With 2.8 billion people using social media last year alone, it should be apparent to brands that social media platforms are a necessary part of a business plan and strategy. The key to successfully utilizing social media for your brand is to focus less on self-promotion and more on the communication between your brand and your customers in order to instill loyalty.

Building a loyal audience on social media  is all about how you interact with your customers. For instance, if your brand doesn’t yet have that strong and loyal following, you must hold yourself accountable (as an employee or promoter of the brand) and begin to foster a connection with customers through different ways of engaging and communicating. And instead of blaming your own customers and audience (or lack there of) for your loyalty shortcomings, evaluate your own internal practices.

To better connect with your audience and create loyal customers, you need to do the following:

  1. Understand your customer base
  2. Build trust with your audience through authentic relationships
  3. Use your identity as your unique selling proposition
  4. Focus on great customer service
  5. Give back
  6. Accept and acknowledging responsibility

Understand your customer base

To build a loyal audience for your brand, you must first understand the characteristics of your customer base. This means understanding the people you want to connect with, and determining how to optimize your customer journey in order to increase customer retention.

Because of this, customer journey analysis is now the most valuable method for optimizing conversion rates, making A/B testing no longer a top priority. The process of analyzing a customer’s journey involves some introspective delving into your own brand and determining the demographics and other characteristics of your customers, and why they like your brand.

Using the customer journey analysis, you will be able to provide your audience authentic and meaningful content that reflects your organization’s dedication to its customers. According to a Pardot research report, 80% of consumers said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.

Building trust equals building loyalty through authentic relationships

If you want customers to become loyal to your brand, they must first learn to trust your brand. To prove this point, the Authentic Brand Index study has found that the more authentic a brand is, the more likely customers are to advocate for that brand.

But how do you build that brand trust? It can be built by building and showcasing the integrity and credibility of your brand by building authentic relationships with your audience. Also, going beyond the standard call of duty to help build these relationships with customers can be very beneficial for your brand’s image. These opportunities may be not apparent on an everyday occurrence, but when taken advantage of, they can have an extraordinary impact on how people view your brand.

For example, Bungie Studios, the creators of the popular video game Halo, saved the holidays for a little boy who was having a liver transplant. The boy was unable to play the newly released version of his favorite game, so his father reached out to Bungie.

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Bungie responded by sending the boy a customized helmet reminiscent of what the characters in the video game would wear, along with toys, art, t-shirts, and other collectibles. The father was so touched by Bungie’s act of kindness that he posted a thank you thread on Reddit to recognize and thank Bungie for their amazing gesture. This post was voted up over 2,500 times and received nearly 300 comments. This is a great example of a brand understanding and valuing authentic relationships.

Develop your own unique selling proposition and identity

A unique selling proposition can be defined as the factor that your organization’s product or service offers as the reason for customers to choose your brand over the competition. Having a unique selling proposition means understanding and promoting the theme that makes your brand different from similar competitors to improve your sales efforts long-term.

Identifying this differentiation from competitors is crucial when attempting to gain a competitive advantage. For instance, B2B customers are more than 2x as likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value, because they perceive little difference in business value between suppliers. This illustrates the importance that customers place on a brand’s identity and how a positive identity can differentiate a firm and lead to a competitive advantage.

One example of this is, TOMS Shoes’ whose unique selling proposition is that they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you purchase. That selling proposition took them from a simple, lightweight shoe manufacturer to a internationally recognized charitable organization.

Encourage great customer service

The customer is always the main priority. In a research report by Zendesk, participants ranked customer service as the #1 factor impacting vendor trust. This is even more true when it comes to the process of providing the opportunity for customers to provide feedback on social media. What this means is that the more interaction, the better. Interacting with customers via social media replies is a great way to communicate with customers and to identify who they are, what they want, and what they like or dislike about your brand.

People feel more closely connected to a brand when they come in direct contact with the brand or a representative of the brand.  With 62% of B2B customers more likely to purchase more after a good customer service experience, responding to the negative comments and clearing the air is a great way to convert a disliker of your brand into a loving advocate of your brand.

Give back

People always have and will continue to express loyalty in companies they feel are responsible and promote the common good. 55% of consumers around the globe are willing to pay more for products that are responsible and sustainable, as they want to see brands giving back to the world instead of just taking from it.

For example, we’ll refer back to TOMS Shoes. They established their brand identity and unique selling proposition as a company that gives back to children in need. By doing so, TOMS has become immensely popular among consumers. TOMS calls this type of giving back their “one-for-one” strategy:

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Accepting and acknowledging responsibility during a PR scare

Accepting responsibility for something that goes poorly for your brand or a customer of your brand, and confronting the problem with a head-on approach is a great way to turn a negative PR scare into an opportunity to build customer loyalty.  According to Lee Resources, resolving a complaint in the customer’s favor increases the odds that they will do business with you again 70% of the time. For example, Red Cross avoided a possible PR nightmare when they acknowledged this tweet that was sent from the Red Cross Twitter account:

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Instead of quickly deleting the tweet and trying to pose as if it never happened, social media director Wendy Harman confronted the tweet head-on by following it with this humorous post:

carousel30 417 blog (4)Although the original tweet received a fair amount of negative attention, the follow-up tweet did as well. Dogfish Head even responded to the incident by encouraging its customers to donate to the Red Cross. Red Cross not only made the best of a social media “crisis” by confronting the issue head on, but they even got some free promotion out of the situation thanks to Dogfish Head. By accepting that they had messed up, they were able to more quickly move on from this issue.

Conclusion

Customers use online research as a way to learn about your brand. With customer generated content such as online reviews and case studies, there is much opportunity to bring a plethora of organic and positive attention to your brand, while instilling trust between you and your customers

As you begin to receive and engage with an increased amount of loyal customers on social media, you will improve the social validity of your organization with an increase in following, customer engagement, and brand advocacy. In fact, 88% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that when people go to research your brand, they will see results of your large, engaged following and will perceive it as evidence as to why they should trust you.

 

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