Is your company using social to build long-lasting relationships with your customers?
Most large brands are focused on listening to the right conversations, engaging with the right audiences, and measuring the outcomes, but the ones that have the most success in social orient all of these activities around building long-lasting relationships with customers. The way to build these relationships is through consistently great social experiences.
Great experiences are the moments that not only add value in the minds of your customers, leading them to engage, remember, and share your content, but also build over time to grow a brand's positive perception, loyalty, word-of-mouth, and even sales.
So how do you create great social experiences? While the relationship each brand has with its customers is unique, these four relationship-building strategies can put you well on your way to getting past "hello."
Acknowledge and recognize
Some of the most basic human motivations are rooted in being acknowledged and recognized. Exceptional social brands know that even when a response or need isn't expressly required, a social "nod" to community members is affirmation that goes a long way. This notion of reciprocal altruism can be as simple as a "thank you" or "we hear you." But the effect is more powerful. It expresses gratitude and recognizes that each community member has a voice that's heard without conveying an expectation of getting something in return.
Take Discover, for example. The brand's commitment to customer service is reflected on social through a dedication to listening and responding to each consumer inquiry in a timely manner -- whether it's resolving a cardholder's issue or engaging with a customer to continue the conversation.
Customers also love to be acknowledged and recognized on a large social stage. While an average person may have hundreds of friends and followers, brands often have thousands or even millions.
Starbucks, for example, recently encouraged fans to Instagram creative photos of their "#sipface." The brand then curated and shared the photos for all to see on Frappuccino.com. To date, over 15,000 photos have been shared. When brands share their customers' own social content, customers feel special, and the relationship deepens instantly.
Help them to help yourself
The act of helping is not bounded by "help lines" and the customer service department in the social era. When a consumer opts in to a relationship with your brand's social community, an unspoken pact is made. If and when help is needed (be it the answer to a question or solution to a problem), your brand should be there with bells on.
The idea of helping instead of selling, what's recently been coined as "Youtility" in social circles, places the user's needs above all else. A timely explanation, an update to expected timing of a resolution, or a short response to a product-related question can provide a selfless act of utility.
Brands like Nokia have taken their dedication to creating helpful experiences to new levels. @NokiaHelps, for example, provides customers global help from Nokia technical experts Monday through Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Customers simply tweet their device or service issue, and experts respond within minutes. The pair then tweet back and forth until the issue is resolved. Even in the event that the technical issue cannot be solved online, this instant service helps calm aggravated customers and reinforces that the brand they invested money in is also investing in them. Today's leading brands recognize that the help they provide today will create lasting customer relationships tomorrow.
Provide tangible value
We've all felt the little rush when visiting a store and seeing our favorite product reduced to half price or realizing we hit the next milestone in our loyalty program. The experience of being presented with value, whether unsuspected or consciously planned, fuels many of our behaviors as consumers and shapes the relationship we have with companies over time.
For example, many companies targeting the price-conscious, like RetailMeNot, embrace their community's desire to "spend less and shop more" by surfacing timely coupons and deals all day, every day across social. And for the hospitality provider Hilton, social check-ins via Foursquare and Facebook shares earn extra loyalty points to get you closer to your next free stay.
Surprise and delight
"It's the little things" is not just a saying; it's a state of mind. Unexpected moments of delight transform transactions into extraordinary brand experiences. And in social, this often means creating small moments of joy for members of your community to build both stronger personal ties and brand preference.
Jason's Deli is known in social for the mantra of "make someone happy." The brand views every social interaction as an opportune moment to wow a customer with a personalized message or response. HomeAway goes above and beyond the company's goal of connecting vacation seekers with rental properties across the globe by adding bonus information and personal travel tips for social customers.
And every now and then, an opportunity to surprise and delight social customers on a larger level presents itself like it did with Bodyform, a U.K. based feminine hygiene products company. When a man posted a snarky comment to the company's Facebook page and it went viral, Bodyform created an equally snarky video in direct response to the comment. The result: unexpected laughs and entertainment for all!
In the age of the social customer, each brand touchpoint is an opportunity to create a great experience. We are no longer just marketers; we are experience makers with a focus on building lasting relationships.
Jordan Slabaugh is the director of social media at Spredfast.
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