No one is arguing against the benefits of customer loyalty communities.
In fact, most Fortune 500 brands are working hard to cultivate a network of loyal customers online. Mostly, this community-building happens on social media when brands build pages and platforms to attract and retain those loyal customers.
However, many brands develop myopic views around their categorized and quantified loyalty group, which limits the ability to reach a larger group of customers. Here are three considerations to keep in mind for any customer community strategy.
Social Media Isn't a Customer Loyalty Platform
Social media platforms should be our last, not first, resort for creating customer loyalty programs. Truly loyal customers do not need to be constantly incentivized to like and adopt a brand. These customers are already convinced, convicted and championing brands throughout their public and personal platforms. In fact, a brand’s customer loyalty programs on social media shouldn’t be focused on loyal consumers at all—it should be focused on those who are not loyal.
Customer Loyalty Has More Reach
When social media is no longer about driving brand loyalists, but instead about converting ambivalent customers to less ambivalent customers, the question arises: How does a brand reward and promote loyalty? This question is very different from how a brand creates loyalty. And, it requires a brand to think beyond social media platforms, into the social media universe.
Loyal fans are already talking, sharing and engaging on behalf of brands. But, how are they being found, tracked and incentivized? Right now, there are a variety of platforms and tools that are looking to individuals for brand reviews. Brands are hiring these strangers to promote their products and often, disappointed when a few weeks later this stranger (an influencer) promotes another similar or competitive brand.
Learn more from Kristina Libby at The Social Shake-Up, which will be held May 22-24, 2017, in Atlanta. Brand communicators from Coca-Cola, Dunkin' Donuts, The Home Depot, Nissan, Arby's and many more will speak on a breadth of topics from content marketing to measurement to Snapchat strategy.
Incentivize the Talkers
What brands need to consider instead is how to incentivize and promote current brand evangelists, i.e. loyal customers. To truly build that community, a brand doesn’t need them all on the same platform. Instead, they need to be responding to and engaging with them where they already are and encouraging them to promote on their behalf.
What if instead of paying a social media influencer that has no brand experience to promote a product, a brand paid a current consumer loyalist to promote a product? Incentivizing a brand’s current fan base is the best way to drive new engagement, new customers and more individuals converting to your brand.
Leave social media for the non-fans. Think about the social universe as your true community and your customer loyalists as space probes making their way through it and spreading the message of your brand.
Kristina Libby is a professor at the University of Florida, the CEO of S.W.C., a digital marketing and communications consulting firm, and the co-founder of SoCu, an influencer marketing platform in Dallas, Texas. She recently published her first book "You Don't Need Social Media Unless You Are Doing It Right," and has written for and appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, More, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times and others. She also has a forthcoming podcast on side hustles, called The Creative Class.
Connect with Kristina: @KristinaLibby