This is the sixth post in our Horizon Deep Dive series. To follow along with the series (and receive exclusive content) click here.

In this week’s Deep Dive video, we’re looking at Horizon’s social loyalty features – from enriching member data with social profile information to rewarding social referrals and engagement. I’ll also be showing you the customer loyalty portal for the first time, so you can see what a Horizon loyalty program looks like from the member’s perspective. Check it out below…


 

Does social media matter to loyalty?

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the greatest tools in a marketer’s arsenal – not only is it budget-friendly, but it’s often more effective than traditional methods of marketing and advertising. One study found that 90% of shoppers who had read a positive review of a product said this influenced their buying decision.

Referrals and recommendations are particularly important to millennials, with 55% saying that an endorsement from a friend is a key factor in getting them to try a new brand or product.

Where does this word-of-mouth marketing take place? In person (or otherwise “offline”) is an obvious way, but social media is increasingly a key channel for customers to share their brand experiences and glean advice from peers. This is good news for marketers – social media provides easy opportunities to incentivise and track brand engagement and referrals – often more so than traditional channels. Brand advocacy is one of the most valuable outputs of true customer loyalty – so the ability to encourage and measure this is essential.

And customers are certainly open to the intersection of social media and loyalty. According to research from Nielsen, 67% of consumers would like to be rewarded for referring friends, and 62% were interested in rewards for sharing brand content on social. So how do you effectively encourage brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing on social media?
 

Making social loyalty work

Here are a few tips for building social channels into your loyalty strategy…

Encourage real engagement (not spam)
One of the biggest challenges when incorporating social media into your loyalty program is the potential for fraud. Some customers may be tempted to ‘game’ the system if they know there’s an easy (and repeatable) way to earn points – by setting up fake accounts for example.

With the right software, though, there should be controls you can put in place to stop this happening – whether that’s simply a cap on the amount of points they can earn through social sharing each month, or a surprise-and-delight approach, where rewards are occasionally given for social interaction but aren’t guaranteed.

Aside from applying a few practical limitations, the best way to encourage legitimate engagement is to connect emotionally with customers and create real value. If members are truly loyal to your brand, and already feel that they’re getting something worthwhile from your program, they’ll be less inclined to try to manipulate the system.
 

Start a conversation
True loyalty is built on relationships, and relationships don’t work very well if they’re only one way. Social media is a great way to connect with customers and open up dialogue. Research has found that millennials in particular feel more loyal to brands that engage with them on social media.

That means that when a customer shares your content, refers a friend or mentions your brand in some way, it’s not enough to simply reward them within the program. Make sure your social team responds to them in whatever way makes sense for that network – where that’s a comment, a retweet or a like.
 

Create a community
At the core of any social network is the idea of connecting with like-minded people and building a community. The same applies to brands who want to use this channel effectively. It’s important that your loyalty strategy encourages program members (and customers in general) to engage with one another – whether that’s through your standard social channels or within a forum / community built into your program.

This creates a sense of belonging – with your brand at the centre – which can help your customer build the positive emotional connections that drive loyalty. You can easily encourage this kind of community through gamification – for example, awarding badges to members who share the most content, or post the most helpful replies on your customer forum.

Ultimately though, the success of a social community will be based on how well your organisation can connect with members, communicate your brand values and deliver value.