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To Monetize Open Social Networks, Invite
Customers to Be More Than Just “Friends”
New research asserts that consumers want deeper connections
with brands – but open social networks are not where they want
to build these connections. Instead, marketers need to invite
their “friends” into a branded customer community that converts
them into buyers, advocates, and long-term customers.




 Table of Contents
   Online Community: What Do Consumers Want from Brand Relationships? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
   About the Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   The Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
   Key Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
   #1: Social networks are not the first place people go to research products and services. Google and brand
   websites are. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
   #2: Consumers showed a strong preference for branded customer communities over open social networks for
   building relationships with brands.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
   #3: Relevant content is what drives consumers to prefer branded communities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
   #4: Consumers are very willing to become advocates for brands, products, and services they care about.
   Advocacy at scale is the untapped “holy grail” for marketers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
   Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
   The Unrealized Potential of Social Media for Marketers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
   Taking Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
     » Action #1: Create a Customer Community to Which All Open Social Networks Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
     » Action #2: Use Customer Communities to Make Your Website More “Social” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
     » Action #3: Leverage Community to Turn Your Best Customers into Advocates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
   Learn More . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
To Monetize Open Social
Networks, Invite Customers to
Be More Than Just “Friends”
New research asserts that consumers want deeper connections with
brands — but open social networks are not where they want to build these
connections. Instead, marketers need to invite their “friends” into a branded
customer community that converts them into buyers, advocates, and long-term
customers.

It’s almost considered gospel today: the idea that      a latent desire to connect with the brands they care   1
open social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and        about. So where are the higher sales? Where are
Pinterest are incredibly powerful tools that market-    soaring stats for stronger customer acquisition and
ers can use for customer acquisition, retention,        retention? Clearly, there is something missing from
and revenue generation. By creating platforms for       the equation.
consumers to connect with each other and share
their interests and content, these innovations
have created entirely new touch points that hold         U.S. marketers last year spent $3.08
the promise of personal, one-to-one relationships        billion on Facebook brand pages
between marketers and consumers.                         and social media advertisements,
As a result, companies have invested billions of dol-    according to estimates from
lars in two key areas:                                   eMarketer — and the investment
  Creating a strong digital presence in social           return has been dismal.
  networks —for example, via Facebook brand
  pages, Twitter handles, Pinboards, and
  Foursquare locations —and leveraging social
  marketing applications like Buddy Media.                Online Community: What
  Deploying technologies such as Hootsuite and          Do Consumers Want from
  Radian6 to facilitate responding to consumers         Brand Relationships?
  in open social networks.
To convert their new “friends” into buyers of prod-     According to a new study conducted by The Incyte
ucts and services, many marketers are also adding       Group, the answer lies in the nature of “online com-
e-commerce functions to their Facebook pages            munity” – specifically, where and how consumers
so that people can make purchases based on the          expect to interact with their friends versus where
recommendations of people in their networks.            and how they expect to interact with companies
                                                        they do business with. “We engaged in this study
But the fact is, despite their reach, open social       because we thought that data on consumer prefer-
networks have not proven to be the most effective       ences was missing from most of the research and
customer-acquisition or revenue-generation chan-        commentary on social marketing effectiveness,”
nels, and most businesses are still seeking to quan-    explains Dale Sakai, partner at Incyte. “We decided
tify the business value of their investments. The       to find out for ourselves what drives consumers to
question is, why? By “liking” brands on Facebook,       want to engage with brands in social media, as well
Tweeting and blogging about them, and posting           as the specific characteristics of online communities
items on Pinterest, customers are clearly expressing    that would induce them to join.”
The research revealed that consumers want to be            and venture capital groups, such as IBM, Oracle,
    more than a generic ”friend” of a company or brand         Accel/KKR and InterWest Partners, to optimize their
    on open social networks. “Open social networks,            strategic plans and increase valuations.
    such as Facebook and Twitter, are where consum-
    ers expect to interact with individuals – their friends,   The Methodology
    colleagues, acquaintances, and professional net-
    works,” notes Sakai. “Any benefits they receive             For this study, Incyte’s research team surveyed
    from ‘friending’ companies in social networks are          thousands of U.S. consumers to identify demo-
    considered ancillary.” At the same time, the study         graphic information, their understanding and use
    showed that consumers want direct connections              of Internet technology, and their use of open social
    with companies and other customers in what are             networks. In addition, the survey included conjoint
    best described as “branded customer communi-               analytic techniques to understand their preferences
    ties” (see Table 1 for a definition of terms). Most         around branded customer communities, including:
    shocking, they do not expect – or even want – these          The value propositions that would attract
    communities to be part of an existing social network         them
2   like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead, their preference         How they preferred to learn about these
    is for customer communities that are:                        communities
      Run separately from open social networks,                  The role of the sponsoring brand
      but have strong linkages to them so they can
      easily share information with like-minded                  The extent of social media linkages they
      friends                                                    would like to see

