What’s brand loyalty and how can we leverage on social media to build it?
Building brand loyalty is never an easy task, but we can break the process into smaller parts, and make it more manageable. Before we start on the 11 super-easy ways to build brand loyalty, why not we go through on what brand loyalty is and what it can do for us?
Brand loyalty is about making your customers committed to your products or services. The whole idea is to make them loyal and stay with your company products. People only keep making purchases because of their positive feelings and dedication towards your brand. Do you agree?
Apple is a perfect example of successful branding. Look at how loyal fans and customers queue to buy their products hours before the new product is being made available in their stores. Apple fans are convinced that iPhone is THE phone to buy. To them nothing else comes close enough. Other companies that have successfully build their brands globally include McDonald and Coca-Cola.
But be mentally prepared before you embark on your brand building adventure. It’s not going to easy, and obstacles are going to be common, so you got to set your expectations accordingly and get all your necessary preparations done.
If you are already in the process and facing setbacks, don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes, correct them and move on. And remember, it’s a never ending process. You don’t just build, you need to maintain it as well.
Building brand loyalty takes time before you can see results, however the advantages and benefits that you can reap from it far weights the efforts you put in. Therefore it’s essential that you start to build your loyalty among your customers as soon as possible.
What can strong brand loyalty do for you?
It’s obvious that having a strong brand reputation and loyalty is going to bring more sales compared to another similar sized company that’s not focusing on their branding strategy. But what else other than having more sales? Below is a short list of what you can expect to gain when you branding is strong.
- Referrals. Having customers loyal to your brand makes them your walking advertisements. They tend to talk good things about your products and services, be it online or offline.
- More subscribers. A loyal customer is always keen to join your mailing list to find out what are the latest news and offerings. New product launches or pre-sales? The loyal customer is going to be there and support you.
- Increase brand awareness. One of the by-products when you are building brands is that you create awareness for your products and services in the process too.
- More leads. Gain more followers and fans on your social networks
- Loyalty and belief in your brand. Defend your brand when there’s an unfair accusation or remark on it.
Now that we have a better understanding on what is brand loyalty about, and what the benefits it can bring to us, let us see what are the actions we can take to build brand loyalty and reputation using social media. The actions do not need to be completed in sequence, and you do not have to complete them all either. But of course, the more actions you commit to building your brand, the better and faster you get your results.
1. Identify your preferred social networks
There are many social networks on the Web, but do we need to use all of them? Not really. Probably you only a few key networks that can deliver the most results to you. Furthermore it’s difficult to manage many platforms unless you have someone dedicated to managing all of them. Another thing that you want to factor in when selecting your preferred social networks, is how practical and effective in your brand building process.
Also users on different social platforms have different expectations. For example on Twitter, sharing many updates (e.g 20 or even 100) on daily basis is probably acceptable to most Twitter users. But repeat that on Facebook or Google+, you are likely to be reported as a spammer or you simply get unfollowed. Which is why we need to apply different and sometimes implement unique strategy for different social platforms. That being said, how frequent you tweet on Twitter can also impact a user or follower behavior, too much within a short span of time is going to backfire against you.
Now let’s look briefly at the following major social platforms, and see how they can fit into your branding efforts.
Facebook is the largest social network in the world and this itself is one of the compelling reasons why you should be using it to build your brand. Analysts from Needham, using data from comScore, puts the time that a Facebook user spent on the platform at an average of 20+ minutes globally. Zuckerberg also shared that the average U.S consumer spends an average of 40 mins based on their Q2 revenue report. If you are looking to gain maximum exposure for your brand, this is one of the networks you should not miss.
As a business owner, you can create and use Facebook Pages to be an information hub for your fans and customers. Photos, videos and details pertaining to your products and services can all be shared. Facebook provides lots of marketing tools for business owners, such as contest and promotions, that are wonderful tools that can do magic for your branding campaign. It can:
- Increase the number of visits to your Facebook Page.
- Increase brand awareness.
- Increase Page visibility.
- Increase number of engagement (e.g likes, comments and shares).
Need to push for better and quicker results? Facebook offers paid Ads for every budget.
