So many times, people look at social media as a platform and ask, “What does it get me?” The work to find a hard dollar ROI for social media would be tricky, but there’s so much to look at beyond the standard understanding of monetary returns. One such thing is the improvement of brand loyalty through online communities.
This is a topic I like to discuss, and part of the reason is because so many groups do this so well. Now, this particular benefit of social media use is a product of dedication, creativity, and a strong conviction in the brand you are representing online.
Let’s take a look at a not-so-hypothetical example: say, there’s an organization that represents farmers. They want to help teach the public about the way that their products impact the public. Said organization wants to enlighten the public about its members’ products while representing its constituents in a positive light that helps build a bridge from producer to consumer.
Enter the Kansas Pork Association (KPA). Through creative and enthusiastic use of online community management, this group has built a very strong following on social media. When it comes to KPA’s Facebook fan page, bacon is the brand, and they use the love of bacon to build bridges to consumers. While this isn’t their entire tactic, they use bacon adoration to connect with people, which builds a relationship. Because so many people connect with KPA through a common love of salted, cured meats, they are also more receptive (and even enthusiastic) when KPA posts information about pork production. The people who come here to share the bacon love, end up being part of a conversation about where their food comes from. And it’s valuable to note that KPA’s fan page has more than 10,000 fans – definitely no small number, especially not for a page with roots in agriculture.
And, if someone shows up to the Kansas Pork Facebook page to complain about the pork industry, KPA’s community jumps to its defense. When an animal rights activist posted attacks against the pork industry on the KPA page, diligent bacon-lovers leapt into action to let the offender know that they wouldn’t put up with anyone ruining the sanctity of their online bacon haven.
Another great example of superb community management in social media is Titan Machinery’s Outlet Store. This machinery outlet’s Facebook fan page has more than 58,000 fans, and where KPA’s mission is outreach and advocacy, Titan Outlet Store’s goal appears to be generating customer loyalty through culture and community. Mixed in with posts about promotions, store news, and the equipment that’s for sale, are many instances of “feel-good” posts. Titan Outlet Store’s staff knows just how to cultivate that “warm fuzzy” feeling in their Facebook fans.
Titan Machinery Outlet’s tactics are diverse and fascinating. Here are just a few:
- Commenting on a picture or a correct answer to a trivia question will win someone several Titan Outlet Store drink coozies.
- The staff has also done Internet scavenger hunts, where they will post hints about a piece of equipment on Facebook. Fans will then find the equipment listed on the Titan Outlet Store online inventory, email in their guesses, and qualify to win something.
- Currently, the Titan Machinery Outlet staff is running a Cover Photo contest. They’re accepting photos from Harvest 2012, and the person whose photo gets chosen to be the cover banner of their Facebook page will win a “prize pack” from Titan Outlet Store as well as filters. Yes, they give away things that their customers could really use, like air and oil filters for their machinery!
That sort of culture can do amazing things for customer retention, and new customer recruitment. People who have seen Titan Outlet Store online often retain that feeling of “I like you” attached to it. And, they’re great at sharing pictures of happy, smiling customers standing with newly-purchased equipment and Titan Outlet Store employees. How’s that for humanizing a brand?
Obviously, people want to feel good about the products and companies they interact with. They want to feel like they matter, and they want to feel like they know it. Whether you’re seeking to advocate for a specific group in agriculture, or looking to sell a product, or offer educational material, a customer who likes your brand is a happy customer.
Well, social media gives you an opportunity.