      Proactively managed by companies                         The results focused on responses from 1,897 quali-
                                                               fied consumers who actively use the Internet and
      Tightly integrated with the company’s website
                                                               represent adults from all age, socio-economic, and
    Why don’t consumers seek relationships with com-           geographic groups in the U.S. “From the qualified
    panies through open social networks? According to          respondents, we were able to build a model of con-
    Sakai, “It’s all about context and content. Customers      sumer preferences for the entire U.S. adult popula-
    indicated that they want these branded customer            tion of Internet users,” notes Sakai. “This model
    communities to provide access to relevant, trusted         allows us to test consumer preferences and percep-
    information at every stage in their buying cycle.          tions of specific attributes of branded customer
    The context of the buying cycle isn’t happening in         communities and build a very robust picture of the
    traditional social networks. Instead, it’s happening       features and contexts that will drive consumers to
    on the broader Internet – primarily on manufacturer        join these communities.”
    and retailer websites and through organic search.”
                                                               In addition to market demographics, market intelli-
                                                               gence, and people’s preferences in Internet-branded
        About the Research                                     customer community attributes, Incyte also asked
                                                               consumers how they currently use the Internet
    The Incyte Group is a strategy consultancy that            to research, evaluate, purchase, and get service
    uses analytic-based methods and statistical models         and support for products and services. To ensure
    coupled with relevant financial and market data to          respondents based their answers on a real-life
    derive optimal strategic plans for their clients. “We      situation that is meaningful to them, the survey
    specialize in building quantitative models of market       asked them to identify preferred community char-
    and buyer preferences upon which product devel-            acteristics for a hypothetical site that pertains to a
    opment and marketing plans can be optimized,”              product they had recently purchased. According to
    explains Sakai. “Our analytic approaches have been         Sakai, “Knowing the product context of consumers
    developed in conjunction with IBM, the Stanford            by industry provided an additional insight into what
    Business School, and the MIT Sloan School of               consumers’ general preferences are for Internet
    Management.” Incyte works with the world’s                 communities.”
    leading technology companies, private equity firms,
Branded Customer
  Open Social Network Characteristics
                                                                   Community Characteristics

    Examples: Facebook, Twitter, blogs                  Examples: Ask Pampers, Mint.com
                                                        Customer Community
    Designed as a social experience to primarily
    connect people to people around similar             Designed as a customer engagement
    interests                                           community to connect people to people and
                                                        people to companies
    Brands may or may not participate, but
    only have a limited ability to manage the           Brands proactively manage the community
    community or vet its content                        and control content
    Supports social sharing between individuals         Supports social sharing between
                                                        individuals, the company, and advocates
    Trust is based on personal relationships
                                                        Trust is based on reputation of the
                                                        participants, which is measured by the
                                                        perceived value of their social media
                                                        content and participation levels                                                                  3

Table 1


Key Findings
The researchers at Incyte were surprised by the      Chart #1: Primary Reasons Consumers
study’s findings, which turn many current assump-     Use Social Networks

tions about social marketing strategies on their                                   0%   10%     20%         30%   40%   50%     60%   70%           80%

head. Here are the highlights.
                                                              Social Networking                                                             70.2%




#1:    Social networks are not                                  Hobby / Interest                                        45.4%



       the first place people go to                          Education / Training                          23.2%


research products and services.                          Sports / Entertainment                       21.1%


Google and brand websites are.                                  Vocation / Work                   17.2%



The study confirmed that the vast majority of                    Personal Causes                  16.3%


U.S. adult Internet users are currently using         Company / Brand / Product               12.8%

open social networks. Nearly 83% frequented
Facebook. 52% used YouTube. Almost 34% lever-
                                                     Company Websites are still the primary desti-
aged LinkedIn. Twitter and Google+ closed out the
                                                     nations for information to support a purchase
top five.
                                                     decision. As shown in Chart #2, when Incyte asked
But Facebook, Twitter, and other open social         participants to name their primary destinations for
networks are not necessarily where consum-           researching products or seeking customer service
ers go to build relationship with companies or       via the Internet, their top choices were:
learn about and evaluate products and services.         Visit company Website to make a purchase
As shown in Chart #1, they primarily want to use        decision — 89.3%
these sites to connect with friends and family and
                                                        Visit company Website for service/support
pursue personal interests; only 12.8% use them to
                                                        questions — 68.8%
research brands and product details.
                                                        Contact the company via e-mail — 43.5%
                                                        Use an Internet community dedicated to the
                                                        product/service — 27.3%
                                                        Use a social network — 21.2%
Chart # 2: Primary Destinations for Consumers                                                         Chart # 3: What Consumers Do to Learn
    Researching Products or Seeking Customer Service                                                      More About a Product or Service
                                                                                                                                        0%       10%      20%         30%      40%   50%   60%      70%   80%           90%
                            0%   10%   20%       30%         40%     50%   60%   70%      80%   90%



                                                                                                                  Look at Its Website                                                                           81.1%
             Co Website:
                                                                                                  89.3%
       Purchase Decision



             Co Website:
                                                                                  68.8%                                 Go to a Store                                 25.7%
      Self-Serve Support



         Call / Email Co:
       Service & Support                                           43.5%
                                                                                                            Look at Its Facebook Page                         19.9%


     Internet Community:
                  No Co                              27.3%

                                                                                                          Research It on Mobile Phone         3.1%

         Social Network:
       Purchase Decision                     21.2%




                                                                                                          When asked how they assess the quality of
    According to Sakai, the surprise is not that con-                                                     content provided on company Websites when
    sumers expect to find information about products                                                       making a purchase decision, 49.8% of partici-
4   and services on a company Website. “What was                                                          pants clearly show a preference for content
    interesting was consumers’ preference for branded                                                     that has been vetted as high-quality by other
    customer communities over open social networks                                                        consumers, and 34.7% preferred content that has
    when they are seeking information to make a pur-                                                      been provided by a consumer with a good reputa-
    chase decision or accessing service and support,”                                                     tion for providing strong content. Content vetted
    he explains. “Clearly, there is an opportunity here                                                   solely by the company was not preferred, as shown
    for companies to create branded customer com-                                                         in Chart #4.
    munities specifically dedicated to these consumer
                                                                                                          Chart# 4: How Consumers Assess the Quality
    goals – communities that are part of the website                                                      of Content Provided on Company Websites
    experience that supports the brand.”                                                                  When Making a Purchase Decision
                                                                                                                                         0%             10%              20%         30%         40%       50%