Unless your intended audience is in mainland China, where Facebook is being blocked, otherwise there probably isn’t any strong justifications why you won’t want to include Facebook in your marketing strategy.
I find Twitter a very interesting social platform. Although it’s status share limits you to only 140 characters, the limitation doesn’t stop Twitter from becoming one of the giants in social media. In fact, that is the one of the main reasons that made it widely popular. There was a time Twitter wanted to remove the 140 character limit, but eventually it didn’t materialize. Somehow I may happy that it didn’t happen. The character limit per tweet had it’s merits, but importantly it makes us ponder and brainstorm on how to get our audience engaged. If your company shares lots of contents on a daily basis, or need to share real-time update occasionally, Twitter is designed for you.
Since users typically only view the latest tweets whenever they login to Twitter, it’s consider generally acceptable for you to post the same content over and over again. This is perfect for useful or interesting content that you want to cycle through periodically in case your followers missed it previously.
Most interesting and surprising, is that Jay Baer mentioned 49% of monthly Twitter users follow brands or companies, compared to just 16% of social network users overall. So don’t forget about Twitter when you are building brand loyalty.
Statistics have revealed interesting user demographics on the social platform. A large percentage of Google+ users are males (73.7%) and most of the users are generally from the engineering and Information Technology Industry. If this is your targeted audience, why not consider having a presence on Google+?
Although it may sound contradictory, I won’t really recommend that you spend too much time and effort on Google+ since there are plans for Google+ to be split into two new services: Streams and Photos eventually.
So yes or no to Google+?
I say it really depends on how successful you are on Google+. If you can find your audience and market in Google+, it is still worthwhile for you to dedicate a little of your resources to maintain the social network. If your brand connects well with Google+ users, why not? AND as long as your analytics are justifying your efforts on the platform, I will say go for it.
As for the future of Google+ and how it’s going to end or transform exactly, probably nobody can say for sure now.
Launched in 2010, Pinterest had grown fast and strong over the last 6 years. TechCrunch revealed that based on leaked documents, Pinterest was expecting to grow its monthly active users to 151 million by the end of 2015 and 329 million by 2018. This showed that the Pinterest had great expectations and plans to grow their user base.
PewResearchCenter facts and numbers on Pinterest’s demographics is another interesting source of data that we can refer to. If your targeted audience are those over the age of 30, and/or with annual income more than $30,000, this is a social platform that you may want to include in your strategy.
Understandably, the social platform may not be suitable for all industries since you need to pay more attention to the use of graphics and what you pin. Choose Pinterest as one of your social networks if the following describes you.
- Loves using images to do marketing.
- Your website uses lots of graphics.
- Images best describe your products and services.
LinkedIn is a business oriented social networking service. Launched in 2003, it is being primarily used by working professionals. It’s the perfect platform for B2B. But even if your products and services are for consumers, it should not stop you from starting an account on LinkedIn. There are many ways to use LinkedIn to build your brand. For example, using the professional network, you can hunt for influencers that can assist you in promoting or endorsing your brands. Using influencers is a tactic that I covered on point #3 within this article, so we will touch on that later.
One key advantage that LinkedIn has over the other social networks, is there are much lesser fake user profiles. Most of the users on the network uses their real name, and act professionally. This is because on LinkedIn, everyone is trying to market themselves and be more prominent. This makes users more open to connecting with someone who is totally new to them. Nevertheless, avoid spamming everyone with your products and services.
The best way make a presence for your brand and company, is to create a company page, to grow your followers, post your company updates and drive engagement. Although LinkedIn is a social platform, your audience is largely business-oriented, so keep that in mind when marketing content and communicating on the platform.
After making the decisions on which social networks to use, it’s all about managing and using them effectively to build your brand loyalty.
2. Be consistent
Consistency is one of the most important factors when you are building your brand using social media. Being consistent starts from the basics and can include your social profile images, bios and color themes.
When you use the same profile images and bio for all your social platforms, you are effectively communicating to your audience that it is an official account, and people are thus able to recognize and identify you through online searches.
Next is the choice of colors, and you should not neglect them since appropriate colors and themes can represent your company and reinforce your branding. Having the same look and feel creates an identity that a visitor or customer can remember you for. If your company logo is blue and white, it makes sense to stick to these colors when you are determining what color or theme to use on your social networks. For example, Facebook and Twitter uses the color blue and you can immediately relate to that when you use their sites.
