Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Using Social Media to Grow Customer Loyalty

If you have customers that are actively using social media, there is a potential to use that communication channel to deepen customer relationships. Social media tools are especially effective at building two-way conversations with customers, either consumers or businesses. There is certainly a lot of talk about marketing with social media!

I teach a class at UC San Diego called Marketing via New Media. We discussed the top reasons that businesses should consider using social media; I have summarized two of them for you here.

* Social media marketing strengthens customer relationships. Customers don’t want a relationship with a company or organization. They have relationships with the people that work for that company or organization. Social media tools such as blogs and Twitter allow customers to get to know the people inside the company. They get to see real people with real personalities. Tara de Nicolas from the Washington Humane Society shared with me that the most popular part of their website is the link to their Flickr photo stream! Their clients and donors love to see the faces behind the operations, and they seek them out when given a chance to attend a face-to-face event with them (such as a fundraising dinner). Friendships are formed online and brought into the offline arena! Customers that have positive interactions with the people in the company feel a stronger sense of trust with that organization, a key factor in building customer loyalty.

* Social media marketing is great at keeping customers informed and involved. While traditional media is also good at keeping customers informed, social media excels at getting customers involved. Nearly one year ago, we had devastating wildfires here in San Diego. One of my students this quarter works for the San Diego Zoo, and she shared that zoo members and other San Diegans greatly appreciated the zoo blog updates on how the fire had impacted the park. It allowed them a “look inside” to see how animals had been affected, and people’s passion for the animals drove additional public involvement to support the zoo’s efforts in caring for the wildlife. Customers that are more involved and engaged tend to have longer and stronger relationships with organizations.

Bottom line: In order to cement customer relationships, companies need to interact with them in more ways than simply advertising! If your customers are using social media, go and find out where they are interacting, listen to them there, then join the conversation!

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