    #2:     Consumers showed a strong
            preference for branded customer
    communities over open social networks
                                                                                                                Content Quality:
                                                                                                             Member Assessment
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 49.8%



    for building relationships with brands.
                                                                                                             Member Reputation:
                                                                                                             Member Assessment                                                              34.7%
    “The fact that consumers generally prefer to get
    information from company Websites is even more
    interesting to us given participants’ responses                                                              Content Quality:
                                                                                                             Sponsor Assessment                               10.4%

    regarding whether their preferences change when
    they discover a product or service through their                                                         Member Reputation:
                                                                                                                                                       5.1%
    interactions on social networks,” notes Sakai. Con-                                                      Sponsor Assessment


    sider the following findings.
    When people are introduced to a new product,
    service, or brand through a social network and
    want to learn more about it, 81.1% said they                                                              Consumers don’t want brand
    would first visit the company Website, and                                                                 relationships to be a part of their
    25.7% would visit a retail store. Only 19% would                                                          open social networks; instead,
    look at its Facebook page. This further validates that                                                    they want company Websites to
    consumers do not expect to find detailed informa-                                                          be more like their experiences
    tion about products and services on open social                                                           with open social networks.
    networks. Rather, these sites are where people are
    more likely to begin to look for relevant products or
    services, or to discover them through a friend.
Considered separately, these last two findings may                            they get the best of both worlds when researching
seem paradoxical; but when looked at within the                              new products and services – specifically, detailed
broader context of the study, they make perfect                              product information from the company and real-life
sense. Consumers don’t want brand relationships                              answers and opinions from other customers. They
to be a part of their open social networks; instead,                         do not want their social networks to become corpo-
they want company Websites to be more like their                             rate experiences.
experiences with open social networks. This way,


   Characteristics of Branded Community Experiences Preferred by Consumers

    Managed by the company
    Linked with social networks, integrated with the company’s Website, and indexed by search
    engines
    Providing detailed content that is relevant to members’ changing context (shopper, new user
    seeking service or technical assistance, etc.)                                                                                  5
    Providing a community member profile with user reputation data to help them assess the
    trustworthiness of peer answers and comments
    Ideally integrated with the company’s e-commerce Website so shoppers can easily view social
    conversations and opinions as they research products

Table 2

Consumers prefer to join branded customer                                    discovered those communities, as well as whether
communities that they discovered through                                     or not they had “joined” the community. The most
referrals from friends or their own research.                                frequently mentioned discovery methods and their
Incyte specifically asked consumers who had                                   corresponding conversion rates are summarized in
interacted with customer communities how they                                in Chart #5.
Chart # 5: How Consumers Prefer to Be Introduced to Branded Customer
Communities and the Impact on Participation Rates
                                                        0%   10%   20%         30%    40%       50%       60%        70%



                                                Intro                                                               64.5%
                      Facebook: Friend’s Post
                                                Join                                                          58%


                                                Intro                                                               64.4%
                              Internet Search
                                                Join                                                  51.4%


                                                Intro                                                    54.6%
                      Company: Website Link
                                                Join                                   38.2%


                                                Intro                                       41.6%
                    Traditional Advertisement
                                                Join               15.0%


                                                Intro                                  38.2%
                         Facebook: Social Ad
                                                Join                       20.4%




Consumers did not mention advertisements as be-                              are using advertisements to attract consumers to
ing primary mechanisms for community discovery,                              join their communities. “The conclusion we can
and this is likely due to the fact that few companies                        draw here is that social media is the most effective
‘door’ for consumers to find and ‘enter’ customer                           Chart #7: Top Reasons Consumers Participate
    communities and begin to engage in deeper rela-                            in a Branded Customer Community
    tionships with companies,” states Sakai.                                                           0%   5%   10%   15%   20%        25%   30%     35%




    #3:
                                                                                     Get Information
            Relevant content is what                                                   More Quickly
                                                                                                                                                    32.1%


            drives consumers to
    prefer branded communities.                                                   Get Answers from
                                                                                 Consumers Like Me
                                                                                                                                     21.3%



    Incyte asked consumers what customer community
    activities they would most likely participate in. By
                                                                                        Get the Most
                                                                                                                             18.0%
                                                                                Accurate Information

    far, responses related to consuming and sharing
    relevant content were the most common, as sum-
                                                                               “Consumers are clearly saying that a primary value
    marized here and shown in Chart #6:
                                                                               proposition of a customer community is that it
        Read content – 32.5%                                                   allows them to quickly access information that is
        Share content – 19.5%                                                  relevant and accurate – and they prefer it when that
6                                                                              information is provided by other people like them,”
        Learn from others – 18.1%                                              explains Sakai.
    Chart # 6: Top Activities Customers Engage
    in on Branded Customer Communities

                        0%   5%      10%   15%   20%       25%   30%    35%     “Consumers are clearly saying that
                                                                                a primary value proposition of a
        Read Content                                                   32.5%
                                                                                customer community is that it allows
       Share Content                               19.5%
                                                                                them to quickly access information
    Learn from Others                            18.1%                          that is relevant and accurate – and
          Learn from
                                                                                they prefer it when that information is
                              4.7%
       People Like Me
                                                                                provided by other people like them.”
         Help Others          4.4%
                                                                                                 Dale Sakai, partner, The Incyte Group

    As these statistics imply, branded customer com-
    munities that focus on providing social content were                       What attracts them to customer communities is the
    of most interest to consumers. When researchers                            relevancy of the content to their needs presale, at
    probed further to find out why, participants provided                       the point of sale, and post-sale. When asked which
    provocative answers. The most common responses                             of the following activities they would most likely
    included the following, as shown in Chart #7:                              participate in on these sites, results showed the
        Get information more quickly – 32.1%                                   following trends, as shown in Chart #8:

        Get answers from consumers like me – 21.3%                               Read content — 27.3%

