Using Social Media for Customer Loyalty, Part 1

This post is Part 1 in a series on using social media to build strong customer relationships.  Parts 1 and 2 discuss some of the top reasons to use social media for customer retention.  Part 3 discusses how to get started.

If you have customers that are actively using social media, there is a potential to use that communication channel to deepen customer relationships.  Social media tools are especially effective at building two-way conversations with customers, either consumers or businesses.  There is certainly a lot of talk about marketing with social media!

I teach a class at UC San Diego called Marketing via New Media, and we just kicked off a new quarter this week.  We discussed the top reasons that businesses should consider using social media; I have summarized two of them for you here. 

  • Social media marketing strengthens customer relationships.  Customers don’t want a relationship with a company or organization.  They have relationships with the people that work for that company or organization.  Social media tools such as blogs and Twitterallow customers to get to know the people inside the company.  They get to see real people with real personalities.  Tara de Nicolas from the Washington Humane Society shared with me that the most popular part of their website is the link to their Flickr photo stream!  Their clients and donors love to see the faces behind the operations, and they seek them out when given a chance to attend a face-to-face event with them (such as a fundraising dinner).  Friendships are formed online and brought into the offline arena!  Customers that have positive interactions with the people in the company feel a stronger sense of trust with that organization, a key factor in building customer loyalty.


  • Social media marketing is great at keeping customers informed and involved.  While traditional media is also good at keeping customers informed, social media excels at getting customers involved.  Nearly one year ago, we had devastating wildfires here in San Diego.  One of my students this quarter works for the San Diego Zoo, and she shared that zoo members and other San Diegans greatly appreciated the zoo blog updates on how the fire had impacted the park.  It allowed them a “look inside” to see how animals had been affected, and people’s passion for the animals drove additional public involvement to support the zoo’s efforts in caring for the wildlife.  Customers that are more involved and engaged tend to have longer and stronger relationships with organizations.

There are many other reasons as well, which will be covered in this series.  My panel this weekend at BlogWorld Expo addressed the above reasons and some issues, including customer retention programs, customer service, and changes in customer expectations.  There was great information on how to do it, as well as some areas to consider, from my expert panelists Tony Hsieh from Zappos.com, Frank Eliason from Comcast, Brian Solisfrom FutureWorks, and Toby Bloomberg from Diva Marketing.  Part 2 of this series (to be posted later this week) will review the implications we discussed with respect to customer service expectations resulting from tools such as Twitter.  Be sure to come back to hear their answers, as well as answers to the questions you, my readers, asked before the conference!

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23 Responses

  1. Becky Carroll

    Thank you for your comment and for your loyal readership, Lewis! Yes, understanding our customers and their motivations will help us better target all communications, including blogs and other social media tools. If the blog is the main communication tool, one must always work to write posts for the readers and their needs as opposed to our own. At BlogWorld this weekend, some of the speakers suggested gauging reader interest based on comments and activity on certain posts. Once a blogger does this for awhile, they can get very good at understanding readers and better target posts to meet those needs.

  2. Excellent post. Colleges are usually behind in teaching the latest marketing trends. But this time, I think businesses are behind .. and way behind. Businesses should be actively hiring leaders in the blogging and social media marketplace because they will become very valuable to the future of their business as traditional marketing moves to Internet marketing.

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  4. Becky, Great Post,
    I concur with Curt that business is behind on adapting to the new concepts of Social Media Marketing. Over the last three years Urbane Apartments have ceased traditional marketing efforts in exchange for a myspace site, a facebook site, YouTube and flickr sites. We also use twitter regularly. To further integrate we started a Social Network site on Ning.com, the Urbane Lobby

    Our Goal; To provide our residents with an experience and value with a high enough return to create enough Customer Evangelists within our core resident base that they self rent our apartments. We are working hard to lead our resident Influencers within our core resident base, and have transitioned most of our marketing budget inward, to further focus on our existing residents. Only good things have happened from this move. Resident retention has significantly improved, and we have created a forum and a field for the Influencers to participate. Along the path we hope to become Social Media experts based on our experience as to what works for multifamily and what doesn’t. We are learning as we go, but are seeing stellar results.

  5. Becky Carroll

    Thanks, Curt, for your comment. I am not sure that anyone is really behind right now, this is all moving very quickly. However, for those companies whose customers are actively using social media, it is imperative to engage where customers are interacting.

    What kind of people should businesses be hiring? I have seen a lot of companies use interns for social media efforts, and I don’t think this is always the best idea. Perhaps pairing an intern with a long-time company employee who knows the brand could work well!

  6. Becky Carroll

    Eric, thank you for your loyal readership and frequent comments! I love the way Urbane Apartments is focusing a large chunk of the marketing budget on existing customers to encourage word-of-mouth evangelism. This is a great strategy, especially in a down economy. On Social Media, we are all learning as we go in some ways, but the base of knowledge we have to work from is growing rapidly!

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  8. Social media is good and all but what can really cinch that deal or make your customers’ day is that little personal touch you send along their way. A warm hello or even a birthday card can go a long way!

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