Why Should I "Like" You? How Smart Brands Build Followers Online
By Lida Citroën
Principal of LIDA360
Sometimes it feels like we are all back in high school—we're vying for attention (eyeballs), trying to look our best by wearing the latest fashion trend (packaging), and attempting to make friends with the popular kids (fans). As companies grow their online presences to build brand loyalty, grab the attention of untapped markets, and sell products, many find themselves in the same frustrating place they started many years ago—trying to persuade prospects to like them.
Is it important to have 20,000 Twitter followers? What about the 10,000 people who proclaim to "like" you on Facebook? How many subscribers is enough for your blog? Are we in a big popularity contest, or is the potential of online support and fans more about creating business opportunities than it is about being cool?
When the online community started to gain momentum several years ago, many companies quickly jumped on board. Blogs, microsites, landing pages, and social media forums were developed quickly and sometimes without much intention. Over time, as those sites became “sticky” and followings grew, smart companies realized the potential they had in front of them with captive audiences who were publicly professing their loyalty and affiliation.
Why It's Important to Be "Liked"
Forward-thinking organizations are taking note of the common characteristics and potential of their online audiences:
- They have reach and can impact circles of influence otherwise unattainable.
- Their online prospects can test the brand promise and query the value proposition within their sphere of influence throughout the long tail of the web in more cost-effective and efficient ways than direct advertising.
- Social media offers the opportunity to humanize the brand and connect with stakeholders on a more interactive and intimate level.
- The experiential features of social media enable brands to let prospective customers smell, taste, and feel the brand before committing.
- Once committed and excited about the brand, social medial provides a forum and a platform for engaged fans and followers to promote the brand in a robust and authentic way.
When someone with a large and credible online audience clicks the "like" button on Facebook or chooses to follow your company on Twitter, they have consciously made a choice to connect with you. They have announced that connection to their online contacts as well. You now have a live fan who has the potential to help bring your brand's values to a new and diverse set of potential customers.
What can you do to ensure target audiences "like" you?
- Reward them. Provide incentives and prizes when your fans demonstrate their support by offering specials, promotions, and inside information—just for them.
- Ask them. Solicit feedback and input. Then follow up and reflect back the changes or improvements you make based on their input.
- Engage them. Seek ways to create a dialog (not a monologue) between your brand and your audiences.
- Thank them. Periodically show your appreciation to your audience for their support, engagement, and loyalty.
- Empower them. Give your community the online tools to share, "like," retweet, and post about your brand. This is like giving your fans megaphones through which they can promote your values!
- Teach them. Share information, trends, valuable content, and awareness to help them.
- Sell to them. Once your audience is engaged, loyal, and connected to you, they will permit some selling. They have publically professed their connection to you. Not selling to them could be a tragic missed opportunity.
Your online audiences can be made to feel affinity and loyalty with your brand over time. Through consistent marketing, rewards, engagement, and integration of the value proposition, your online consumers and target audiences can develop into a robust sales team that promotes your value (and product, service, company) to others within their sphere of influence.
Targeted and strategic online brand building can be one of the most cost-effective ways to build brand champions.