Tag Archive for Brand

Building Loyalty- 4 Brands That are Doing it Right

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Building loyalty should be a priority to create a passionate branded community. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things to keep in mind when developing a strategy. People who are loyal to your brand become advocates and help you to promote the brand and broaden your audience. Having a small community of engaged core fans of the brand will be more valuable than having high visibility and an apathetic audience. When people are truly passionate about the company, the services, or the experience of the brand, it creates a community and is attractive to observers. This is where the role of a Community Managers comes in.

According to Work Smart Lifestyle’s post on strong social brands, to create this loyal following, you must connect with your audience and engage with them. It starts with a good product or service. You have to have a good product or compelling mission first in order for people to buy into your company. If they feel like your company values or brand vision aligns with theirs, they are more likely to champion your brand. This core idea ties into the concept of Lovemarks, where brands transcend the boundaries of a typical service and create a more meaningful connection to the people that follow them. This can be achieved by creating a brand experience and persona, and embodying it through social media outlets, blogs, internal services, and any other consumer touch points. A great brand will exceed expectations and provide value to their community.

Here are a few brands that have a very loyal fanbase:

 

Whole Foods

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, Whole Story

The core values of this grocery market is to provide its shoppers with high quality, organic food. The small grocery community crossed with national chain balances reliability with fresh food and a close community feel. They have established a strong brand identity, to the point where Whole Foods is associated with concrete attributes and characteristics. There is even a certain stigma of the people that shop at Whole Foods, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Whole Foods perpetuates the local, friendly community through their blog. They appeal to that niche target market and write posts on healthy, organic recipes. The website highlights issues such as sustainability, equal trade, and local community. In addition, the Co-CEO’s have blogs that support the vision, and sustain Whole Food’s image of a close community. Whole Foods uses blogging as a way to channel the mission of the organization and to support the community of Whole Food shoppers.

 

Chipotle

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

Chipotle taps into the trend of conscious fast food. They promote their use of natural ingredients and casual dining to create a brand identity. I know people who are obsessed-going to Chipotle is more like an event rather than a meal. Chipotle embodies the down-to-earth brand persona through their interactions on their twitter handle, @ChipolteTweets. They are one of the best companies for responding on twitter, in my opinion. They make everyone feel like their opinions are important to Chipotle, and builds strong relationships. This strategy engages the consumers the and creates loyalty with the fanbase.

 

YouTube

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTube, the video platform, has progressed from the website people used to watch cat videos to a platform that supports rising YouTube personalities. YouTube is dependant on user content and user viewership, but they have become very smart in the way that they encourage loyalty and engagement. They now support content creators, certifying channels that have a large following and high quality content and even supporting them financially. These high-profile vloggers are then given credibility, which supports YouTube’s brand popularity. There is a sort of mutual benefit to the people YouTube chooses to support, and those people become YouTube’s Brand Ambassadors.

There is a definite hierarchy within the YouTube community, based on viewership and connections. The YouTube celebrities encourage viewers to create their own content to achieve YouTube fame, and to keep watching their favorite personalities on YouTube. The loyalty in the YouTube community is most apparent during conventions like Playlist Live and Vidcon, where masses converge from all over to meet their favorite YouTube stars.

 

Starbucks

Starbucks Reward Program App

Starbucks Reward Program App

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Like Whole foods, there is a stigma of frequent Starbuck consumers. People are crazy in love Starbucks, and this can be half attributed to the products, half to the community created through the love of Starbucks. They do amazingly well on branding and fostering loyalty with consumers.

An example of this is the Starbucks Reward Program, specifically through the app. The app notifies you when you are near your favourite Starbucks locations, and brings up your virtual card which you can scan to pay through the app. When you pay through the app, you are awarded a star, which accumulate to achieve different levels with increased rewards. This app rewards loyalists and enables an easy way for people to become loyal to Starbucks.

 

Listen up!: Using comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs to build your community

When trying to grow or maintain your community, it is essential to provide your audience with unique opportunities to interact with your brand. Comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs are all paths through which a CM can better connect with the community. Read on to see what I’m talking about.

Comments
Read between the lines

As if it hasn’t been said enough times, Buzzing Communities reminds us that the customer is always right! ALWAYS. Take it from someone who has angrily reached out to brands on social media many times, I always remember which brands were pleasant to deal with, and which were not. Online conflict resolution is not only vital in that it calms dissatisfied customers, but the manner in which this resolution is dealt with speaks highly to the brand — and the reason why it’s included on this list.

Blogger Outreach
Why is this even necessary?

Unlike journalists, most bloggers are not constrained by traditional media models. In The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, an eBook by InkyBee, it is noted that bloggers have instant and exponential reach. They are also a source of “earned media,” a relationship that is based on a real connection — both on and offline. PR professional Sally Falkow said that a BlogHer study showed that women in the US rank blogs as their “number one source of information.” That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of power.

