Integrating Social Media to build customer loyalty

Original published by Steve Smith Feb 28, 2012, Updated October 29, 2013

Love it, hate it, or just can’t get enough of it, social media looks to be fast becoming an ingrained part of our culture. It has changed the way we communicate as a modern society in ways that we really can’t appreciate until we think back to the days before Facebook®, Twitter®, LinkedIn®, etc.

I have to admit, I was not an early adopter and at first I was not an enthusiastic convert. Some days I still curse it, but for some strange reason however I find myself inexplicably drawn to my Facebook pages at least once every 3-4 hours. Note that I said pages, not page. That’s because I have several that I update. I have my personal page of course for friends, family, colleagues, I have my business fan pages (two) and I have several other fan pages which I am listed as ‘admin’, meaning that I can post and moderate on those pages as well. I only started a Twitter account in the last month. I just don’t feel that my life is interesting enough that I need to tell people what I am doing every hour of the day. Having said that, I understand the value of it for certain people and I completely understand the addictive nature of it. I am always amused to hear celebrities and news personalities comparing how many followers they have as if it is some sort of popularity contest, and, as recent world events have proven, the ability to broadcast almost instantaneous updates to legions of followers is an incredibly powerful thing. I joined LinkedIn about two years ago and I have been slowly expanding my network ever since. Clearly LinkedIn has done a good job of positioning itself as the professional network for business contacts, job and contract leads, etc. Of the remining major social media players I have to admit that I quite like Pinterest. While I am not yet subscribed I know a lot of people have been posting my pictures there. While at first I was angry at this, how can people just use my pictures without asking, after looking into it in more detail I found that Pinterest handles it fairly, always linking back to the source of the image. Not only does this give me more exposure, it also helps my site SEO. The more links coming into a site the better.

So in this article I am not going to get into the specifics of what to do on Facebook vs. Twitter vs. the “flavour of the month” or the pluses and minuses of each but discuss in more general terms how to (and how not to) use these tools to increase customer loyalty. Here’s the most important thing to remember – its all about the relationship you are building, its not about sell, sell, sell. Lets look at a short case study on how not to do it.

Bob’s Gadget Company (BGC) is in the business of selling gadgets. They sell about half of their gadgets from two stores in shopping malls and the other half through online sales to people who, in general, must always have the “latest gadget”. Lately, Bob (the owner) has been finding that people are coming into hist store with much more knowledge of his gadgets. They don’t have as many questions and they have already made their decision as to which of his gadgets is the best one for them. Thats great for Bob as it frees up staff time to do other things like making nice displays and adjusting prices.

Recently Bob introduced a new and improved version of one of his gadgets, called “Edge”. Edge was an experimental product that packaged his gadget into a lower profile case and had a “higher resolution super-multi function display”. As a small player in the gadget market Bob had done very little advertising on this new product and was currently only producing Edge in limited numbers. He was spending far more time and money promoting his established and time proven gadget, called “Shark”. Shark had been a consistent best seller for the last two years and BGC had lots of inventory on hand that needed to be sold. Bob soon noticed an interesting and somewhat unexpected trend. Almost every person coming into the store was asking for Edge. His online sales for Shark were down and his webmaster was reporting that there were thousands of searched for Edge even though it was not even available online yet.

Bob had been caught in the social media tsunami.

…to be continued