Retaining customers and managing community is harder than it seems, particularly in light of increasingly global competition. Social analytics eases the burden quite a bit and makes brand efforts exceptionally competitive – and effective. And there are a few simple steps every brand can take to adopt winning tactics!
The key differentiator back in the day was product quality, but modern manufacturing methods have leveled that playing field. Brands now must compete based on other merits beyond even price and availability, including:
- Ease of shopping experience weeds out the weak. If there’s friction at any step of the process, there’s consumer drop-off. So, making your path from initial interest to purchase as simple as possible is super important.
- Customer care is an online ‘must have.’ Consumers expect to find aand get a response from you online. Don’t disappoint them or your competitors will snap them up!
- What a brand stands for can be tantamount to success, depending on the demographic you’re targeting.
- Brand personality on social media needs to be on-point as well. Sloppy or forced interactions will result in being ignored.
- And, of course – customer experience management, which takes brands well beyond customer care. This last part is the key differentiator behind leading brands’ successes.
In short, the availability of information online means literally anything can become the reason customers stay or go – and it can happen in an instant. The challenge for brands, then, is to wrangle customers into loyal communities – where there’s safety in numbers, and the ability to create something special.
This next section of our Complete How-To Guide: Social Analytics explains how to use Social Media Analytics to guide your efforts in retaining customers by building and managing online communities.
CONNECT WITH COMMUNITY AND KEEP THEM COMING BACK
The first few posts in our How-To Guide deal with how to connect to consumers initially – by understanding their deepest desires and entering social conversations on their terms. This is also the key to keeping them. As author Maurice Franks has said:
“Loyalty cannot be blueprinted. It cannot be produced on an assembly line. In fact, it cannot be manufactured at all, for its origin is the human heart – the center of self-respect and human dignity. It is a force which leaps into being only when conditions are exactly right for it-and it is a force very sensitive to betrayal.”
Brands must relate to consumers on a deeper level and monitor the delicate balance supportring these connections at all times. Or, as Chris Malone shared during his Keynote at NetBase LIVE in New York City, consumers make brand choices the same way that they unconsciously perceive, judge, and behave toward each other.
The book Malone co-authored, The HUMAN Brand: How We Relate to People, Products & Companies, explores the social psychology behind why we choose companies and brands. And it advises brands to tap into these unconscious – and sometimes conscious – estimations to understand, and potentially reframe, consumer perception.
This forms the basis of a warm, engaging brand/consumer relationship that has a shot at standing the test of time. Because that’s what brands need to become these days – more than a brand. You’ve got to be a friend. Your store – whether brick and mortar or ecommerce site – has to be a destination. And you need to use Social Media Analytics to provide an unparalleled customer experience, because that’s what breeds loyalty.
And there are several ways to do just that.
ENCOURAGE AND RECOGNIZE COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
When consumers love a brand, their investment manifests in a desire to interact and share about that brand. So, your job is to recognize such interactions and encourage them. Using tools like Social Listening, Sentiment Analysis, and Image Analytics to spot the most passionate members of your audience, and their posts is the best place to start.
One thing to look for is user generated content (UGC) in the form of fan art, video testimonials, blogs, etc. Anything that puts your audience in the role of a brand ambassador.
And then shout these posts out on your social channels! They’re a big deal – both because you didn’t ask for them, and they’re free advertising. Responding and sharing is the least you can do – and it costs far less than any traditional marketing efforts.
So Little Can Mean So Much to Customers
By thanking and retweeting, you give back to fans by making them feel like celebrities and showing the rest of your audience how they can earn a little love as well. And, brands can highlight their stance on important issues to further empower and attract consumers:
You’ll notice this post wasn’t shared thousands of times – but Dove still responded and retweeted. That’s smart – because it’s the regular people buying your products and talking about your brand who most want the recognition.
This is why it’s important to be aware of brand mentions and hashtags. Don’t forget to use image analytics as well – in case fans forget to tag you. It’s particularly important to leave no stone unturned when posts shift toward negative mentions. This is when you’ll be glad to have the ability to capture partially hidden, rotated and distorted imagery as well, as those mocking your logo may be less than kind/accurate about it!
