Attract brand ambassadors by building relationships with fans and offering them what they're looking for.
Whether your customer community is large or small, the glue holding it together is devotion to your brand and the products/services you sell. Your social media fans will purchase more from you and are more likely to spread the word about you than customers who haven't connected with you via social media.
What is the network effect?
The network effect is a phenomenon through which a product or service becomes more valuable as more people use it, thereby encouraging ever-increasing numbers of adopters. Often the result of word-of-mouth testimonials, it can also be perpetuated indirectly through analysis of a network's size and projected growth. While the word-of-mouth method is often more influential in the beginning, analysis may play an important role in decision-making later in the cycle - i.e. you may buy a product initially because someone you know uses it, while later on you may buy a product because "everyone" uses it.
The legendary 1981 Faberge Organics TV commercial created a lot of buzz and explained the network effect in a fun and accessible way, claiming "If you tell two friends about Faberge Organics shampoo with wheat germ oil and honey, then they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on" - this is what you want to accomplish.
Social media is inherently a selfish medium.
For the most part, users have a presence on social networks so they can connect with people they know, not with a business or brand. Your main goal is to provide value. There are innumerable reports, articles, and blog posts out there that try to answer the question, "What's the value of a fan?" The real question you should be asking is, "What value do I provide to my fans?"
What does this mean for your social media strategy?
- Value has a different meaning for each of us. One common misconception is that brands need to offer coupons or discounts to provide value to fans on social networks. This is certainly one way to give fans something useful, but there are many other ways of going about it. Sending out information about a new product, a helpful tip of the day, or a behind-the-scenes look at your company all fall within the definition of delivering value for fans without necessarily breaking the bank.
- Listen to your fans. Listening is the active process of paying attention to what your fans say. They have agreed to begin a relationship with your brand on social networks for one or more reasons, and you need to develop an understanding of what the actual people you're communicating with are saying - and the context in which they're saying it - as you would real human communication. Make sure you are listening, both qualitatively (by asking them) and quantitatively (by analyzing your social media data), but be careful not to turn people into statistics - this is essential to building successful customer relationships. Pay attention to your fans to learn:
- If you're providing the value they're looking for
- What they're actually saying about your brand
- What else are they're interested in
(See 50 Top Tools for Social Media Monitoring, Analytics, and Management to get going with managing, measuring, and analyzing your social media outreach.)
- See if you're on the right track. Search through comments on Facebook, @mentions on Twitter, and activity on other social networks to determine how people are responding to your content. You can use the reporting functions provided by social networks and other social media analytics tools to see the types of content that perform best and trends over time. This will give you a massive amount of data - a unified view of a customer as a business in and of itself - and offer a clear picture of what works and what doesn't.
- Remember your goals. We all talk about the benefits of listening to customers, but what makes the difference in connecting with them is what you do with that information. If you are delivering the value that people are looking for, they will give you access to their interests, their friends, and their friends' interests, thus fostering the network effect. Personalizing customer experience is key - it's much more welcoming to walk into a store and hearing an employee say, "Welcome back, Pam. Did your mom like that purse you bought her? I have something new to show you", than to get a generic "Can I help you find anything today?" It's all about building relationships and offering intrinsic value that people will want to tell their friends about.