Other than just the visual impacts, colors are known to bring emotions to people. The colors that you use project certain emotions onto your audience and customers. If you are interested to know what are the best colors to use, probably there isn’t any straight answer to that. It really depends on what are your objectives and the type of personality your brand represents (which I will cover more on this article). Curious about the colors you are currently using? Take a look at the color-emotion chart below and find out what are the feelings your brand projects.
Last but not least, ensure that you regularly update your profile for all social networks you created. For better book-keeping, I recommend you keep an Excel file to list all the social networks you registered/created. This will you to better manage, update and share content with your audience in a more organized way.
3. Build relationships with influencers or celebrities
Influencers and celebrities can have a huge impact on branding no matter what’s the size of your company. This is not surprising since authority figures are look upon as role models and successful people. Using influencers can improve brand loyalty significantly.
Although the number of followers an influencer has is important, it is not the only thing that matters. When searching for influencers to work with, it can be more practical to identify influencers that share common interests, traits or values with your brand instead.
Start by spending about 30 mins to an hour for each social network, and create a list of influencers you intend to connect with. As you are working on the list, here are some factors you can use to qualify your influencers.
- Is the influencer engaging his followers regularly and positively?
- What’s the personality the influencer? Is it aligned with your brand personality?
- Is there any conflict of interest?
- Is the influencer currently representing or endorsing any of your competitors?
Once you have completed the list, the next step is to initiate contact and start the relationship-building process. Typically you can approach an influencer by sending them an email, giving them an introduction about yourself, your brand, and what you do.
For the first email, make it concise and don’t beat around the bush. Try to gain the influencer’s interest by giving compelling reasons and offering attractive benefits. Although most relationship involves compensation that can be in the form of monetary terms, free products or services from your brand/company.
There are occasions when an influencer may be ready to help for a small token, or even without any compensation. This usually happens if the influencer is not that big (maybe less than 20k followers) or simply because it’s a big brand name that can give him the exposure he hungry for.
When it comes to relationships, all of us have been through the good and the bad. Not forgetting relationships or offers being rejected. It’s the same when we approach influencers. Not all of them is going to turn out well, so don’t get overly disappointed when you encounter rejections. Just persist on and remind yourself that it’s going to be worth it.
4. Reserve your profiles on all social networks
Start to reserve and secure your brand name on major social networks before others get ahead of you. A quick way to find out what are the networks you need to secure for your brand or company is by using KnowEm. If your preferred username is already taken, don’t despair, try to get register the next closest username that you can think of. It is recommended that you register as many networks as you can, even for those you know you won’t be using. There are good reasons why you will want to do that, for example:
- Avoid social media squatters and protect your brand.
- For social networks that you don’t intend to be active on, you can put a message on the profiles and direct these visitors to those networks that you are active on.
5. Be active and engage with your audience regularly
If you have already identified the social networks that you are going to work on, it is necessary for you to be active on them. Keep your followers updated by sharing content regularly and engage with them whenever you have the opportunity.
It is also important to be regular in your updates. Whether you are updating daily or weekly, keep to that schedule. We can build brand loyalty via social networks, but we also need to do it religiously, so that customers are constantly being reminded about us.
When we engage with our audience regularly, it also reduces (or eliminates) the risk of a competitor sneaking into the picture. Imagine if you have not been updating your Facebook Page for months, and your customer chances upon your competitor products and services. What do you think is going to happen? Probably the customer may be thinking what happen to your brand, and whether are you still in the business especially when you have not been updating for prolonged period of time.
Never mistake brand building as a one-time process. If it is, we won’t be seeing so much fast-food advertisements on different types of media (including social networks). So, keep sharing content with your audience and let them know that your business and brand are always actively improving and striving for the best.
Another tip to better our branding efforts, is to offer rewards to our social fans. This can be special discounts, or free goodies. Yes, loyalty can be bought, but don’t feel bad about it. Everyone is a consumer, including you and me, and we know that incentives can do magic for business and marketing.