And if you’re not seeing a lot of organic sharing, give your fans a directive – and an incentive. It doesn’t have to be much. A $100 gift card randomly awarded to one fan who shares a selfie wearing your brand’s apparel can be enough to send engagement soaring.
CREATE A SPACE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY TO INTERACT
Or give them a place to interact by creating an online community. Sephora is one example of a brilliant and thriving online community. As Marketing Insider Group notes, there are a bunch of benefits to enjoy from such a community:
- Customer support cost savings between 10-25% annually, according to 49% of brands with online communities
- Boosted brand exposure and credibility, making it easier to sell without “selling”
- An always-on focus group for gathering insights on new products, services, and features (67% of businesses)
- Improved engagement and customer retention
- An exclusive channel for pre-launches of products and services before they go public
And influencers naturally occur out of such brand-consumer bonding – which we’ll talk about more momentarily.
For now, since they called out Sephora as an example of a “brilliant brand community,” let’s jump to NetBase Pro and see how that looks
Sephora’s Stellar Sentiment
Sentiment for Sephora overall is 69% – with a large spike to 60% on 1/24/20, thanks to the orange heart emoji:
As an aside, for general Social Listening purposes, you’d want to look at the other conversations marked by the orange star and see what additional common ground you might find to tap into new audience segments.
But let’s take a look at the Sentiment Attributes:
These are the topics getting the most attention – with positive in green, and negative in red. The most positive attribute is “call Bold Beauty,” referencing posts about Sephora’s Bold Beauty initiative – offering free in-store makeup classes for transgender women.
And there’s that orange emoji again, which signifies “care, comfort, and serenity.” Wonderful emotions to have associated with your brand.
This is great information – and we can click on Attributes to understand more about them. This is something that can be done in the Beauty Insider community as well, by clicking on Trending Tags:
Clicking on “help,” for example, brings us to posts asking for guidance in solving key beauty issues. Because this is a community forum, other Sephora users chime in to offer advice:
What’s great about this is the organic conversation happening. Sephora fans can share advice and recommend products, and it never comes off like a sales pitch, as it might coming from the brand itself.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE INFLUENCERS
There’s also the opportunity to invite anyone who offers a lot of help to be an influencer. They’re already invested in speaking for you – imagine what they’d do with a little incentive.
Online communities offer excellent opportunities to involve fans of your brand in your process – and be sure to include Reddit in that search!. When they feel like part of the inner circle, they can’t help but brag about it on social media – which in turn inspires others to want in.
Influencers comes in many shapes and sizes. Which is better – a single celebrity influencer with their own legions of fans, or many influencers and their collective fan bases, big or small? Both are wonderful! Choosing which to engage at a given moment comes down to what you’re trying to achieve, and who will best serve that goal.
Final Word: Community Relevance Matters
Regardless of which influencer type speaks to you, make sure they speak to your audience or else the effort is wasted. The point is to use these influencers to engage with consumers on your behalf.
Or you can ignore them, and you’ll likely reap either apathy or viral complaining. Neither of which is desirable. And that’s important to remember. Because just because you “have” these consumers now, doesn’t mean you’ll keep them. We see brands fall from grace on our Love Lists every year – and see just as many brands catapult up the ranks as consumer preferences change. Get and stay ahead of those changes by keeping the pulse of your community
These changes happen quickly, so be sure to use social sentiment to triage your data, and keep you informed on all that’s happening within your online communities. You want them working with you – not your competitors.
Additional topics include these How To’s:
- Evaluating Social Media Analytics
- Using Social Sentiment to Perform a Competitor Analysis
- Retaining Customers & Managing Community with Social Analytics
- Managing & Responding to Crises Using Social Analytics
- Using Social Sentiment to Anticipate Trends in Your Vertical
- Measuring Social Analytics ROI
- Training Smart Social Ambassadors for Your Business
And reach out when you’re ready to get started with our comprehensive suite of social analytics tools!