        Get the most accurate information – 18.0%                                Follow posts — 18.8%
                                                                                 Share with social network — 18.2%
                                                                                 “Liking” — 8.9%
                                                                                 Posting replies and answers — 8.3%
                                                                                 Chatting — 5.9%
Chart #8: What Attracts Consumers to                                                                  But can companies use branded customer com-
Branded Customer Communities                                                                          munities to support trusted customer advocacy?
                            0%    5%           10%          15%   20%           25%   30%       35%   This is the holy grail of marketing, as it means ex-
                                                                                                      ploiting earned media – rather than hiring influencers
                                                                                                      or paying shills or schwag – and giving customers
      Consuming Content                                                                     27.3%


          Following Posts                                                 18.8%
                                                                                                      lots of opportunities to easily advocate, all at no cost
        Share with My SN                                                18.2%
                                                                                                      to the business.
                 “Liking”                            8.9%

                                                                                                      To answer this question, Incyte asked partici-
Posting Replies / Answers                        8.3%
                                                                                                      pants very explicitly if they would be willing
                                                                                                      to become advocates for the products and
                Chatting                5.9%


            Collaborating              5.4%
                                                                                                      services of the companies whose branded
                                                                                                      customer communities they joined. Overwhelm-
Note that the vast majority of time spent on brand-                                                   ingly, they said yes (82.6%). In fact, more than 42%
ed customer community sites is consuming content                                                      said they would freely advocate without an incentive
and following posts. Why? Because content – both                                                      (see Chart #9). “This runs contrary to how most
company and consumer created – is king.                                                               influencer programs (such as Klout) are currently              7
                                                                                                      constructed where the key assumption is that advo-


#4:    Consumers are very willing                                                                     cates require an incentive to share,” notes Sakai. In
                                                                                                      addition, the research suggests that companies can
       to become advocates for
                                                                                                      leverage the untapped power of consumer advo-
brands, products, and services they
                                                                                                      cacy with everyday people at scale – not by algorith-
care about. Advocacy at scale is the                                                                  mically targeting “influencers.”
untapped “holy grail” for marketers.
                                                                                                      Chart #9: Willingness to Be Advocates for Products and
Companies look to social marketing as a way to gen-                                                   Services on “Internet Communities” that Consumers Join
erate word-of-mouth promotion through “earned”
media power – that is, product endorsements they
didn’t pay for, such as a customer raving about a
product on Pinterest. However, since there are few
examples of earned media power working at a scale                                                          42.1%          40.5%              Freely Advocate
to generate revenue, social network companies                                                                                                Advocate w/Incentive
have been forced to disguise new advertising mod-                                                                                            Would Not Advocate
els (for example, sponsored tweets or Facebook
ads) as real consumer advocacy. They are also sin-
gling out people with high Klout scores and giving                                                                   17.4%
them schwag as “payment” for their endorsements,
reviews, and support in social media.
                                                                                                      According to Incyte, Facebook is the primary
                                                                                                      way people share content, comments, and
    “Social network companies have                                                                    other information with their friends and net-
    been forced to disguise new                                                                       works, with 35.1% of consumers using their Face-
    advertising models (for example,                                                                  book “Wall” and 21.3% using Facebook “likes”
                                                                                                      for this purpose. Twitter, blogging, and LinkedIn
    sponsored tweets or Facebook ads)
                                                                                                      together were used only 8% of the time for this
    as real consumer advocacy.”                                                                       purpose. So as shown in Chart #10, from a market-
                            Dale Sakai, partner, The Incyte Group                                     ing perspective, open social networks play a vital
                                                                                                      role in funneling prospects to relevant products and
                                                                                                      services – and the brands that offer them.
Chart #10: Primary Way People Share Content                                                    Further, the research suggests that the most effec-
    and Comments with Friends and Networks                                                         tive invitation to a branded customer community is
                          0%          5%     10%   15%   20%       25%   30%   35%           40%   a referral from a friend. The imperative for market-
                                                                                                   ers, then, is to identify and nurture the best brand
       Facebook “Wall”                                                               35.1%
                                                                                                   advocates inside the community and encourage (or
        Facebook Likes                                         21.3%
                                                                                                   even incentivize) them to share their passion for the
                                                                                                   customer community and the brand with their own
    Tweeting on Twitter               4.1%                                                         networks. While consumers are willing to passively
                                                                                                   engage (with “likes” or “follows”) with brands on
      LinkedIn Updates           2.4%
                                                                                                   open social networks, a customer community is
              Blogging         1.5%
                                                                                                   where companies can explicitly address their needs
                                                                                                   as consumers. Facebook and Twitter are merely a
                                                                                                   way for them to learn about the communities they
                                                                                                   might be interested in joining.
            Conclusions
                                                                                                   So what is the consumer context that drives deeper
8   Because consumers spend so much time engaging                                                  brand relationships? And how does a branded cus-
    in open social networks like Facebook and Twitter,                                             tomer community help create this context? Here’s
    marketers can strategically leverage them to build                                             where the magic happens. Because a customer
    relationships with massive numbers of consumers                                                community is owned and managed by a company
    at scale. The problem is that “likes” aren’t equiva-                                           and contains valuable social knowledge that has
    lent to “relationships” with customers. Clearly, there                                         been vetted by advocates and employees, market-
    is a missing tool in the social marketer’s toolkit.                                            ers have more flexibility to address customer needs
    They need a way to connect with consumers and                                                  based on their stage in the customer lifecycle. For
    address their explicit needs and desires more                                                  example, customer engagement and content in the
    directly.                                                                                      community can be used to:
    This study sheds new light on the missing tool that                                              Introduce new customers to your brand
    marketers need to build strong relationships with                                                Influence new customers as they evaluate or
    consumers: a branded customer community. With-                                                   trial your products
    out a customer community that the “brand” owns
                                                                                                     Create better product usage experiences
    and proactively manages, social media strategies
    are simply incomplete. “Think of Facebook, Pinter-                                               Gather feedback and ideas for improving
    est, and Twitter as doors, and until you invite your                                             product/service experiences
    ‘friends’ into your branded customer community                                                   Provide self-serve, peer-guided service and
    where they can ‘talk’ with each other and with you                                               support
    directly about your products and services, you’re                                                Build customer loyalty
    essentially leaving them out in the cold,” explains
    Sakai. “The community can have an entry point on                                                 Identify and activate brand and product
                                                                                                     advocates
    your Facebook brand page, but your consumers
    want to interact with you in your branded customer
    community, not their open social networks.”                                                    The Unrealized Potential of Social
                                                                                                   Media for Marketers
                                                                                                   Because branded customer communities can be
        Without a customer community                                                               used to support every stage of the customer life-
        that the “brand” owns and                                                                  cycle, they can generate significant return on invest-
        proactively manages, social media                                                          ment. In addition, because a customer community
        strategies are simply incomplete.                                                          is an engine for generating content that’s relevant
                                                                                                   to consumers based on their stage in the customer
                                                                                                   lifecycle, it’s easy to envision a future where most
consumer interactions are pushed through a brand-        and integrated with the brand’s Website. So when
ed customer community. For example:                      developing and executing a branded community
  When acquiring new customers, a branded                strategy, marketers should seek solutions where the
  customer community can be a destination for            community:
  your social campaigns.                                   Can be browsed, searched, and interacted
  For driving conversion in ecommerce,                     with by consumers on the company Website
  community content can help consumers make                Has entry points on multiple pages of the
  purchase decisions.                                      Website, such as on product pages, help
  To keep satisfaction and loyalty high, a                 pages, and marketing pages
  customer community can be used as a first                 Brings relevant customer conversations from
  line of service for exceptional, self-serve              the community into the company Website and
  support experiences.                                     places them on the appropriate product pages
  To increase market share, a customer                     Supports use cases that touch the entire
  community can be used to facilitate having               customer lifecycle, such as pre-purchase
  your brand advocates and influencers share                product evaluation and post-purchase content
  information about your brand with their social           for service and support                                9
  networks.

