When I look at my social media feeds, I'm always struck by how many retailers treat it as just another marketing channel, to broadcast their latest promotions, products and the like.
Yet, the power of social media lies in its ability to connect and strengthen relationships — the "social" rather than the "media." Approached this way, it can strengthen loyalty and encourage customers to spread the word for the brand.
For example, given people's innate desire to socialize, why not use it to provide a place for customers to connect with each other under the umbrella of the brand? American Express's OPEN Forum does this, enabling its small business cardholders to connect and help each other with business issues. The brand can take part, but more as the host of a party to get the conversation going, rather than doing all the talking.
Then, what about using social media to involve customers in telling the brand story? With its Art of the Trench campaign, Burberry virtually re-invigorated its brand by encouraging customers to post pictures of themselves wearing its signature trench coat, which could then be commented on and shared.
And why not use it to make your customers feel special? Ask them for help in improving the brand. Starbucks did this to great effect with MyStarbucksIdea, again re-invigorating the brand in the process. Give customers a public platform to share their opinion, and if customers are doing great things recognize them.
But of course, the initial step must be to use social media to improve customer service, by providing timely and helpful responses to queries and complaints. Brands such as FedEx and JetBlue do a great job of this.
Given the importance of food in everyone’s lives, the opportunities to strengthen customer relationships through social media are endless.
What are your favorite examples? How have you used social media to strengthen loyalty for your brand?