The first steps

Once you decide blogger outreach is the way you want to go, you need to devise a plan. First, consider all of the possible outcomes that, according to Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach” presentation, blog outreach can yield:

  • SEO/link building
  • Increased sales
  • Engaged customers/users
  • Product testing
  • Being the dominant voice in your industry
  • Being the most trusted voice in your industry

Next, InkyBee recommends identifying the blogs where the target audience lives. And Pedde reminds us that not all blogs are created equal. In fact, according to a chart entitled “Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building” (Fig. 1) in her presentation, there are five tiers of blogs: news outlets, large blog outlets, influencers, specific subject, and everyone else.

Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde's "Building Community in Blogger Outreach")

Fig. 1: Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach”)

Perhaps the most important piece of advice offered from InkyBee is to remember to personalize your pitch to the blogger. Investigate how they prefer to communicate — Twitter, Facebook, Quora — and capitalize on it. You need to offer something that mutually beneficial; no one likes to walk down a one-way street.

Keeping it going

Once this mutually beneficial relationship is established, be sure to not let the relationship die. You’ve worked this hard – so keep it up! Thank them, continue providing them with good content, and maybe treat them to a nice lunch 🙂 Be sure to also store his/her contact information and maintain and updated blogger database.

Brand Ambassador Programs
Say what?

brand ambassador program, as defined by Mack Collier:

… allows for an ongoing, working relationship with special customers who are fans of your brand. Their job is to stay in constant contact with your customers, not only promoting you to these customers, but also giving you invaluable feedback on what your customers think about your brand.

As a result, as a CM, you gain a greater understanding of your target and can pass along valuable insights to your marketing and advertising teams. Brand ambassador programs are especially helpful for larger companies, who find it overwhelming to connect with their consumers.

Collier offers 10 tips for creating a brand ambassador program. Three of my favorites are:

  • Spread the world internally as well as externally
    • If you don’t have the entire organization behind any given initiative, it’s doomed to fail
  • Make membership exclusive
    • You want to ensure that you are giving “membership” to the customers who are true advocates to the brand and who are truly committed. No phonies allowed!
  • Give your advocates direct access to the brand
    • Be sure that your ambassadors have access to some executives or people of significance at the company. These people are the “brand’s biggest defenders and advocates,” so it is essential that their voice is always heard by someone who has the power to enact change.

Buzzing Communities also recommends that brand ambassadors meet at least one of these criteria:

  • High levels of activity
  • High levels of expertise or passion for the topic
  • Distinctive contributions
  • Interesting real-life positions
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Great contacts
  • Overall strategic fit

 

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Choose wisely!

 

Which of these three avenues do you think best suites your brand? Try them out and let me know!

 

Meshing with Mashable

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Mashable is the go-to brand for all things social-media related and has established itself as a well-respected news blog. For the #cmgrclass final paper, I had the opportunity to interview Meghan Peters, Community Manager for Mashable. Meghan oversees social media strategy and reader engagement projects for Mashable, which has distinguished itself as the largest independent website dedicated to providing the latest news on social media for the “connected generation.”

Mashable’s Approach to Community

One thing that resonated with me was Meghan’s approach to managing and responding to her audience’s feedback both negative and positive. One thing she made sure to stress was killing them with kindness. Community managers always have to be mindful of their outward expressions. Anything they say or do has the potential to negatively impact the community. Even if you do not agree with what one of your users has suggested or said about your brand, this is not fair ground to retaliate. Without active members and users, there is no community. Meghan recognizes this. She always understands, which we’ve discussed in class, the importance of acknowledging relevant content posted by members of the community. Not every post warrants a response, some members are intentionally provoking brand officials. This type of commentary should be ignored, which Meghan mentioned as one of her tactics. I find this to be important as I take interest in how companies and brands alike go about caring for their communities and if they’re actually delivering what they promise.

Ambassadors?

I asked Meghan if Mashable had a formal brand ambassador program. Unfortunately, they do not. I do feel that if I were granted the opportunity to be an asset for a well-known brand such as Mashable, I’d vouch for a brand ambassador program. During my moderation week for the #cmgrclass, I did a lot of research on brand ambassador programs and how they are deemed beneficial for companies. Since Mashable has such a strong connection with its users, I certainly see value in launching a brand ambassador program to enhance the brand’s image and evoke brand loyalty and awareness amongst future and current members of the community. Mashable already knows who their most loyal users are, according to Meghan, the brand should utilize the outside help of people who are eager to spread the word and spark word-of-mouth marketing. Additionally, Meghan mentioned events, in which Mashable personally interacts with its members. As Jenn Pedde said during one of our Google+ hangout sessions, “have something for your brand ambassadors to do.” Since Mashable solely exists online, I think humanizing the brand would be a great strategy to attract more attention and drive traffic to the site’s homepage. The ambassadors could host social media learning labs and skills building workshops on behalf of the brand. Since the site seems to be a popular choice among professors within the iSchool and communications-related fields, articles published to the site can be reference during the sessions conducted by the ambassadors.

