Guest post by Daniela Baker
Generating customer loyalty has never been more difficult. Current market trends have shown that people are more influenced than ever by what their friends and peers think of products and companies than they are by typical advertising, and people are unlikely to remain loyal to a brand if their expectations of that brand aren’t fulfilled. While brand loyalty isn’t completely dead, companies these days have to work extra hard to generate customer loyalty, and one of the best ways to do so is through social networking.
With over 750 million users on Facebook who spend an average of fifteen hours or more on the site, you can’t afford to let social networking opportunities pass by. But instead of just using social networking to promote your business to new customers, it’s important to learn to use it to generate loyalty among your current customers, as well.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Clear up problems quickly
The Customer Loyalty Institute notes that one of the primary ways businesses can use social media is by identifying problems with their brands and resolving those problems quickly – either by making changes with their products and services or by interacting with customers to help them figure out how to use a product properly.
One key to using social media to build customer loyalty is to keep tabs on what people are saying about you. If customers are posting on your Facebook timeline about problems they have with your products or customer service, talk with them about it, either there or through a private message. You should also monitor, to the best of your ability, what people are saying about your brand or company on blogs or on Twitter, and take every opportunity you can to clear up issues that customers talk about online.
Connect customers with the real you
Many people these days are loyal to companies that seem the most real and authentic. If you want to generate customer loyalty, do it by being authentic. If there’s a problem, talk about it. Throw in some information about how your employees interact in the workplace or even about your personal life. While you don’t want to get too personal and forward, you do want your customers to know that real people are running your business. Real, likeable people rather than impersonal business entities are what generate loyalty these days.
Show customers you have follow through
One of the primary ways to lose customer loyalty through social networking is to make promises that you don’t keep. If you tell customers that they’ll get special promotions by following your blog or discounts by liking your business page on Facebook, follow through with those promises. Showing your customers that you can follow through on small things like that will ensure them that you’ll also have follow-through when it comes to your products and services, including customer service.
Make a list of the things you’ve promised – either implicitly or explicitly – to customers who are part of your social media following, and then make it a point to follow through on those promises. You don’t have to throw out a valuable coupon for Twitter followers every day, but you do need to offer discounts once in a while if that’s something you’ve promised!
Show that you care about your business, your customers, and the world in general
This goes along with appearing authentic to your customers. You can also generate loyalty with customers – especially the younger crowds – if you can show them that you aren’t just a money-gobbling entity but a business that actually cares about customers and the world in general. There are lots of ways to do this through social media. Here are a few ideas:
- Talk about volunteer work that your employees are doing in your community. It can be volunteering with the homeless, planting trees in a local park, or whatever.
- Make it a point to ask customers how you can improve your services and products, and then put their best suggestions into play. Make sure you let them know when you make a change to X product or Y service that you’re doing it because you got so many great customer suggestions!
- Host a fundraiser through your Facebook page for a local non-profit.
- Run a matching program where you donate a product whenever someone buys one, and then make a few blog or Facebook posts about the donation program.
- Talk about your business: how you got started with it, what you love about it, what you’re hoping to improve.
All of these small things will work together to make a great impression on your customers and to show that you really do care. Today, younger people in particular are more likely to pay a bit more for products and services that come from a company that is about more than just its own bottom line!
Creating a social media campaign that works together
While you can glean some of these customer loyalty benefits by just having a blog or a business Facebook page, the best way to take advantage of them is to create a social media campaign that works together. If you’re just getting started with your business, it’s still not too early to start thinking about the impact that social networking can have on your future image.
Daniela Baker, a small business blogger at CreditDonkey says consider using a small business credit card or a small business loan if you need to finance an aggressive social media campaign. In the long run, paying a little more to create a nice-looking blog that is linked with your functioning Facebook page and Twitter feed will garner you more customer loyalty, which can boost your business in the long run.
It will take some time to get your first followers, but it’s never too early to get started. Customers who are already loyal to your business will be great resources in spreading the word about your new social networking sites, as well.