                                                         Action #3: Leverage Community to Turn
Taking Action                                            Your Best Customers into Advocates
So how can marketers leverage these insights to
                                                         Word-of-mouth marketing from a company’s best
quickly boost the revenue impact of their social
                                                         customers is the biggest untapped marketing oppor-
media investments? Here are a few suggestions.
                                                         tunity enabled by branded customer communities.
                                                         Smart marketers will monitor their communities to
Action #1: Create a Customer Community                   identify potential brand or product advocates and
to Which All Open Social Networks Lead                   create programs to encourage them to share their
The first step is to create a branded customer com-       passion.
munity. There are several software vendors that          When evaluating and executing on a community
specialize in building communities for brands. Based     strategy, look for a community platform with fea-
on the research on customer preferences for these        tures designed to help identify, develop, and activate
communities, look for solutions that offer the follow-   advocates, such as:
ing features:
                                                           The ability to track consumer activity
  Strong linkages to social networks                       and behavior (through leaderboards and
  Technical flexibility to create custom social             analytics) to identify potential advocates
  integrations (either through APIs or other               The ability to display advocate content when
  integration tools)                                       it is contextually relevant to new consumers
  Content that is crawled and indexed by search            during the purchase process or when they are
  engines to encourage more discovery                      seeking support

  Support for easy categorization of content               The ability to create special recognition (such
  based on consumer needs, such as specific                 as badges) for advocates to reward them for
  content types for consumer questions,                    their participation
  problems, ideas, and praise                              A way for advocates to share content with
                                                           their broader social networks to encourage
Action #2: Use Customer Communities to                     more community participation
Make Your Website More “Social”                          These are just some of the ways that marketers
As this study revealed, company Websites still           can leverage the findings from this study – and turn
matter! In fact, consumer preference was for             their social marketing investments into powerful
social experiences that were hosted by the brand         customer-acquisition, retention, and revenue-gener-
ation channels. States Sakai: “By giving consumers    Today, tens of millions of consumers benefit from
     access to a branded customer community that is        Get Satisfaction communities by reading content
     proactively managed and optimized to meet their       posted by others. And many of the largest and most
     needs, companies can develop a stronger relation-     powerful companies and brands, such as P&G,
     ship with their customers. This, in turn, increases   Intuit, Adobe, Autodesk, and WebTrends, rely on
     brand loyalty, customer advocacy, and cross/up sell   the Get Satisfaction Engagement Platform to build
     revenue and generates more sales leads.”              a trusted connection with their customers based
                                                           on one-to-one “conversations.” Companies can
     Learn More                                            gather insight from these conversations to improve
                                                           customer service experiences, increase customer
     This research was sponsored by Get Satisfaction,      acquisition and retention, and drive innovation in
     the global market leader in customer engagement       products and services. In addition, they can quickly
     powering 65,000 branded customer communities          and easily execute their social initiatives by bring-
     around the world. Today, more than five million        ing relevant customer conversations wherever they
     consumers actively engage in the Get Satisfac-        take place: websites, social networks, search, and
     tion network of companies to ask questions, share     mobile.
10   ideas, report problems, and truly engage with the
     brands and companies they care about.



