Apply the Latest Social Media Insights to Your Loyalty Program
A loyalty marketing expert shares her wisdom on building a powerful social media strategy for retailers.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on your brand’s social media, an upstart app suddenly upends the applecart, winning a gazillion enthusiastic followers, leaving you to rethink the brand’s social media strategy.
For more than a decade, brands have been mixing social media into their marketing efforts. First, it was a matter of placing simple, straightforward ads on Facebook. Then it became imperative to write scintillating 140-character tweets. Filming amazing, fleeting videos for Snapchat followed shortly thereafter. And then it was time to post aesthetically pleasing, Instagrammable images. Now it’s time to TikTok.
Last September, Guess was the first retailer to leverage the micro-video channel, challenging U.S. users to post 15-second videos with the hashtag: InMyDenim. Since then, numerous brands — including Apple Music, Chipotle, Fenty Beauty, and Nike — have been clocking myriad TikTok videos.
What’s next? Who knows, but these days the question isn’t, do you use social media? The question is: How does your brand build an effective social media strategy? That holds true too for loyalty programs. If your brand hasn’t seriously leveraged social media for your loyalty programming, it’s high time you did.
Loyalty programs have been using social media to inform, inspire, and engage current and prospective members. More specifically, social media helps a loyalty program:
· acquire members through compelling content and storytelling;
· engage members in their preferred communication channels;
· drive advocacy through shared experiences; and
· support members with transparency and integrity.
Early uses of social media centered on member support, and social channels were primarily managed by loyalty-operations or member-services teams. Early-adopter loyalty programs largely leveraged social to promote offerings and share program updates. Members rarely interacted with posts.
Today, a well-managed social strategy can deliver inspiration from the brand and create a community of followers who engage with the brand, and with one another. Thanks to advancements in targeting, successful loyalty programs employ paid social media advertising to deliver personalized messages to smaller (and smaller) targeted audiences.
So, how can social media boost retailers’ loyalty efforts with consumers? At The Lacek Group, we determine the best ways to reach customers by researching a client’s business, its business objectives, and its members’ needs. And we ask questions, for example: Is it important for this brand to communicate updates on a timely basis? Is there an opportunity for the brand to inspire members with imagery? How often do members want to engage with the brand? Do members need to interact with other members for motivational or informational purposes? These are just for starters.
Many retailers leverage social media to inspire loyalty program members, with the hope of creating greater engagement and larger revenue. For instance, quick-serve restaurants may use social media to promote new or limited-time beverages and food items. Clothing retailers, looking for free user-generated content, might invite customers to post images of themselves wearing the clothes to win free merchandise. And other retailers may use social media to create greater engagement and a sense of community.
As the owner of a Peloton bike, for example, I interact with the company’s social media, engaging with instructors and other members. Posting, reading, and responding to posts motivate me to work out and make healthier food choices. This helps me become a more engaged and loyal rider.
All loyalty programs, regardless of industry, can benefit from social media insights. For instance, two new loyalty trends use program data to inspire new products and services, and to identify and address issues during the customer experience. Loyal customers, whether program members or not, can provide a greater understanding of all customers.
All that said, there are dos and don'ts regarding social media and loyalty — especially in today’s marketplace, with consumer expectations rising and the amount of data increasing. Here are a few guidelines that we suggest our clients follow:
· Stay true to your brand values. Connect only with partners and influencers who are consistent with your branding.
· Be customer-centric. Deliver messages that are relevant to your customers’ — not your brand’s — needs and desires.
· Develop a social media playbook by channel. Not all social media channels are alike. Your channel strategy must take into account your customers’ demographics, expectations for content (copy and imagery), and acceptable message frequency.
· Evaluate your efforts. Establish KPIs to measure the success of your social content and campaigns.
· Treat social media as an add-on. Social media must be an integral part of an intentional loyalty communications strategy. Social media can be detrimental if it doesn’t reach the correct demographic or provide value to customers.
· Create social media content without oversight. Brands are expected to read, respond, and interact with posts. Silence, especially when an issue arises, is frowned upon — or worse.
One final, albeit important, note: Today’s consumers, especially loyalty program members, expect omnichannel experiences. In other words, frequent brand customer and elite loyalty program members expect to be recognized across all online and off-line brand touch points. Brands that leverage social media (including paid social media advertising) to engage with known customers in relevant and personalized ways are the ones that experience the true benefits of social media.
Ultimately, social media continues to show great promise for brands and loyalty programs that are willing to pursue new communication channels, stay current on social trends and capabilities, and test and learn to determine the optimal mix of communication strategies.
Michelle Wildenauer serves as senior vice president of Strategic Services for The Lacek Group, a Minneapolis-based, data-driven, customer-engagement and loyalty agency that has been delivering marketing solutions for its world-class clients for more than 30 years. The Lacek Group is an Ogilvy company.