How can companies get their customers more engaged and involved? Social media has been making it easier for user-generated content to appear as part of a brand’s marketing, usually with consumers. If a consumer is truly a loyal fan of that brand, they will be very excited to see their submission being used by their favorite company. There are many, many examples of companies using these tactics for marketing buzz and excitement as part of a social media campaign. When the campaign ends, the buzz usually dies down, and the new “fans” go look for other contests to enter. Not a great way to create long-term relationships. For this reason, I often say that social media is not a campaign; it is a relationship.
Some companies have been engaging with their true fans for years. For example, at Jones Soda their bottle labels are actually photos submitted by their customers via the Jones Soda website. Customer photos appear on the Jones Soda gallery, and a lucky few get theirs put on a bottle. Even though there is no fame and fortune to be received from this activity, Jones Soda fans love to contribute to the Jones community in this fashion.
Spice it Up in B2B
Spiceworks is a great example of letting customers contribute in the B2B space. Spiceworks is a free set of tools that helps over 1 million IT professionals manage their network, helpdesk, and “everything IT in small and medium businesses.” They have a very active online community which answers questions for each other and shares what they think on a variety of topics. Spiceworks put together a photo contest asking IT professionals to share some creative pics that contained the Spiceworks logo, brand name, or simply a red chili pepper. From that contest, a community mascot was born, SpiceRex. Submitted by one of the members, SpiceRex grabbed the attention of the Spiceworks team and the hearts of the community, and he travels the world to visit various members (he is made of paper, so he travels light). He has become so popular that Spiceworks will be featuring the red orange T-Rex in a series of ads, created by community members, to tell the IT world about their free software. Spiceworks recently won a Groundswell award for the way they have energized their customers and created tremendous word of mouth through them.
When you have information about your customers and their passions that your competitors don’t have, you have an advantage. When you use what you know about your customers and let them play a role in the experience, such as featuring a community mascot in your ads, now you are building on the customer relationship and increasing the likelihood of loyalty.