecting points and credits are on the downturn in mature digital markets like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Western Europe. Reward programs for consumers are typically built on “countable” and instant benefits such as discounts. For mature markets, the focus is shifting to branded-club programs that are mostly based on benefits, experience, and adventure.
No matter which you choose, both programs need to drive frequency, revenue, and margins. Also, some areas to consider are:
- Location-based services (LBS) are on the rise. According to a Pew Research Study, the use of LBS services—such as Foursquare and Yelp—to share location information rose from 4% of all adults last May to 10% in February 2013. We can expect the adoption rate to accelerate by making check-ins easier, more convenient, and more rewarding for consumers.
- Fair value exchange is what consumers will increasingly want for granting access to information about their networks along with the simple tools to manage their effort. Also, they’ll demand visibility and transparency on their network exposure.
- Applications can support the most sophisticated messaging and entertainment but at the same time have the highest barrier of entry and statistically low usage after the first installation. Hence it is critical to get this rig
Depending on the target group, combinations of different incentives offer enough value for consumers to act. The most engaging incentives are instant win and attractive jackpots, however, more sustainable incentives include direct rewards, exclusive and customized content, options like priority lines and entertainment, along with social gratification.
Driving consumer engagement
Discounts, deals, gaming, and entertainment are core elements for individual campaigns, but will not be sufficient to drive ongoing consumer engagement and effective messaging for brands in the long run.
To drive deeper consumer engagement a brand must consider:
- Using direct communication such as texting, email, and in-app pointing to surprise and time-limited elements
- Engaging in social interaction to increase viral promotion
- Amplifying status-oriented rewards such as recognition as trend leader, tastemaker, specialist, and connoisseur
- Leveraging LBS campaigns to link the brand engagement with the real-time experiences and sales
- Increasing the speed of viral uptake through innovative concepts and reflecting the authenticity of the brand
Content + audience + engagement
According to Econsultancy’s “Social Media Report,” almost half of the businesses polled cited “lack of resources” as their number one issue with deploying effective social media marketing. “Lack of knowledge or understanding” placed second; “lack of budget” was noted as the third reason why they can’t get their social media programs moving.
When you look at the Top 100 Brands on Facebook, a consistency you’ll find is “Content + audience + engagement.”
To develop powerful, integrated, long-term, content solutions for our brands, the solutions must allow us to source, curate, publish, and actively manage content. These campaigns from flagship brands move everyday social media conversations to engaging fans in branded member clubs.
You have to remember that these efforts must span multiple channels quicker and more efficiently than ever before. In turn, they enable us to truly connect and engage with our fans and consumers—and, as a result, build a relationship driving long-term brand health, top line growth and value for the company.
Hugo Hanselmann is global director digital connections is Anheuser-Busch InBev.