6. Handle both critics and fans with respect
Keep an open mind when it comes to comments from your audience. It is not uncommon to get negative feedback or comments from people. Sometimes this group of people may have unfortunate bad experience with your products or services. Or you may be unlucky to attract people who are biased against your brand and they leave comments that are totally untrue.
Nevertheless we need to keep our cool, and handle in a professional way. Remember that we are on social networks, and what we say or do, are all being viewed and measured. Therefore weed to tackle this group of people carefully. Take time to craft your response to their comment. Never reply to negative comments in the heat of the moment. Be positive about it since a complaint can also be an opportunity if it is being handled well.
When you reply, it’s a good idea to provide your contact numbers to request the commenter to call your hotline so that your company can personally assist them on their issue. And if the critic reject your kind request and persist in unreasonable demands, most of your audience are mature enough to judge the situation. I say most audience, because just like real life, we cannot possibility please everyone. But we do our best and in whatever situation we are in.
The ability to handle negative comments professionally can win the respect and loyalty from your followers and supporters. They can see that your brand or company is not evading any negative issues or complaints (whether valid or not).
Below is a screenshot that I took from Starbuck Facebook Page. It showed how Starbuck handled a complaint from a customer in a professional way, and how a loyal customer gave her personal experience in Starbuck in a bid to reduce the tension.
What about compliments or praise from customers? Do we need to reply to them appropriately too? Yes, of course!
Similar to how we handle negative feedback, when we receive compliments from our customers, we need to acknowledge and thank them for their kind words. Tell them how much you value their opinions and take the opportunity to ask them how your brand can be made better.
At the end of day, we need to value the all the feedback that we receive from our followers and readers. Taking effort to reply demonstrates our commitment, and this can do wonders when we do build brand loyalty.
7. Define your brand personality
Everyone has a personality, and no surprises, a brand needs a personality as well. When we are building our brand, we have to decide what is a suitable personality for our brand. Richie Kawamoto, Creative Director at ImagiBrand, shared the 5 types of brand personalities and gave interesting cases for each personality.
- Excitement: carefree, spirited, youthful
- Sincerity: genuine, kind, family-oriented, thoughtful
- Ruggedness: rough, tough, outdoors, athletic
- Competence: successful, accomplished, influential, a leader
- Sophistication: elegant, prestigious, pretentious
So what’s your brand personality and how do you want customers to perceive your brand?
- Masculine or feminine?
- Formal or informal?
- Bold or discreet?
- Extravagant or down-to-earth
- Tough or gentle?
- Trendy or classic
- Serious or happy-go-lucky
In fact there’s an industry term when you give a personality to your brand. An article by Amy Porterfield on her blog refer this as personality differentiator. When you inject personality into a brand, there are many positive effects which includes the establishing of ongoing rapport between you and your audience; and creating bonds that can convert leads into customers.
Another important thing about personality is that you need to ensure it stays consistent. The reason is because you cannot afford to have unpredictable personality or behavior that confuses your audience. Consistency can refer to how you communicate with your audience and how you market your content.
Last but not least, having a consistent personality allows your brand to attract people who are like-minded, and those who can identify with the values that you represent. If your brand appears to be inconsistent, in worse cases, you may end up losing loyalty and existing followers.
8. Focus on followers that matters
Keep a tab on your best followers. This is the group of people that can assist you on branding efforts. Look out for followers that are active and engages often on your social networks. For example, on Facebook, this can be in the form of comments, likes or shares.
Also, do not forget about followers or customers who gave you positive comments or testimonies about your products and services.
How do you use followers to strengthen your brand loyalty?
To do that, I recommend keeping a list of your best followers. For example, if you are on Twitter, create a private list of followers who loves your brand. You can easily identify your best followers as those that frequently retweet your content, or those who speak good about your brand.
There are many ways to use this list to increase loyalty to your brand, and one of the best way is to reward this group of selected followers. It’s a super-easy way. Basically you just need to tag all your best followers, and inform them they have been selected to be given free samples, invited to exclusive product launches, trial services etc. By doing this, you also create excitement and hype among your followers. Those followers that are rarely engaging may be motivated to start engaging with/for you.
Of course you may also do this using email marketing. How you execute the plan depends on your online marketing strategies, and to a certain extend affected by your brand personality (which was covered earlier).
