The Popularity Problem: Should we be segregating our customers?

In Customer Engagement, Featured on App, Marketing and Sales, Social media by Vaughn Highfield

The Popularity Problem: Should we be segregating our customers?

With social media growing to exponential levels, shadowing almost every other sector of the Internet as its impact on mobile devices begins to grow even faster in the last few years, it's understandable more and more brands and businesses are jumping aboard.

It's perfect for pushing forth marketing campaigns, especially if done well, as they'll explode and cause more positive hoo-ha than any TV advert ever could.

Take KMart's "Ship My Bed" advert that, once uploaded onto YouTube, grew from a few thousand views to well over 15 million within a matter of hours. Now, a month since its release, it sits pretty on just shy of 17 million views – most of which we'd bet on being viral.

The trouble with pushing marketing in this direction is that what was once a tool for sharing fun and amusing things could quickly become a hotbed of advertising being pushed by friends around the world.

While we all like to think we've got effective, amusing and interesting advertising campaigns, that just isn't true.

Now it seems that as Facebook usage begins to drop as the key demographic of teens become disinterested with the sharing-heavy nature of the service, some companies are turning to the more popular and prolific members of social media society.

These networking elite, who have healthy Klout scores and numerous friends and followers across a wide variety of social networks, can do all the marketing any company would really need in an online space. And all they need is a little bit of preferential treatment to push them in the right direction.

But is this really the right way to go about doing things?

Is it right to split your customer base up based purely on the analytics of how much someone shares things with others?

Klout, a site that kindly aggregates the social networks of an individual to work out how influential someone is, have been running a rewards scheme for a while now. Whilst usually used to gain some small points or money off vouchers in the past, American Airlines have now partnered with them to give popular social media users the chance to experience their Admiral's Lounge at airports.

In South Africa Quicksilver have been running a "Spaaza My Price" promotion that sees prolific Klout users gaining a discount due to their score. They'll even get more money off if they share knowledge of their purchase with others there and then.

Surely this method of rewarding customers serves as little more than a high school popularity contest, gifting the popular individuals with freebies and goodies, while other customers are forced to pay full whack – even if they're already loyal to the brand.

It certainly hasn't taken off in a big way yet – which could be an indicator that such a popularity-based way of marketing isn't a good idea – but, if things continue in this direction, it could end up just dissatisfying the majority and only pleasing the minority.

At this year's Europe's Customer Festival we'll be talking about how to best engage with your customers through social media channels. You can register for free to find out more.


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