Beyond Conversations: Social Media Loyalty Key To Brand Success

Fifteen years ago, the stock market climaxed at the height of what is now known as the dot-com bubble. Soon to pop, the bubble was created by rapid growth of e-commerce and dot-com businesses whose strategies were based on the philosophy that those with the most eyeballs would win. The theory was that the dollars would eventually follow the audience, but getting ‘big fast’ was more important than operating in the black. Unfortunately, many businesses have applied this same philosophy to their social media strategies, valuing eyeballs and other vanity metrics over business impact. The recent fervor over #TheDress exemplifies this and simultaneously illustrates why it’s time to focus on meaningful outcomes.

While industry debate raged over who “wore the dress best”, and we read wrap-up article after another about the cleverest social response – was it Skittles or Adobe – the discussion sadly omitted business impact. Granted, #TheDress was a recent trending topic. With the benefit of hindsight, let’s look at the most talked about real-time social moment: Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’. It was yawn-worthy in terms of business outcomes. As a matter of fact, it’s impossible to even measure the business outcome of a moment such as that because it’s not connected to conversion, data, or other business systems. Why? Because it was an Oreo moment, not a consumer moment!

What all this teaches us is that social media marketing must grow up and evolve to serve the business. And soon it will, reborn as loyalty. Before this resurrection occurs, brands need to evolve beyond just listening. Most brands have invested heavily in monitoring platforms like Hootsuite, SpredFast and Sprinklr, all great software that enables brands to monitor and respond to conversations. While moments like Oreo’s were possible because they listened, listening is the minimum brands should be doing.

Instead, successful companies will be the ones that connect listening to conversion and sales. To do this effectively, it must be done at scale. And, to do this at scale you need more than an army of social marketers with clever, timely responses. You need to connect the dots between online and offline personas through CRM, automation, and data integration.

Taking the Long-View

Don’t confuse social’s fast-moving conversations and constant news feed changes with the need to think short-term. One-off social campaigns, advertising, and promotions are a dying breed as, again, they don’t measurably and meaningfully support business objectives. Indeed, it turns out there is a significant delta between social media spending and the impact of that spend as only 15% of marketers report their companies can show the impact of social media using quantitative approaches.

Instead, to obtain conversion, sales and help support business growth, marketers need to fold their efforts under a long-term umbrella program that has actual meaning for both the business and the consumers that partake.

What this long-view looks like is rewarding and supporting your best customers on social media – social loyalty. To achieve this end goal, brands need to:

  • Connect offline to social for remote conversion, not just participation. In the process, unify conversion across social platforms, not reinforce individual data or commerce siloes. Successful brands will unify for consumer experience and business processes.
  • Connect the dots between social media, commerce, CRM and sales.
  • Reward participation, treating social as a loyalty platform–not an ad platform–by giving active brand advocates points, offers or other incentives for their word-of-mouth activities.
  • Give consumers an omni-channel remote control. Social has the opportunity to act as a utility for consumers, a public remote control that consumers should be able to use to easily and unobtrusively engage and receive recognition from brands.
  • Before the social media bubble pops, brands need to stop talking about moments measured by vanity metrics and start talking about meaning, customer value and business impact. To do so, brands need to start rewarding their best consumers and stop spending their day in spray and pray mode trying to acquire new ones. Happy, loyal customers will bring their friends. Now, there’s a business strategy that has direct bottom-line impact.