Social media loyalty: me like you long time (but me hard to get)

Social media loyaltyWritten by J-P De Clerck, who is an experienced content, conversion and social media consultant. Like Mindjumpers, he is associated with Social Marketing Forum. You can connect with him on Twitter @Conversionation

Social media loyaltyOK, my English is far from perfect but I do know that ‘me like you long time’ is not right. I was just thinking about Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the scene in Vietnam with the girl saying to the soldiers ‘me love you long time’, while Nancy sings “these boots are made for walking’ in the background. No? Then don’t mind my twisted mind.

This post is not about movies but about “the loyalty” of fans, followers and all those other labels we give to people on social media.

Is it strong? How do you get it? And how do you keep it? Put your boots on and prepare to walk all over some surprises.

Do I deserve you?

The average user of social and new media follows less than five brands. At least, according to the 2010 edition of the ‘Consumer New Media Study’ by Cone, a Boston-based Omnicom Group company that specializes in brand trust.

Although the use of ‘new media’ like social networks, blogs, mobile channels and online games (all of which you cannot really call new anymore) has grown significantly since the 2009 edition of the report (an increase of 48%), it is and remains difficult for companies to deserve loyal followers.

Cone calculated that the average user of these so-called “new” media, follows exactly 4.6 companies. With followers Cone means persons that display any affinity to a specific brand, for example by following it on Twitter, by “liking” it on Facebook, or by subscribing to the RSS feed of the brand or company blog.

For the “intensive” Twitter and Facebook users this could seem like an extremely low number but let’s not forget that people using some social media a lot (depending on which ones of course) often are active in just a few industries like for example marketing, media and ICT. A second question is of course “what is a brand”? Did Cone include “personal brands”, “media brands” etc. No idea really but it’s not that important for the content of this post.

If the company’s figures are more or less correct one can see the great challenges that a brand faces on, amongst others, social media: how do you earn and maintain the loyalty of people in the enormously competitive world of “new” media?

And they do play hard to get!

1. Think multichannel: welcome to the omnichannel consumer

The study determined that consumers use a mixture of digital and new media to interact with brands and companies. 63% of consumers consult company sites, 62% use e-mail, 38% social networks (Twitter excluded), 18% mobile channels/devices, 16% blogs and almost 3% micro-blogs (you can say Twitter now) in their interaction with organisations.

Cone does not come to this conclusion but to me this is again clear proof of the fact that the modern consumer is omnichannel, multi-channel, cross-channel, or whatever you like to call him. The consequences for the marketing strategy should be clear by now as well.

2. Assure a dosed and phased communication in function of real-time needs

The report also found that (online) customer experiences in interaction with companies are a deciding factor for the consumer’s loyalty on the level of these dialogues and connections (follows, likes, subscribes, etc.). If the experience is good, consumer will “stay”, but if the company disappoints them in any way, they leave again just as quickly.

So the question is what do consumers want? The answer: a right amount of communication and interaction (not too much but also not too little: in other words, no overdose of messages but the right content and promotions at the right time in function of the consumer’s real-time needs and of an ongoing dialogue between the company and the consumer!

Or in other words: a multichannel approach whereby the consumer gets exactly what he wants and when he wants it is crucial and tailor-made content and promotions play an important role, just as a long-term relationship strategy matters. Sounds like B2B marketing and lead nurturing, doesn’t it?

Finally this: the most important reasons why consumers start an online “relationship” with brands are…incentives (discounts, freebies, promotions etc.) with 77% of the respondents. Second comes customer service and problem solving (46%) and thirdly feedback on products and services (39%).

So: now you know how to get the brand engagement. The tough part: getting the trust and keeping the loyalty. The answer: omnichannel and consumer-centric.

I wonder what a similar survey would find in, let’s say, two years from now, when the “new” media of today won’t be called new anymore.

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.


Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.


Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.


At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.