According to IBM’s Global CEO Study, one of the core issues CEOs around the world are faced with is the challenge of engaging customers as individuals. Harmut Jenner, CEO of Alfred Karcher is quoted as saying, “You can copy products, but you cannot copy customer relationships!” The study reveals that while CEOs are clearly aware of the disruptive power of social media (57% believe it will be one of the top two ways to engage customers within five years), they are still struggling to figure out how exactly it can be used to help them earn customer loyalty.
The following are three examples of companies who are using social media to create a unique, loyalty-building experience.
Over the past few years Sharpie has quietly built a loyal fan base among the teenage demographic, first on Facebook and then on Instagram. Nearly half a million photos have been tagged #sharpie and thousands more tagged with variations such as #sharpies, #sharpieart, and #sharpietattoo. What started as their internal marketing department sharing a few drawings on Instagram has turned into a community of self-expression around a shared medium – the sharpie marker. Their intense focus on a particular demographic coupled with the internal vision of being a brand that inspires became the framework for building a remarkable online community.
The Results: a 5% lift in market share
The Lesson: Inspire your customers
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reports that as of April 2012, 53% of adults ages 65+ use the internet and email. The same study found that 34% of this demographic is using social networking sites. With this information in mind, AARP began investing heavily in creating content suited to how their market now wanted to consume it. Today their robust YouTube channel covers topics like health, work & retirement, and money; and they have plans to expand their most popular series, “The Cheap Life with Jeff Yeager.” Tammy Gordon, AARP’s Director of Social Communications, points out that the misconception is that older generations aren’t tech savvy. She clarifies that while they may not be big on producing content like younger generations; they are avid consumers of it. And AARP is planning to grow their investment in providing this demographic with the educational content they want and a format they want it in.
The Lesson: Educate your customers
IC Federal Credit Union
IC Federal Credit Union wanted to capture Gen-Y consumers, but faced a dilemma. How do you make content about life insurance and savings something one would share with friends? The answer – zombies. After producing a six-segment series, they didn’t need to do much more promotion. The videos quickly made the rounds, racking up page views and interest. The most popular video to date, featuring Credit Card Murphy, has nearly 300,000 views.
The results: Growth in Gen-Y members at a rate of 2.6%
The Lesson: Entertain your customers (and prospects)
What these companies are doing is by no means new or revolutionary, but their execution shares a common thread. Each of these companies is using social media to engage a highly focused segment of their market. Where traditional media would have forced them to create an experience with mass market appeal, social media is allowing them to create a loyalty-building interaction with a select segment. To do this successfully, of course, requires a deep understanding of who your customers are, how they interact with your product, and what they care about.