          To learn more about this study or how Get Satisfaction can help your business, visit
                                        www.getsatisfaction.com.
                              This research was conduted by the Incyte Group:
                                     http://www.incytegroup.com/

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Incyte Group Whitepaper

  • 1. Sponsored by To Monetize Open Social Networks, Invite Customers to Be More Than Just “Friends” New research asserts that consumers want deeper connections with brands – but open social networks are not where they want to build these connections. Instead, marketers need to invite their “friends” into a branded customer community that converts them into buyers, advocates, and long-term customers. Table of Contents Online Community: What Do Consumers Want from Brand Relationships? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 About the Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 The Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Key Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 #1: Social networks are not the first place people go to research products and services. Google and brand websites are. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 #2: Consumers showed a strong preference for branded customer communities over open social networks for building relationships with brands.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 #3: Relevant content is what drives consumers to prefer branded communities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 #4: Consumers are very willing to become advocates for brands, products, and services they care about. Advocacy at scale is the untapped “holy grail” for marketers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 The Unrealized Potential of Social Media for Marketers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Taking Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 » Action #1: Create a Customer Community to Which All Open Social Networks Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 » Action #2: Use Customer Communities to Make Your Website More “Social” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 » Action #3: Leverage Community to Turn Your Best Customers into Advocates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Learn More . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
  • 2.
  • 3. To Monetize Open Social Networks, Invite Customers to Be More Than Just “Friends” New research asserts that consumers want deeper connections with brands — but open social networks are not where they want to build these connections. Instead, marketers need to invite their “friends” into a branded customer community that converts them into buyers, advocates, and long-term customers. It’s almost considered gospel today: the idea that a latent desire to connect with the brands they care 1 open social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and about. So where are the higher sales? Where are Pinterest are incredibly powerful tools that market- soaring stats for stronger customer acquisition and ers can use for customer acquisition, retention, retention? Clearly, there is something missing from and revenue generation. By creating platforms for the equation. consumers to connect with each other and share their interests and content, these innovations have created entirely new touch points that hold U.S. marketers last year spent $3.08 the promise of personal, one-to-one relationships billion on Facebook brand pages between marketers and consumers. and social media advertisements, As a result, companies have invested billions of dol- according to estimates from lars in two key areas: eMarketer — and the investment Creating a strong digital presence in social return has been dismal. networks —for example, via Facebook brand pages, Twitter handles, Pinboards, and Foursquare locations —and leveraging social marketing applications like Buddy Media. Online Community: What Deploying technologies such as Hootsuite and Do Consumers Want from Radian6 to facilitate responding to consumers Brand Relationships? in open social networks. To convert their new “friends” into buyers of prod- According to a new study conducted by The Incyte ucts and services, many marketers are also adding Group, the answer lies in the nature of “online com- e-commerce functions to their Facebook pages munity” – specifically, where and how consumers so that people can make purchases based on the expect to interact with their friends versus where recommendations of people in their networks. and how they expect to interact with companies they do business with. “We engaged in this study But the fact is, despite their reach, open social because we thought that data on consumer prefer- networks have not proven to be the most effective ences was missing from most of the research and customer-acquisition or revenue-generation chan- commentary on social marketing effectiveness,” nels, and most businesses are still seeking to quan- explains Dale Sakai, partner at Incyte. “We decided tify the business value of their investments. The to find out for ourselves what drives consumers to question is, why? By “liking” brands on Facebook, want to engage with brands in social media, as well Tweeting and blogging about them, and posting as the specific characteristics of online communities items on Pinterest, customers are clearly expressing that would induce them to join.”
  • 4. The research revealed that consumers want to be and venture capital groups, such as IBM, Oracle, more than a generic ”friend” of a company or brand Accel/KKR and InterWest Partners, to optimize their on open social networks. “Open social networks, strategic plans and increase valuations. such as Facebook and Twitter, are where consum- ers expect to interact with individuals – their friends, The Methodology colleagues, acquaintances, and professional net- works,” notes Sakai. “Any benefits they receive For this study, Incyte’s research team surveyed from ‘friending’ companies in social networks are thousands of U.S. consumers to identify demo- considered ancillary.” At the same time, the study graphic information, their understanding and use showed that consumers want direct connections of Internet technology, and their use of open social with companies and other customers in what are networks. In addition, the survey included conjoint best described as “branded customer communi- analytic techniques to understand their preferences ties” (see Table 1 for a definition of terms). Most around branded customer communities, including: shocking, they do not expect – or even want – these The value propositions that would attract communities to be part of an existing social network them 2 like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead, their preference How they preferred to learn about these is for customer communities that are: communities Run separately from open social networks, The role of the sponsoring brand but have strong linkages to them so they can easily share information with like-minded The extent of social media linkages they friends would like to see Proactively managed by companies The results focused on responses from 1,897 quali- fied consumers who actively use the Internet and Tightly integrated with the company’s website represent adults from all age, socio-economic, and Why don’t consumers seek relationships with com- geographic groups in the U.S. “From the qualified panies through open social networks? According to respondents, we were able to build a model of con- Sakai, “It’s all about context and content. Customers sumer preferences for the entire U.S. adult popula- indicated that they want these branded customer tion of Internet users,” notes Sakai. “This model communities to provide access to relevant, trusted allows us to test consumer preferences and percep- information at every stage in their buying cycle. tions of specific attributes of branded customer The context of the buying cycle isn’t happening in communities