We can talk in circles all we like, but the social marketing goal of most brands is to get customers. We want to turn existing customers into brand ambassadors, and we want to get potential customers to make a lasting emotional commitment to our brand.
There’s a great deal of talk within social marketing circles about establishing, growing and deepening “relationships” between brands and their fans. We at Vitrue have as of late been pointing out the need to move fans from like to love, meaning from passive Facebook Page “Likes” to more active, participatory engagement. But perhaps now is as fine a time as any to back up and ask the question, “What kind of relationship does a customer want to have with a brand?”
The answer, or at least part of the answer, is…they want a different kind of relationship with brands than they do with their human friends. This sort of flies in the face of a lot of the thought-leadership you’ll find out there that says brands need to be as intimate and as similar to the human-to-human Facebook relationships as they can possibly be. Not necessarily true.
What if the fans of your Facebook brand Page actually hold you in higher regard or higher esteem than they do their college and high school buddies? What if, just by the nature of you being a national or global brand, they can’t help but view you as being at some kind of elevated level? Is that such a bad thing? Because while all they might want from their friends are pictures of their latest vacation or updates on how the kids are doing, fans want something different from the brands they regularly use. They want a different kind of relationship.
Here is what fans want from you more than anything else. It is the path to their love and their loyalty. It is the path to getting them to spread the word about you to their human friends. It is the key to everything you want to accomplish in social media. Are you ready? Because if I were intelligent and charged a consulting fee for this, I’d be in Mashable every week. As it is, you get it for free.
Fans want to feel like they have a true ally inside your company who’s looking out for their best interests as customers.
That’s it. They don’t want to be friends. They don’t want to hold hands. They don’t want pictures of puppies from you. They might also enjoy all those things. But what they want most, and what will bind them to your brand more than any other thing you could do on social is to have someone with power going to bat for them.
You’ve probably experienced it yourself. You have an issue at the electric company. You can’t get any help or satisfaction. Then somebody tells you they have a friend who works there that might be able to help. Somehow, almost magically, your issue is resolved right away. That’s what it means to have an ally at a brand.
If you use social to give your fans that kind of access, that kind of response, that kind of speed, that kind of attentive customer service, then they will be swept off their feet. They will never leave you. Why would they? Switching to a competitor where they don’t have an ally would be too risky. And yes, they will brag to their friends about the great experience they’re having with you.
But you’ve got to earn it. And you earn it by following all or most of our previous advice on how to get from like to love. Sound like a real person. Don’t keep your distance by hiding behind a corporate wall where you’re not “personally” responsible. Give them relevant information and entertainment. Listen to them and interact with them. Praise them and show genuine gratitude for them. Connect them so they can rave to each other about you. Communicate in ways you know they like, such as images and video. Come to their rescue. Make their life easier. Be reliable and consistent.
That’s a different kind of relationship than Facebook fans and Twitter followers have with their individual friends. But for brands, it’s every bit as powerful, if not more so.