9. Performance Feedback
As mentioned, brand building is a never ending process, so always monitor and analyze how you performed on your social networks. For Facebook, important metrics include your post reach, the number of shares, comments and likes per post.
If you are using a number of social platforms, you need to find out which platform is giving you the best returns. When you have these insights, you will then know which is the best social platform to focus your efforts and time.
All social networks are not created the same, and the results you get are not going to be the same too. If Pinterest and Instagram are where you are gaining a stronghold, then you need to focus on these two.
Once you have identified your best performing social networks, don’t stop there. Start to leverage on your best networks (e.g Pinterest and Instagram) to encourage and direct visits to the other social networks that you owned.
10. Provide valuable and highly shareable content
You probably have heard or read about the importance of content countless of times. Now the question is how should you go about doing it.
Sharing of valuable content is one of the pre-requisites to be successful on social media. It is also crucial for brand building. As the saying goes, sharing is caring. If you are a travel agency owner, share about travel insurance, common precautions when traveling, essentials when climbing Mount Fuji and suggested itineraries for popular countries, etc. It makes your customers and fans aware that your company/brand values customer feedback and care for them. This is very healthy for building brand image and reputation.
Sharing content should not be limited to our personal content only. We need to look at the bigger picture and share meaningful content from different sources. It makes customers trust us more since we are perceived as unbiased and doing our best for customers. But always remember that the content needs to be relevant to our industry or niche. Say for example, if we are in the interior design industry, it will be appropriate to share content such as “25 Creative Ways to Recycle Wooden Pallets”. The key is to provide content that are useful and add value to our readers and audience.
IMPORTANT: when sharing content from other sources, take note of the following things.
- It’s advisable not to share content that make references to your competitors’ unless it’s to your advantage.
- Focus on articles that mention about your product and services. Especially positive reviews by customers.
- Share articles that highlights issues that your product or service can fix.
When it comes to sharing interesting content to our audience, it can be challenging and time consuming especially when you are not sure how to source for these content. There are a few ways you can do to make your work lighter.
- Create Google Alerts using keywords that are important and relevant to you. Set the alert to happen as frequent as you need to. With this, you will be able to get the latest content on the Web regularly via email, and you can pick what’s interesting to share with your followers.
- If you are on Twitter, there are two ways you for to help you find content quickly to share with your followers. The first way is using the internal search in Twitter. Search using keywords or hashtags and find out what’s the best top tweets recently.
- The second way is by creating a Twitter list that contains users that are viewed as authority figures in your niche/industry. By referring to that list, you can drastically cut down the amount of time you spend sourcing for content.
- For the same content that you found on Twitter, you can repeat that share on other social networks you have signed up for.
11. Auto-share your content to multiple social networks
If you have already gone through the above list and created accounts for your preferred social networks, your next step is to keep them updated regularly so that your fans on different social networks can be updated, connect and engage with you.
However trying to manage many social networks can be a tedious process. Imagine opening 10 or 20 tabs in your Web browser and updating each and every social network of yours. And repeating this every time there is new content. Thankfully there is a solution for this, and we can automate most of these updating using Web-app tool such as IFTTT (short for If This Then That). For example, you can create a process on IFTTT to auto publish to tumblr when you post a new photo with the hashtag #happy on Instagram. IFTTT calls these defined processes as recipes, and you can create as many recipes as you want. Other than using it for auto-posting to social networks, there are also many other ways to use IFTTT, so take your time to explore and find out how you can use it to be more productive.
By using IFTTT we can have the our content pumped out to many different networks using minimal effort and saving us lots of time in the process. Below are examples of recipes created by users, and you can create your very own too.
Building brand loyalty is never an easy task. Actions need to be committed regularly in order for us to see results. To a certain extend, loyalty is similar to reputation. Any wrongful actions that we commit can have detrimental effects on our branding. In the worst cases, a single wrong move, can wipe out all our previous efforts. For successful branding to take place, there must be comprehensive plans drawn out in advance, so that you can navigate your brand in the direction that you want. Also, take feedback and analytics seriously, as they are good indicators on how to make your brand better. I hope this guide is useful for you. If you have any comments, I will love to hear from you :)
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