There’s still concern in the B2B community about just how important social media is in creating and sustaining relationships with partners and clients. But when it comes to building brand loyalty online, social media is the most beneficial tool available.
Your audience is most likely already using social media on a personal level and willingly participating in an online community. Connecting your brand identity with their online lives integrates your brand into their day-to-day activities, and cultivates brand loyalty through personal communication. In connecting this way, you are becoming more than a company or organization they follow. You have the opportunity to create lasting relationships, and lasting brand loyalty.
Research shows that online audiences are only becoming more active in involving brands in their lives through social media:
- 59% of adult Facebook users had "liked" a brand as of spring 2011, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise – eMarketer Tweet This!
- From 2010 to 2012 the percentage of Americans following any brand on a social network has increased 106%, from 16% to 33% – Socialnomics Tweet This!
- 41% of B2B companies are acquiring customers through Facebook – Social Media Today, HubSpot Tweet This!
- 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company – Universal McCann Tweet This!
- 66% of online company community members note that the community has made them more loyal to a brand – Universal McCann Tweet This!
However, creating a social media presence can backfire if you’re using it in the wrong way to cultivate brand loyalty. One big misstep brands can make is to transfer traditional direct marketing notions to online communities and correspondence:
- 43% of Facebook users who “unlike” a brand do so because of too much push marketing – Exact Target Tweet This!
Social media marketing is based largely in communicating with your online community –using pull vs. push marketing. Your followers are showing you voluntary brand loyalty, and it’s your responsibility to facilitate it further by being accessible to your community.
1. Becoming Accessible
Roughly 38-60% of US buyers expect their online complaints about brands to be answered via social media. It’s more convenient for a consumer active on social media to express a thought, question, or review of your brand through that channel than for him or her to pick up a phone and call a company contact to discuss an issue.
If there’s an online community you’re not tapping into, and your brand reputation is suffering as a result, social media can help rectify this by providing accessibility for those complaints and questions.
Technology research company Gartner sees webinars and conferences as a key form of B2B marketing. Because of this, they are constantly conducting outreach on Twitter to answer logistics questions, pinpoint additional resources, and engage ongoing conversations.
2. Rewarding Fans
Rewarding fans that regularly engage with you also enhances brand loyalty.
Cisco Systems conducts a regular Facebook contest called the SuperFan Spotlight that awards a Cisco fan by featuring him or her in the company’s cover photo.
Not only is Cisco paying attention to its active community members, but also it continues to interact with each highlighted fan after his or her win, as shown in the above comments. Cisco uses Facebook to contact its SuperFan, to send along complimentary gear, and to start a personal message between the fan and a specific Cisco employee. As a company, Cisco continues to be accessible before, during, and after rewarding fans.
This is an important indication that they are not interested in one-time contests or campaigns to generate brand awareness, but in keeping constant contact and communication with fans by continuing to be accessible to their needs and wants.
Rewards including fan recognition, special offers, and exclusive content, are only enhanced when utilized in a friendly and personable online environment.
3. Gaining Trust
Trust and loyalty go hand in hand in securing a consumer’s commitment to your brand. Once your brand is:
- Answering questions
- Engaging in conversations
- Providing immediate solutions and great client service
- Rewarding fan interaction
- Creating and providing exclusive content and offers,
Your online consumer base is going to have a much more positive impression of and endorsement for your brand. Trust breeds loyalty, which in turn breeds willingness on the part of your consumer to take the time to spread positive reviews online and through word of mouth.
Respecting client endorsements and maintaining your responsibility to listen to your fans creates an ongoing cycle of recharged brand loyalty. Social media allows for continued conversations instead of one-time, stale recommendations. You have the ability to continually revive brand loyalty by consistently listening and responding – by keeping the conversation flowing and always providing an answer or a solution.
How do you use social media to grow brand loyalty?