Social media has become a great tool for businesses around the world to cultivate brand awareness while building strong relationships with their customers directly in hopes of gaining loyal customers.  The number of active social media users has increased exponentially and continues to rise every year.  With the ever growing popularity of various social media outlets, social media has become an increasingly easy way of reaching a wide audience worldwide.  

What is customer loyalty and how does it differ from brand loyalty?

Customer loyalty and brand loyalty are different, but they are both important.  Customer loyalty relates to the customer and their willingness to actually spend on your product(s).  This means that customer loyalty directly relates to what your business can offer them in regards to pricing, discounts, promotions, etc.  Loyal customers are the ones that keep coming back to buy your product because they believe that you have the best pricing compared to your competitors.

On the other hand, brand loyalty is when customers love and believe in your brand; it does not have to do with the actual pricing or expenditure of the customers.  Brand loyalty is related to the perception of your brand and your advocates’ willingness to promote, share, and support your brand without any strings attached.   Like your loyal customers, brand advocates continue purchasing your product but not necessarily because your product is the cheapest but because they believe it is the best product out there while offering the most outstanding service.  

Customer loyalty and brand loyalty are equally important facets of your business and attention should be given to both.  Various customer loyalty strategies and brand loyalty strategies should be combined in your marketing efforts in order to gain revenue and maintain a successful business.  

Why is customer loyalty important?

Many businesses tend to concentrate much of their efforts into customer acquisition rather than retention.  Obtaining new customers is always important for any business, however, preserving your current customer base is crucial for sustainable growth of any business.  One of the ways to maintain customer retention is through customer loyalty.  

Engaging with your customers to increase customer loyalty helps cultivate trust and brand advocacy, resulting in their overall loyalty to your business.  Everyone loves a good deal and it is a proven method of gaining more customers.  You can gain customer loyalty by incentivizing them to buy your product through sales, promotions, loyalty programs, etc.   Once they've made their purchase through a promotional discount, your goal is to retain them by creating brand loyalty.

How can I drive customer loyalty through social media?  

There are many ways to drive customer loyalty on social media.  Your ultimate goal is to gain the trust of your customers with the hopes of eventually turning them into loyal patrons of your business.  Social Media is an easy, accessible tool that can help you reach a wide audience worldwide.  Below are some ideas on ways to cultivate customer loyalty within your social media platforms.

Listen to your customers

First and foremost, always listen to your customers.  Social media has become such an essential and widely-used tool for an extensive range of people to comment or give feedback to any business.  Consider this a blessing as it allows your business to actually receive first hand feedback, good or bad, directly from the source.  Once the feedback is given, react appropriately, then take the suggestions into consideration.  

Know Your Product

Knowing your product may seem like an obvious concept but is one that is incredibly important.  Often times instead of calling Customer Service directly, customers may write comments on social media expressing their frustration with a product, whether it be setting it up or utilizing it properly.  Social media is a great place to respond to these frustrated or unhappy clients and offer assistance instantaneously. Make sure whoever is responsible for your social media knows your product just as well as the person creating it in order to provide thorough responses to your clients.  For this reason, having a well informed and knowledgeable team all-around is crucial in driving customer loyalty.  

VIP/Loyalty Programs

Everyone likes to feel special and appreciated.  One of the best ways to gain customer loyalty is by creating a special program for those loyalists.  Maybe offer your VIPs free shipping whenever they order or 10% discount every time they place a new order.  It always pays to make your clients feel extra special and important.  

Give Rewards & Prizes 

Offer rewards and prizes to your customers.  Giving your clients an incentive to purchase from your business again is always a great way to retain your customers and promote loyalty. Offer a first time customer 20% off their next purchase or throw in  a free-bee of some sort with their purchase.

For example, if your company sells beauty products and a client purchases a body wash, add a complimentary, tester-sized lotion in the delivery for the client to try out.  Not only will your customer be able to use the product they ordered, they will also be able to try out a different product at no cost.  Also, the element of surprise in this method shows that you care about them and often generates positive feedback.  

Anniversary & Birthday Incentives 

People love being recognized on their birthday or celebrating anniversaries.  Show your customers you care by offering a discount on their birthdays but also your business' anniversary as well. If you are celebrating your "one year anniversary," with a certain client, offer them a discount on their purchase or send a special gift to thank them for their business and support.  You can also provide discounts, promotion, or gifts to your clients on special holidays such as Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  

Acknowledge Your Customers & Share Their Posts

Stay active on social media and interact with your customers as much as possible.  Whenever a client comments on your product or business, take the time to respond to them, regardless of the sentiment. Customers want to feel like they are being listened to and taken seriously and acknowledging them on social media is the easiest way to show that you care.  Another great way to interact with your clients is sharing their posts.  

For example, if a customer posts something on social media raving about your product, re-share their post and thank them for their kind words and post.  This will help create a great relationship with your clients and can really show that you are listening and care about your customers.  

No matter what you choose as your method of driving customer loyalty, be sure to take advantage of the vast opportunities and ability to reach a wider audience available to you via social media.  Use social media as a way to enhance your business through a more individualized and intimate approach and show your customers how much they mean to you and your business.  

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