Engagement. It's the bull's eye of all social media strategies. We all strive to achieve it. We all want to understand how to segment content to foster it. But are all engagement strategies created equal?
In crisis communications, we're interested in social media strategies that develop loyalty. Yes, loyalty strategies can also increase sales and reach, but it's the golden ticket if you're looking for strategies that can build a social media readiness shield for your organization's reputation (link from Web Strategy). Let's take a look at social media strategies that build loyalty and the value of each.
1. Broadcast: This is a one-way channel. You talk and people (hopefully) listen. You offer nothing to your fans but information you want them to have. Tactics-wise, comments may be disabled, you don't retweet anything your followers have to say, and you only follow those that help you out. If you do allow comments, you may delete anything negative said about your organization. Your posts may be infrequent, or you may automate all your messages verbatim across all social channels.
There is nothing inherently wrong with using this strategy provided you acknowledge that there is little or no return here. You're just out there because you feel you have to be, and have no real interest in what your fans and followers have to say.
Value in building loyalty: 0
2. Reach: Here, your main focus is on numbers: building fans, followers, and likes. Your main goal is to increase the social graph of your organization. Tactics-wise, the ability for fans to upload or post on your Facebook page may be disabled, but you do allow comments on what you post. There is occasional monitoring and occasional "liking" comments by the page manager.
Your content is designed to get people to like, follow, subscribe, and share. There may be no specific calls to action for different stakeholder groups. You probably are not sure how much posting is too much or too little because your only goal and measurement is numbers.
You may be using landing pages (like this page and...), follow-backs, Adwords, or Facebook campaigns to increase fan numbers. Your focus here is on number of followers, not necessarily getting them to share content.
Value in building loyalty: .5
3. Conversation-Building: This is the first of the five models with real potential for building loyalty/advocacy. In this model, you are hosting, facilitating, and participating in the conversations around your brand. The posting and commenting ability for fans and followers is enabled in this model. You are consistent in responding to comments and fan posts, keeping in mind when your participation will add value and further the conversation and not just thoughtlessly replying to everything people write. Remember, it's their conversation and you are just one participant.
Your posting policy should be up front somewhere--maybe in the "about" section or profile. The policy not only gives you the stick to delete posts that don't belong, it gives your community a sense of security knowing you are watching out for them.
Value in building loyalty: +1
4. Crowdsourcing/Feedback: Building an empowered network that will help you build community. The next step up, building a crowdsourcing or empowered feedback system, takes some work. If you start to loosen the reins and allow multiple admins on your channels, there are risks. But there is also a higher reward, if done right. An invested community will go to bat for you.
Tactics-wise, you might use online forums or guest blogs for connecting people with answers. It may involve a reward system for those willing to participate, such as loyalty points for right answers. This model would include online product forums where invested fans troubleshoot on behalf of the company, such as Amazon's Create Space forum. This model may include campaigns designed to crowdsource new product ideas, policy/organizational change, find solutions through contest, connect people with like needs, and a myriad of other tactics. This model may be a slow build, but put in the time to get the results.
Value in building loyalty: +2
5. Value-Adding: give nods, give gifts, solve problems. This model requires the highest time commitment and strategic content segmentation of any advocacy model. It also takes the longest to build but has the highest reward. Tactics-wise, you may be doing any of the following:
- Give nods: acknowledge new followers, have a "fan of the week," thank fans by commenting on their posts. Make sure all these actions add value and are not automated or thoughtless. Include a good mix of regular and new fans. Good example: AT&T recently did a wonderful campaign of thank you videos to customers. Click this link to check it out.
- Give gifts: Offer event discounts to loyal fans and new as well. Offer discounted or free registrations, free services, or prizes for contests that require an end product, not just a sign-up. You also may consider discounts or gifts that run just on a specific channel. Provide webinars or online events for fans.
- Solve problems: Your fans have questions and needs--do you have answers? You may want to train a corps of ambassadors built for this option that man your online channels to help, such as Best Buy uses. Or, you may open source answers and information such as the OPEN forum from American Express.
A social media strategy for crisis isn't just about how to handle digital communications once a crisis breaks. Solid loyalty strategies now will get you ready to face a crisis with a strong group of advocates on your side.