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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Four Ways to Build Brand Loyalty Through Social Media

Social media is truly effective in creating brand loyalty. While social media can be a overwhelming venture, for many companies it has been extremely beneficial and well worth the work. It's important to understand this new alternative media for what it is and have a smart plan in place before launching your first public profile.

The basis, the foundation that makes social media is people. Long before businesses realized the explosive potential of this new "alternative media", social media was a virtual gathering place where people could express, interact and share ideas. Herein lies the essence and integrity of social media, the ability to express one's self. With this basic concept understood, here are four tips for building brand loyalty.

Sell a Product Worthy of Brand Loyalty
It may sound cliche`, but you must ensure that your product is one of quality. It's very natural to have some dissenters who will not like what're selling, but your product or service should contribute positively to the well-being of your customers in a unique way. The start of brand loyalty begins with you. By creating a product that people love and praise, you begin your social media experience on the right footing. So important is this principle, that I've made it a policy to work exclusively with companies who produce a quality product. It makes my work possible and effective as a social media specialist.

Create a Customer Service Policy
Social media begs transparency, it's imperative to establish a customer service policy unique to your social media accounts. Having a good customer service policy can contribute to brand loyalty and give you a plan of action when dealing with public inquiries of assistance or complaints. Customers LOVE swift, positive and solution-providing replies.  More customers, fans and followers are turning to social media when they need issues resolved and they expect answers. Having a plan in place will soothe ruffled feathers and encourage positive and happy community on your Facebook page or twitter timeline.

Market with Social Sensitivity
While many companies join the ranks in social media solely for the purposes of marketing and promoting their wares, you must stay true to the integrity of social media. Customers, fans and followers don't necessarily want to hear about your product all the time. Use your forum to show-off your knowledge and expertise in your industry. Share your companies' mission and belief with inspiring quotes and thoughts. Share pictures, ask questions that will allow you to learn more about your market and community. This kind of consistent engagement shows your followers how your business is operated. When done right, it encourages brand loyalty. Unless you're in the political or religious realm, avoid politics and religion. Your products and social media timelines should represent neutrality.

Samples and Product Reviews as an Effective Marketing Strategy 
Trader Joe's is my favorite grocery store. Not only do they sell unique, quality and organic products, but they have the Tiki Hut. The Tiki Hut is a station where they choose an item to sample. They always have a person managing the Tiki Hut who shares tips and ideas on how to use the featured product. Sixty to seventy percent of time, I walk away from the hut with the item in my shopping cart for purchase. The power of free samples encourages consideration and exploration of your product without risk to the consumer.

To truly harness the power of brand loyalty, providing a free sample to a web logger, better known as bloggers, to experience and share their recommendations would be reminiscent of Trader Joe's Tiki Hut manager. Even better as studies show that the savvy consumer researches a product online prior to purchasing and trust the opinions of strangers online over family, friends, brands and advertising. These findings make perfect sense. The smart customer understands that those without an invested interest in their purchase, will be the one to provide an honest, un-manipulated opinion.
Often times, consumers do not agree with friends and families, this leads them to seek the opinions and advice of others who are more like them.

Product reviews by bloggers provides real opportunities for customer acquisition in addition to brand loyalty. Often times, companies dismiss bloggers as people looking for freebies. It's important for businesses to understand that product reviews and samples are effective marketing strategy that can maximize their return on investing products to a blogger. Thus, they should consider generosity in providing product. This also encourages brand loyalty in web loggers, who are truly consumers with publishing power.

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