Guest Blog: How to build relationships with social media users by Mona Askalani of Aimia

In Loyalty & CRM, Social media by Simon Crompton-Reid

Guest blog from Mona Askalani, Director of Social Media, Aimia


Trying to grasp the sheer volume of consumer social media activity is like trying to stare at the sun without getting blinded. Still, the momentum and critical mass of social media activity around the globe makes social channels a natural place to try to purchase a piece of consumer mindshare with your marketing dollars.

But targeting those dollars in a way that delivers return on investment is easier said than done. For all the heat and light generated from this virtual star, harnessing this energy remains an ongoing challenge for marketers. Millions of consumers "like" brands on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and forward brand-generated videos, which makes it easy to mistake all of this activity for marketing success.

If you look past the dazzling brightness, then the need for a more concrete, measurable and actionable set of social media activity metrics becomes apparent. How often do your customers "like" a brand? How deep is their loyalty for those brands? How often does that "like" translate into purchases, transactions and profitable behavior?

The traditional approach to social media measurement—racing to rack up the most "likes," followers, and recommendations, and then proudly displaying your scorecard like a prized pelt—is no longer adequate. It has now become imperative to understand the meaning behind the numbers.

Fortunately, the days of being blinded by social media activity are fast ending. Marketers are developing more sophisticated approach that leverages the tools of loyalty management to identify, understand and influence customer behavior. To become an effective marketing strategy, social media marketing must first become part of an effective customer strategy. The key is to build greater customer understanding through customer data that delivers actionable insights.

Consider a social media segmentation approach based on the two primary emotional drivers of social media participation: Trust and control. Control equals exposure; the more control a consumer perceives over their social media activity, the more likely they are to engage with a wider variety of social media networks. Trust, meanwhile, equals participation; the more trust consumers place in social media networks and their connections, the more likely they are to actively participate.

Plotting social media behavior along these axes of trust and control reveals that US consumers fall into six primary social media personas:

  • No Shows: At 41 percent of the US population, No Shows exhibit low degrees of trust, and have no interest in broadcasting their activities or interests to anyone.
  • Newcomers: At 15 percent of the population, Newcomers are typical passive users of a single social media network.
  • Onlookers: At 16 percent of the adult US population, Onlookers may lurk on several social media networks, but post infrequently.
  • Cliquers: At six percent of the adult US population, Cliquers are active, single-network users who congregate primarily on Facebook. They're most likely to be women, and most of their online sharing includes photos, status updates and comments.
  • Mix-n-Minglers: The largest group of social media users at 19 percent of the population, Mix-n-Minglers participate actively on multiple social networking platforms. Mix-n-Minglers like to follow brands in order to receive offers and keep up with the latest news.
  • Sparks: Representing only three percent of the US adults, Sparks are the most active and deeply engaged users of social media. Sparks use social media tools as a means of self-expression. They engage with brands frequently, and will serve as enthusiastic ambassadors for their favorites.

To begin applying social media personas and segmentation in your own marketing efforts, consider the following best practices:

  • Extend the loyalty lifecycle. The old model of building customer loyalty post-transaction is giving way to a model that incorporates relationship marketing, rewards and dialog throughout the purchase cycle, from awareness to advocacy and from pre-purchase to post- purchase interactions. Social media provides an invaluable set of tools to build relationships both before and after the core transaction.
  • Connect the data dots. Look for ways to connect customer interactions with your social media channels to other data sources that provide insight into customer behavior. Can you connect social media data to transactional data? To your reward program data? To your website clickstream data? Connecting these "data dots" will become critically important to developing a complete view of your customer relationships.
  • Deliver value and relevance. Combine social media marketing with your customer analytics to ensure that every communication, offer and dialog opportunity is perceived by your customers as valuable, relevant to the relationship and worth their time. Leverage social media as a tool to build relationships that increase trust and facilitate the flow of information.

It's hard not to be blinded by social media: It's sexy, it generates tremendous media buzz, and traditional agencies push social media services as potential high-margin revenue. But it's not enough for marketers to apply traditional media approaches to this highly personal communication channel.

By understanding that consumers interact with social media based on the drivers of trust and control, you can place social media in its proper role: As a tool that helps build long-term customer relationships based on deep consumer insight. Behavior-based social media personas are a valuable tool to help you begin your journey to profitable loyalty management. You don't need to get burned by staring at the sun—you just need to harness its power as an endlessly renewable source of energy.