As social media channels break down barriers between brand and customer interaction, consumers have begun to expect a level of personalization with brands they purchase from. It’s not unheard of for CEO’s of major corporations to reach out to comments on applications like Twitter, and Tim Cook of Apple and Steve Ells of Chipotle are known for personally responding to customer emails. Short of having your CEO respond to every customer inquiry personally, however, there are steps companies can take to make a more tailored experience for their users.
User Generated Content
One of the best ways to engage your customers on a human level is to ask questions to your audience and provide them in outlet in which to respond and share their ideas. You can do this by asking them what their favorite product is, how they use the products you offer in unique ways, or by promoting picture contests or other shareable content. The value in this is two-sided: your customer gets to share their experiences with the brand and feel that their voice is being heard, and the brand gets first hand feedback. Additionally, promoting contests is a great way to build brand interaction and get shares on social media.
Ball Canning Products
Above is a recent Facebook post from Ball Canning Products. Notice that Ball Canning Product’s post isn’t explicitly about their products – it’s just sparking conversation about a vegetable in season. Fans don’t follow Ball Canning Products because they like to be blasted with pictures of the jars themselves; they follow Ball Canning Products to be inspired with recipe ideas and to get tips on making the most out of their cooking and jamming sessions. Ball’s products provide a means to the end of what their customers are trying to achieve. Thus, their focus on social media isn’t around the products themselves, but around common hobbies and ideas their community is interested in.
GoPro is a shining example of creating a fanatic community centered around adventure lifestyles. Their product is straightforward enough – wearable cameras – but what makes their brand so popular and their marketing so compelling is that their user created videos are at the forefront of the brand experience. GoPro videos created by their users regularly go viral and gather millions of views not because of the focus on the product, but what the product can do – capture exciting moments in an action-packed lifestyle.
Building a community around your company’s values and shared passion, rather than the products themselves, is what brings a community together and makes your customers feel as though their individual voices are being heard.
Gathering Information – Potential Pitfalls and Value
A common method for brands to reach consumers with targeted offers and to streamline checkout processes is to gather and store contact information. Building email lists is a great way to reach fans, but companies should be conscientious of the level of information gathering they engage in, and more importantly, at what stage of the brand-consumer relationship.
Getting the information you need can be a slippery slope – the more you request of your customers, the more leery they are of your intentions and their willingness to interact. Ironically, you need certain details about your customer in order to make their experience personalized and tailored to their needs – things such as their email address or data on their past purchases. Asking for information too soon, though, can be detrimental to your goals and potentially hurt more than help.
The key to creating an ideal personalization strategy is to offer value to your customers before requesting information. Before capturing their information, capture their attention - this builds trust and shows that you are placing emphasis on transparency and interaction rather than trying to spam them right off the bat.
Customers need a reason to share their information with you – they do so because they see value in what you provide and want more of that value in the future. Brands must take the first step in offering value before asking something of their audience. Ensure that your customers see lasting value, and they’ll be happy to share their information.