One of the biggest issues for a company using social media is how best to respond to negative posts about the brand. Irate consumers are prone to posting highly negative updates when they’ve experienced poor customer service, or when their expectations for a product haven’t been met.
Customer loyalty experts Barry Kirk and Ashley Tate recently spoke with TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner about how brands can combat this with “social loyalty,” which is created when a company or brand increases customer loyalty through the effective use of social media.
Kirk and Tate said there are a few key moves every brand can make to increase loyalty, even when the initial interaction between the consumer and the company was poor.
Hire a Qualified Social Media Manager
Many companies make it difficult for their customers to directly contact them, whether through endless redirections on the phone or a contact page without helpful contact information. However, companies with up-to-date social media accounts can often be contacted directly in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, today’s social media-savvy consumers expect such companies to answer in a timely manner.
Consequently, Tate encourages companies who care about their brand’s online image to hire qualified and highly trained individuals to manage their social media accounts. As a first line of defense for customer inquiries — and critiques — social media managers need to know how to deftly handle customers online so that the brand is enhanced every time a social media user engages with the company online.
Go Beyond What’s Expected
Kirk offered Kimpton Hotels as an example of a company that goes beyond what their clients might expect of them. Through their recently rebranded “Kimpton Karma” program, the U.S. boutique hotel chain may instantly respond “in real life” to a customer’s social media update about their experience at one of their hotels by placing something in their room, “reflecting that they paid attention to the tweet you just made or the post you just made to their Facebook page.”
In other words, Kirk suggests that it’s just as vitally important to brand loyalty to reward positive experiences as it is to adeptly take care of consumers who’ve had a negative experience.
Drive Cult Loyalty
“The real goal you should have, ultimately, is driving cult loyalty, the highest form of loyalty possible,” said Tate. He cites Apple and Harley-Davidson as two prime examples. Apple inserts two Apple stickers into every product they ship, but doesn’t tell users what to do with them. Often, these stickers wind up on cars, not so much to tell other people that the driver is an Apple user, but more to signal to other Apple fans that “I’m one of you.” It’s a tribal signifier that engenders loyalty and connection.
For Harley-Davidson fans, there’s the special “Harley wave” that motorcyclists give each other when on the road, another example of a tribal identifier. In a similar vein, Mini Cooper drivers have an unspoken ritual where they always let other Mini Cooper drivers merge in before them.
Translating this kind of cult loyalty to social media can be challenging — especially for companies who sell services instead of highly visible products like motorcycles and cars — but Tate and Kirk believe that creative marketers can discover creative ways to make it happen. To start, many best customer loyalty platforms are designed with badges and rewards that encourage social media conversation around the brand and create identifiers for brand advocates.
The biggest key is understanding the value in having a consistently engaging social media presence. In doing so, companies can increase loyalty to the brand as well as their customers’ connections with each other.
Listen to this week’s episode Social Media, Cult Loyalty, and Social Rewards.