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Keys to building a stronger online fan base

Keys to building a stronger online fan base Rich Cherecwich

Every online marketer is concerned with ROI, and many are finding that they can get a larger return through the use of social media. Instead of just advertising to consumers, savvy brands are discovering that building fan bases can generate far more return and make it easier to deliver targeted messaging.

Experian Marketing Services, an extension of Experian plc, the global credit information group, is at the fore of helping advertisers grow their fan bases with consumer insight, email marketing, and digital audience targeting services. With online behavioral insight through Experian Hitwise, marketers can learn exactly what their audiences are doing online and use that information to deliver targeted advertising or cultivate an interactive audience.

For DVD rental service redbox, and the members-only online shopping community ideeli, building fan bases is an integral part of their marketing strategies. In a special panel at ad:tech New York assembled by Experian, the advertisers discussed the strategies that are helping them get ahead.

For ideeli, the best way to grow its fan base is through constant interaction with consumers. The company offers discounts on fashion, home, and beauty products through a daily email to a closed membership list. While it sees interest spike at times because of particular offers, the company prefers to base its strategy in terms of membership and engagement, rather than on one form of promotion.

"It's all about interaction," said Mark Uhrmacher, chief technology officer at ideeli. "I think you'll hear that from successful companies. You need to focus on a consistent approach, whether it's on a website or on a forum."

Building membership is only the first step. Once you've got members, you need to keep them interested, while still adding to your fan base. On social networks, advertisers can often increase their exposure solely through their existing fans -- once you reach a certain number of fans or supporters, you're more likely to grow because of all the people those fans are connected to socially.

"Early on, we took advantage of some of the engagement tricks we all have: polls, mini games," said Amy Gibby, redbox's VP of marketing. "We did promotions with singular one-offs, such as a fan-freebie day where we gave away a free rental on St. Patrick's day. It's an investment day in and day out. Not the kind of thing where you can run a promotion and assume it's going to keep membership levels. You've got to feed the beast."

One other place to grow a fan base is a slightly less social medium: email. Ben Isaacson, privacy and compliance leader for Experian Marketing Services who works with Experian's CheetahMail service, has seen a rise in email preference centers on the back end. These screens ask consumers why they're opting out of a particular email and make suggestions based on their interests, serving different emails based on preference.

"There's now an opt-down or an opt-over relationship," Isaacson said. "You can take away all that data and learn from it, and try to figure out what your customers want the engagement to be. Do you want to get it from Twitter, or by being a friend, or just by saying 'like' on a social network?"

Understanding engagement is key. The more you listen to your consumer base, the easier it is to build advertising targeted to their interests.

"Unless I can understand the type of engagement in a fan's life, I'm not going to be able to employ the correct [marketing] strategy," said Nadya Kohl, managing VP, product management & marketing for Experian Marketing Services.

Rich Cherecwich is junior associate at WIT Strategy.

Follow us on Twitter at @iMediaTweet.

A former reporter and editor, Rich Cherecwich has an intimate knowledge of how journalists conceptualize, craft and write their content. At WIT Strategy, he works closely with clients to develop, edit and publish high-level thought leadership...

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