and build a very robust picture of the traditional social networks. Instead, it’s happening features and contexts that will drive consumers to on the broader Internet – primarily on manufacturer join these communities.” and retailer websites and through organic search.” In addition to market demographics, market intelli- gence, and people’s preferences in Internet-branded About the Research customer community attributes, Incyte also asked consumers how they currently use the Internet The Incyte Group is a strategy consultancy that to research, evaluate, purchase, and get service uses analytic-based methods and statistical models and support for products and services. To ensure coupled with relevant financial and market data to respondents based their answers on a real-life derive optimal strategic plans for their clients. “We situation that is meaningful to them, the survey specialize in building quantitative models of market asked them to identify preferred community char- and buyer preferences upon which product devel- acteristics for a hypothetical site that pertains to a opment and marketing plans can be optimized,” product they had recently purchased. According to explains Sakai. “Our analytic approaches have been Sakai, “Knowing the product context of consumers developed in conjunction with IBM, the Stanford by industry provided an additional insight into what Business School, and the MIT Sloan School of consumers’ general preferences are for Internet Management.” Incyte works with the world’s communities.” leading technology companies, private equity firms,
  • 5. Branded Customer Open Social Network Characteristics Community Characteristics Examples: Facebook, Twitter, blogs Examples: Ask Pampers, Mint.com Customer Community Designed as a social experience to primarily connect people to people around similar Designed as a customer engagement interests community to connect people to people and people to companies Brands may or may not participate, but only have a limited ability to manage the Brands proactively manage the community community or vet its content and control content Supports social sharing between individuals Supports social sharing between individuals, the company, and advocates Trust is based on personal relationships Trust is based on reputation of the participants, which is measured by the perceived value of their social media content and participation levels 3 Table 1 Key Findings The researchers at Incyte were surprised by the Chart #1: Primary Reasons Consumers study’s findings, which turn many current assump- Use Social Networks tions about social marketing strategies on their 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% head. Here are the highlights. Social Networking 70.2% #1: Social networks are not Hobby / Interest 45.4% the first place people go to Education / Training 23.2% research products and services. Sports / Entertainment 21.1% Google and brand websites are. Vocation / Work 17.2% The study confirmed that the vast majority of Personal Causes 16.3% U.S. adult Internet users are currently using Company / Brand / Product 12.8% open social networks. Nearly 83% frequented Facebook. 52% used YouTube. Almost 34% lever- Company Websites are still the primary desti- aged LinkedIn. Twitter and Google+ closed out the nations for information to support a purchase top five. decision. As shown in Chart #2, when Incyte asked But Facebook, Twitter, and other open social participants to name their primary destinations for networks are not necessarily where consum- researching products or seeking customer service ers go to build relationship with companies or via the Internet, their top choices were: learn about and evaluate products and services. Visit company Website to make a purchase As shown in Chart #1, they primarily want to use decision — 89.3% these sites to connect with friends and family and Visit company Website for service/support pursue personal interests; only 12.8% use them to questions — 68.8% research brands and product details. Contact the company via e-mail — 43.5% Use an Internet community dedicated to the product/service — 27.3% Use a social network — 21.2%
  • 6. Chart # 2: Primary Destinations for Consumers Chart # 3: What Consumers Do to Learn Researching Products or Seeking Customer Service More About a Product or Service 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Look at Its Website 81.1% Co Website: 89.3% Purchase Decision Co Website: 68.8% Go to a Store 25.7% Self-Serve Support Call / Email Co: Service & Support 43.5% Look at Its Facebook Page 19.9% Internet Community: No Co 27.3% Research It on Mobile Phone 3.1% Social Network: Purchase Decision 21.2% When asked how they assess the quality of According to Sakai, the surprise is not that con- content provided on company Websites when sumers expect to find information about products making a purchase decision, 49.8% of partici- 4 and services on a company Website. “What was pants clearly show a preference for content interesting was consumers’ preference for branded that has been vetted as high-quality by other customer communities over open social networks consumers, and 34.7% preferred content that has when they are seeking information to make a pur- been provided by a consumer with a good reputa- chase decision or accessing service and support,” tion for providing strong content. Content vetted he explains. “Clearly, there is an opportunity here solely by the company was not preferred, as shown for companies to create branded customer com- in Chart #4. munities specifically dedicated to these consumer Chart# 4: How Consumers Assess the Quality goals – communities that are part of the website of Content Provided on Company Websites experience that supports the brand.” When Making a Purchase Decision 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% #2: Consumers showed a strong preference for branded customer communities over open social networks Content Quality: Member Assessment 49.8% for building relationships with brands. Member Reputation: Member Assessment 34.7% “The fact that consumers generally prefer to get information from company Websites is even more interesting to us given participants’ responses Content Quality: Sponsor Assessment 10.4% regarding whether their preferences change when they discover a product or service through their Member Reputation: 5.1% interactions on social networks,” notes Sakai. Con- Sponsor Assessment sider the following findings. When people are introduced to a new product, service, or brand through a social network and want to learn more about it, 81.1% said they Consumers don’t want brand would first visit the company Website, and relationships to be a part of their 25.7% would visit a retail store. Only 19% would open social networks; instead, look at its Facebook page. This further validates that they want company Websites to consumers do not expect to find detailed informa- be more like their experiences tion about products and services on open social with open social networks. networks. Rather, these sites are where people are more likely to begin to look for relevant products or services, or to discover them through a friend.
