Imagine yourself in a cafe. A trendy young couple sharing a set of headphones sits across from you, hovering over a sticker-clad laptop. He’s wearing rolled-up Levi’s and an old Yankees ball cap, while she sports a ‘Just Do It’ sweater, faded jeans, and sneakers. In that instant you understand something more about who they are.

Brand-consumer affinity is a win-win because it’s an organic relationship. For consumers, wearing certain labels is an easy way to curate an external personal image. Smart companies recognize the power of this relationship and use social media to strengthen and leverage it. These three businesses are great examples:

1. Herschel Supply Co.

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Herschel Supply Co. is a manufacturer and retailer of quality backpacks, bags, travel goods, and accessories. Herschel Supply’s product messaging is so aligned across their owned channels, such as their lookbook and blog, that customers around the globe know exactly who they’re targeting.

Drawing on their relationship with their ideal audience, Herschel Supply launched the branded hashtag #WellTravelled. This hashtag encourages customers to be content curators for themselves and for the business. “A lot of our social media comes from ideas or stories that our audience submits to us,” says Allison Butula, Social and Digital Media Manager at Herschel Supply. “We’re really just observing and sharing that out with everyone.” #WellTravelled increases Herschel Supply’s exposure to new customers, broadens the content library, and interactively engages customers.

Herschel Supply has collected more than 40,000 #WellTravelled posts from customers showcasing their travels–with or without Herschel Supply products.

2. Bob’s Red Mill

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Next up is a stone milling manufacturer of whole grain and gluten free flours, cereals, and baking mixes, Bob’s Red Mill. Their digital marketers have built up owned channels, such as their blog, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter profiles, so that customers know exactly where to find them.

Foodies, bloggers, and foodgawkers flock to Bob’s Red Mill’s social channels for baking ideas and mouthwatering recipes. And, by encouraging bloggers and customers to share recipes and images, the business has a growing pool of customer-generated content to pick from. In return for supporting the community, Bob’s Red Mill connects one-on-one with customers, builds loyalty, and becomes a trusted source for baking ideas.

3. Contiki

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Lastly, Contiki is a world leader in youth travel tours. They launched ongoing hashtag campaigns around #NOREGRETS and #ContikiStoryTellers with the understanding that customers want to hear stories and experiences from other travellers themselves—not marketers. By promoting and monitoring the hashtags, Contiki has a growing content library of customer stories from which to curate and feature.

Youth can relate to these young content creators and get a feel for what Contiki is really all about, because their experiences are authentic and reactions genuine. Fuelling a community with customer stories inspires more business and spreads brand awareness.

“Our demographic—young travellers—aren’t interested in hearing from known travel industry experts anymore, but from the storytellers and shared experiences themselves,” says Lauren Howard, National Marketing Manager at Contiki Canada. “How better to connect with fellow travellers than with inspiring stories by youth?”

Recognizing The Power of the Brand-Consumer Relationship

If someone I trusted or admired endorsed a product, I’d take note. Just like wearing a particular style or brand, the brand-consumer relationship already exists. Those businesses that have moved the relationship online have only done so successfully because it formed organically, from an honest space where customers wanted to contribute.

Herschel Supply, Bob’s Red Mill, and Contiki rely on Hootsuite Pro to manage and grow their social communities. Is your business empowering its customers to share?

Read more: Fostering Authentic Consumer Relationships: 3 “E’s” Every Luxury Brand Should Know