Social media is not about Facebook or Pinterest – those are just the channels available. It is a way of communicating directly with customers on their terms at their convenience, whether that’s reading a blog, sharing a YouTube video or posting to a social networking site. The potential for direct and personal feedback is redefining the relationship between customers and brands. How do you want your customers to engage with your brand?
An essential brand is one that defines itself by what is irreplaceable about the product or service, be it value, function or attributes. To be perceived as an essential part of a customer’s life, there needs to be a deep and personal connection. Social media, with its targeting and segmenting attributes, can help your brand building efforts by developing a personal emotional connection with your fans and followers.
Social media role #3: essential brands nurture loyal fans
Social media can support the broad reach of paid media with personalized social experiences. Brands can:
Engage brand loyals with a more immersive experience. Brand experience is really the key word here, because it is a proven method to differentiate your brand from the rest (think Zappos and Starbucks as exemplary case studies). Burberry has become a social media darling, effectively using Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram to launch new collections and provide even more channels for their fans to get engaged. “Our vision is that a customer has total access to Burberry, across any device, anywhere,” says Burberry’s CEO.
Rewards brand loyalists with personalized communications. Tailoring your communication to the needs of brand loyalists shows the brand values their commitment and this effort can go a long way. CIMB is one of the most active banking groups on social media, having several Facebook pages and a Twitter account for customer support. The bank targets youth with its Facebook apps, launched its debit card on social media and also implemented an entire rebranding exercise on social media. Their brand and social media strategies have clearly paid off, with some marketing campaigns generating a 45% sales increment. CIMB Malaysia also won the Best Social Engagement Award in 2011.
Activate new advocates using the established loyal fan base. Social media is about sharing. The more information and user experience is shared, the more people become engaged with the product category and the brand. Believing in cultivating a photo community, Nikon established NikonClub Malaysia, where photo-taking members get centerstage. At this site, members can post their photos for comments, get their work featured and participate in events and workshops. The website uses Twitter to keep the photo conversation going. Through sharing and asking for advice, new users can easily learn from established Nikon users through this website.
What does this mean to marketers?
Head of group marketing and communications at CIMB Group, Effendy Sharul Hamid was spot on when he said “Social media is about engagement. If you don’t give someone a formal channel to talk about you, they will turn to informal channels.” And it is this social engagement that will drive your brand building’s tipping point, by helping to build a relationship with customers, differentiating through an emotional connection and nurturing loyal fans.
However, social media is not the silver bullet to solve all your brand building concerns. It is simply a different channel to engage your customers. It lacks the power to build a brand alone. And remember, a social strategy is only as good as the brand strategy that guides it. So how does social fit into your brand strategy?
Julia Koh is the Executive Director of Brand 360 Degree Sdn Bhd and is looking forward to brands adapting to the new social reality.