One of the biggest problems facing modern companies is brand saturation. Every brand now has a mailing list, a Twitter, a Facebook and various other media channels dedicated to pushing their message onto consumers. For the consumer, this means a wall of noise that they can’t escape from. In a given week, they may see a dozen mail-outs. In a given day, they’ll see a dozen brand-related tweets or Facebook posts. How are they supposed to cope with this much information?
Customers Are Running Scared From Social Media Branding
The answer is simple: they don’t. This article by Chris Ward of mycustomer.com includes statistics from data collectors The Aimia Institute that make for stark reading:
“Over half (57%) of consumers are already taking steps to actively avoid companies, with a variety of methods including:
- Unfollowing brands on social channels (69%);
- Closing accounts and subscriptions because individuals don't like the communications they are receiving (69%);
- Blocking numbers (59%);
- Opting out from the majority of company email communications (58%);
- Deleting apps because of push notifications (55%).”
The takeaway from this is unambiguous: customers are tired of being talked at by brands. If businesses want the loyalty and attention of users, they have to give them a reason to care. That means less of the foghorn approach, and a shift to two-way communication.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake With Your Customer Community
What do modern customers want from brands they enjoy? We already know that it’s not to have deals and marketing blared at them, or the impersonal and ineffectual interactions they get from Twitter and Facebook. If you want the loyalty and attention of your customers, give them a reason to care. A community forum shows that you’re putting effort into your customer relationships rather than simply getting an intern to man the company Twitter account. They allow your customers to discuss your brand and experiences with your products with other customers. Crucially, rather than a simple mailing list that they can ignore, a community forum allows the customer to engage on their own terms. Whether they need customer support, product discussion or a sense of community with other fans, a community forum provides the things that other forms of social media lack
Tone is Everything
The tricky part of a community forum (and the place that a skilled community manager makes themselves useful) is tone. Customers are well used to the bland, faux-friendly marketing style that they see on social media accounts and in mail-outs. Your own community is the perfect place to ditch the anodyne pose that bored customers have come to expect. It offers an opportunity for the real personality of your company to shine through and to build a more meaningful relationship with your customers. A few basic rules to follow are:
- Encourage your community managers to choose their own profile pictures that reflect their own personalities. A company logo or a linkedin profile picture are impersonal and corporate. That’s precisely what modern customers are sick of.
- Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation in your community without being The Man or overtly pushing product. If you interact with your customers without constantly trying to sell to them, the times you do sell to them have more impact. It also shows them your own enthusiasm for your product space. If the CEO has great stories that show they care about the product, customers will care too.
- Allow and encourage talk that is tangentially related to your brand. For example, a branded community about off-road vehicles should encourage talk about great trips users have taken. This kind of discussion reinforces community bonds, and encourages users to see your brand as part of their lives. Specifically, a part they can’t do without.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get your customer community working for you is to ensure that your customers feel valued enough to stay loyal and contribute. Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community. It won’t take long before they start working out ways to pay you back.