To learn more about my interview with Meghan Peters, send your thoughts to the #cmgrclass!

Who’s Really the Face of Your Brand?

This week’s #cmgrclass readings highlighted the importance of establishing a brand ambassador program. What are brand ambassadors do you ask? They are an extension of your brand, advocating on your behalf to promote products and services. They are the force behind generating word-of-mouth marketing and are skilled at creating buzz around your brand. Brand ambassadors are important because without dedicated members of your audience, your brand’s message would not be heard.

Finding Brand Ambassadors

Start with researching who embodies the qualities that your brand exemplifies. Your ambassadors should identify with the demeanor, ethics, and values as outlined in your company’s constitution. As Mark Collier mentions in is post, 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, you’re essentially transferring ownership of the program from the brand, to its ambassadors. The goal is to have your most passionate members take over the program while executing the vision and strategy set forth by the originator.

Building Fierce Loyalty
Another class reading by Britt Michaelian called How to Build Fierce Loyalty for Your Brand Community states that loyal brand enthusiast comes from a genuine connection. As community managers, we recognize the importance of not just connecting but building communities. A tight knit group of individuals with common goals and interests. Community managers should provide opportunities for its audience to connect digitally and personally. The Internet should not be the sole form of communication. Events hosted in public spaces are strongly encouraged. This allows community managers to bond with members and members to bond with other members. This establishes loyalty. Also, remember you cannot expect folks to take an interest in you if you don’t invest time in getting to know who they are. Let your supporters know you care by reading the article they posted to Twitter (retweet it), visit their blogs and share their content, an document on their Facebook posts so they’re aware that they’re on your radar.

The stronger your bonds are with your advocates, the more effective establishing a brand ambassador program will be. No business survives without the unselfish and undying support of outsiders who willingly commit their time to what they feel is worthwhile. Think about the brands you love. Do you consider yourself an advocate for these brands? Even if you cannot personally identify as being a brand ambassador, are you familiar with other brand ambassador programs implemented by corporate brands? We’d love to read your commentary!

I Love This Brand, and You Should Too.

Building a brand requires the company to build a relationship with their customers. They must take the time and use their resources to establish a dialog with each and every consumer that conducts business with their company every day. Each interaction with a customer can have a profound impact on their opinion of your entire company based on their feedback, which they will share to their friends, family, and their own online community.

Photo by Valerie Everett

Photo by Valerie Everett

Who needs loyalty these days?

According to Britt Michaelian’s article from WorkSmartLifeStyle, “When you build a brand, one of the most important aspects of being successful is building a community of brand loyalists who will listen to your words, read your posts, show up at your events, purchase your offerings and connect with like-minded individuals.” In order to establish such loyalty, a company must create an active relationship with their community; a feeling of being wanted and needed in the community. With the age of social media upon us, reaching many people that may be interested in your community is easy, but making them invest their time is difficult and requires a significant amount of dedication in the business.

Connecting with your audience is key, which will drive their interest in your brand and product(s). Another article written by Britt Michaelian includes a list of ways to connect with an audience through social media, some of which I found very interesting. Here are a few that I think are the most important items out of his list:

  • Engage in meaningful conversations with their followers on a consistent basis.
  • Keep social exchanges positive and uplifting.
  • Don’t just broadcast an advertisement, connect with the followers and establish a long-term relationship with them.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
  • Without their audience, the message will not be heard; express and show gratitude often.

I think one of the most important on the list is engaging in meaningful conversations with your followers. I currently follow over 50 businesses on Twitter, the majority of which post advertisements 90% of the time. Majority of the businesses seem to use Twitter as a central hub for their latest headlines and/or marketing campaigns, which is understandable, but lacking on relationship development. Due to their apathy, I generally disregard their posts and feel as though I don’t matter to their bottom line.

I’m currently working on establishing my own brand for my consulting business, Billington Consulting,LLC, which requires me to post daily on Twitter and Facebook. Creating a community is difficult, especially when your initial members will consist mainly of your clients. Throughout Britt Michaelian’s articles, he indicates that building your brand is like raising a child; both require time, effort, energy, and some “love”.

Outreach and Loyalty

While expanding a community and attempting to establish new relationships with potential customers, a Community Manager must understand their audience prior to engagement. Reaching out in an informal sense through social media sites (i.e. Twitter) is a great way to begin dialog. Erica Moss’s article contains some great ways to engage bloggers that may have their own followers, which will enable the brand to reach multiple audiences.

Overall, loyalty ensures that customers will champion the brand and any products that they purchase. Concentrating on your target audience is a good start and remember that not everyone outside of your target audience will like the brand and/or its products. As a Community Manager, we can utilize social media to develop the dialog with our customers that can lead to a long-term relationship