A Publication of WTVP

Using social media to engage and motivate your customers…

In today’s highly competitive, commoditized environment, it isn’t enough to play the game of marketing well—you have to change the game. And to be a game-changer, your business needs customers who are so happy with your company, they become brand advocates for you.

A small number of brand advocates, or “super-fans,” can generate a significant amount of sales by word of mouth, especially through social media. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan to create brand advocates and keep them engaged and interested in your business. Simply, there are two steps to creating brand advocates among your customers:

We will focus on the second step in this article, having discussed the first step previously.

Today’s consumers are inundated with many more sources of messaging and advertising vying for their attention: mobile devices, the Internet, television, etc. In order to connect with potential and current customers, you now have to engage your audience in a way that breaks their usual routine, captures and holds their attention, and causes a positive emotional reaction towards your company.

Social media has become a significant way for companies to interact with the public. Brand consultant Simon Mainwaring says that “the online presence of a brand will increasingly become the sum of its social exchanges across the web, and not the website that many currently call home.” He also defines a massive change in the role of the brand manager to become one of a “social officer, facilitating as many moments of authentic interaction with consumers each day as possible.” A game-changing social media strategy, therefore, includes these components:

Emotional Branding
The perceptions customers have of your company are largely subconscious and emotional. They may be based on actual experiences with your business, perceptions from the media, your branding or the opinions of others. In addition, research shows the majority of buying decisions are based on emotions, with conscious rationalizations in place to justify them. Therefore, your company’s branding strategy must have a strong emotional component. It is often insightful to re-evaluate your strategy, even if you have been in business for quite some time.

Reconsider the basics: What are the most pressing needs and desires of your customers? What emotions do they feel when these needs/desires are not met? How can your company meet those needs? A simple survey of current and potential customers to determine their most pressing needs and how they feel about your business can yield insights helpful in crafting branding and marketing strategies.

Once you’ve devised a strategy to meet the needs of your customers, it’s time to consider the emotional component. What emotion(s) would you like your customers to feel during and after a purchase or interaction with your business? What emotion(s) would you like them to feel about your company and brand overall? How can you bring these emotions into the experience your customers have with your business?

Storytelling: Your Company As a Whole
There’s an expression in the marketing world: “A great story always sells.” Storytelling is one effective method to help create positive emotions about your brand. It is definitely worth your time to articulate the story of your business in a way that is meaningful, relevant and authentic to your customers and the general public. And it is most effective to tell your story without looking for a sale in return.

The first component of storytelling is to tell the story of your company as a whole. It should be told on your website, through social media and video, and in traditional media. Who started the company? Why was it founded? What is its mission and vision? How is the passion of its founders and employees expressed? How are its values reflected in what you do every day? How does it make the world a better place?

A recent example of good storytelling was a television and social media campaign launched by Dell after becoming a private corporation again. The campaign celebrates the small, inspired beginnings of companies, the entrepreneurial spirit, and how Dell helps innovative companies succeed. The TV ad positions Dell as innovative and entrepreneurial, and shows the locations of the “inspired moments” that grew into Whole Foods Market,, and other businesses (for which Dell played a role in helping become successful).

Continue to periodically tell the story of your business in social media, and offer more details about the company’s history. You might tell about the people in your company—from the secretaries to those on the factory floor to the top executives—they each have a story. Who are your team members? How did they come to work for your business? What contributions do they make that your customers find valuable? Why are they passionate about what they do?

You can also tell stories about your customers. Go beyond a simple endorsement or testimonial, and tell a story about your customers and their businesses: who they are, why they are passionate about what they do, and how they make the world a better place. Again, you are not selling anything, just telling the story.

Storytelling: What Your Company Is Doing Now
Next, tell a story about what your company is doing now. How are you helping your customers? How are you helping the community? How are you making a positive difference in the world?

A great example is how the Canadian airline WestJet told the story of what they did for some lucky customers last December. In a masterpiece of public relations, the company had “Santa” on a live video feed at an airport, on a large-screen television housed in a holiday gift box. As the passengers waited for their flights, they were asked what they wanted for Christmas. “Santa” was able to identify them by name, as the passengers had scanned their boarding passes in the same “gift box” housing the television. A team of shoppers in their destination city then set about buying the exact gifts passengers had asked for—from new underwear and socks to a big-screen television and Android tablet.

When the customers arrived at their destinations, they were greeted with these gifts coming down the carousel instead of their luggage. (I assume the luggage came later!) A video captured the scene, including the customers’ elated reactions; WestJet then motivated its social media followers to promote the video on Twitter. If followers tweeted about the video, the company would give free round-trip airfare to a family in need once the video’s views reached 200,000. (It presently has over 35 million.) Continue to periodically tell the story of what your company is doing now. That story can be made more interesting by using humor or an offbeat scenario. For example, Hillary Caston, a California Realtor, stages “break-ins” into homes she wants to feature (which are really her listings), while an assistant records the escapades. Acting as if the homes are just ones she thinks are interesting, the videos are a fun way to do walk-throughs, while avoiding being “caught” by the owners.

A Social Media Process
In marketing, you must constantly adjust your strategy, not only to reach your market, but to do so in a meaningful way that captures attention. While traditional media still has its place, social media—especially on mobile devices—is valuable to nearly every business now, and will only become more so in the future. Social media accessed through mobile devices is where the market is going, so your game-changing strategy must be easily delivered to mobile. That means making sure your landing pages and website are also optimized for mobile. Many businesses don’t see a return from the time and effort they invest in social media because the content they post is of little value to their audiences, or they are constantly asking for a sale. Instead, use this process:

  1. Provide content your customers will find valuable, engaging and inspiring. Repeat three or four times in posts before asking for a sale or customer response.
  2. Tell the story about your company as a whole, then tell what your company is doing now.
  3. Give a clear, concise call to action in your fourth or fifth post. Ask for the sale, or ask for participation in helping to tell your story or promoting your social media campaigns.

Following these steps will engage and inspire your customers, and help set your business apart from the rest. iBi