  • 7. Considered separately, these last two findings may they get the best of both worlds when researching seem paradoxical; but when looked at within the new products and services – specifically, detailed broader context of the study, they make perfect product information from the company and real-life sense. Consumers don’t want brand relationships answers and opinions from other customers. They to be a part of their open social networks; instead, do not want their social networks to become corpo- they want company Websites to be more like their rate experiences. experiences with open social networks. This way, Characteristics of Branded Community Experiences Preferred by Consumers Managed by the company Linked with social networks, integrated with the company’s Website, and indexed by search engines Providing detailed content that is relevant to members’ changing context (shopper, new user seeking service or technical assistance, etc.) 5 Providing a community member profile with user reputation data to help them assess the trustworthiness of peer answers and comments Ideally integrated with the company’s e-commerce Website so shoppers can easily view social conversations and opinions as they research products Table 2 Consumers prefer to join branded customer discovered those communities, as well as whether communities that they discovered through or not they had “joined” the community. The most referrals from friends or their own research. frequently mentioned discovery methods and their Incyte specifically asked consumers who had corresponding conversion rates are summarized in interacted with customer communities how they in Chart #5. Chart # 5: How Consumers Prefer to Be Introduced to Branded Customer Communities and the Impact on Participation Rates 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Intro 64.5% Facebook: Friend’s Post Join 58% Intro 64.4% Internet Search Join 51.4% Intro 54.6% Company: Website Link Join 38.2% Intro 41.6% Traditional Advertisement Join 15.0% Intro 38.2% Facebook: Social Ad Join 20.4% Consumers did not mention advertisements as be- are using advertisements to attract consumers to ing primary mechanisms for community discovery, join their communities. “The conclusion we can and this is likely due to the fact that few companies draw here is that social media is the most effective
  • 8. ‘door’ for consumers to find and ‘enter’ customer Chart #7: Top Reasons Consumers Participate communities and begin to engage in deeper rela- in a Branded Customer Community tionships with companies,” states Sakai. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% #3: Get Information Relevant content is what More Quickly 32.1% drives consumers to prefer branded communities. Get Answers from Consumers Like Me 21.3% Incyte asked consumers what customer community activities they would most likely participate in. By Get the Most 18.0% Accurate Information far, responses related to consuming and sharing relevant content were the most common, as sum- “Consumers are clearly saying that a primary value marized here and shown in Chart #6: proposition of a customer community is that it Read content – 32.5% allows them to quickly access information that is Share content – 19.5% relevant and accurate – and they prefer it when that 6 information is provided by other people like them,” Learn from others – 18.1% explains Sakai. Chart # 6: Top Activities Customers Engage in on Branded Customer Communities 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% “Consumers are clearly saying that a primary value proposition of a Read Content 32.5% customer community is that it allows Share Content 19.5% them to quickly access information Learn from Others 18.1% that is relevant and accurate – and Learn from they prefer it when that information is 4.7% People Like Me provided by other people like them.” Help Others 4.4% Dale Sakai, partner, The Incyte Group As these statistics imply, branded customer com- munities that focus on providing social content were What attracts them to customer communities is the of most interest to consumers. When researchers relevancy of the content to their needs presale, at probed further to find out why, participants provided the point of sale, and post-sale. When asked which provocative answers. The most common responses of the following activities they would most likely included the following, as shown in Chart #7: participate in on these sites, results showed the Get information more quickly – 32.1% following trends, as shown in Chart #8: Get answers from consumers like me – 21.3% Read content — 27.3% Get the most accurate information – 18.0% Follow posts — 18.8% Share with social network — 18.2% “Liking” — 8.9% Posting replies and answers — 8.3% Chatting — 5.9%
  • 9. Chart #8: What Attracts Consumers to But can companies use branded customer com- Branded Customer Communities munities to support trusted customer advocacy? 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% This is the holy grail of marketing, as it means ex- ploiting earned media – rather than hiring influencers or paying shills or schwag – and giving customers Consuming Content 27.3% Following Posts 18.8% lots of opportunities to easily advocate, all at no cost Share with My SN 18.2% to the business. “Liking” 8.9% To answer this question, Incyte asked partici- Posting Replies / Answers 8.3% pants very explicitly if they would be willing to become advocates for the products and Chatting 5.9% Collaborating 5.4% services of the companies whose branded customer communities they joined. Overwhelm- Note that the vast majority of time spent on brand- ingly, they said yes (82.6%). In fact, more than 42% ed customer community sites is consuming content said they would freely advocate without an incentive and following posts. Why? Because content – both (see Chart #9). “This runs contrary to how most company and consumer created – is king. influencer programs (such as Klout) are currently 7 constructed where the key assumption is that advo- #4: Consumers are very willing cates require an incentive to share,” notes Sakai. In addition, the research suggests that companies can to become advocates for leverage the untapped power of consumer advo- brands, products, and services they cacy with everyday people at scale – not by algorith- care about. Advocacy at scale is the mically targeting “influencers.” untapped “holy grail” for marketers. Chart #9: Willingness to Be Advocates for Products and Companies look to social marketing as a way to gen- Services on “Internet Communities” that Consumers Join erate word-of-mouth promotion through “earned” media power – that is, product endorsements they didn’t pay for, such as a customer raving about a product on Pinterest. However, since there are few examples of earned media power working at a scale 42.1% 40.5% Freely Advocate to generate revenue, social network companies Advocate w/Incentive have been forced to disguise new advertising mod- Would Not Advocate els (for example, sponsored tweets or Facebook ads) as real consumer advocacy. They are also sin- gling out people with high Klout scores and giving 17.4% them schwag as “payment” for their endorsements, reviews, and support in social media. According to Incyte, Facebook is the primary way people share content, comments, and “Social network companies have other information with their friends and net- been forced to disguise new works, with 35.1% of consumers using their Face- advertising models (for example, book “Wall” and 21.3% using Facebook “likes” for this purpose. Twitter, blogging, and LinkedIn sponsored tweets or Facebook ads) together were used only 8% of the time for this as real consumer advocacy.” purpose. So as shown in Chart #10, from a market- Dale Sakai, partner, The Incyte Group ing perspective, open social networks play a vital role in funneling prospects to relevant products and services – and the brands that offer them.
  • 10. Chart #10: Primary Way People Share Content Further, the research suggests that the most effec- and Comments with Friends and Networks tive invitation to a branded customer community is 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% a referral from a friend. The imperative for market- ers, then, is to identify and nurture the best brand Facebook “Wall” 35.1% advocates inside the community and encourage (or Facebook Likes 21.3% even incentivize) them to share their passion for the customer community and the brand with their own Tweeting on Twitter 4.1% networks. While consumers are willing to passively engage (with “likes” or “follows”) with brands on LinkedIn Updates 2.4% open social networks, a customer community is Blogging 1.5% where companies can explicitly address their needs as consumers. Facebook and Twitter are merely a way for them to learn about the communities they might be interested in joining. Conclusions So what is the consumer context that drives deeper 8 Because consumers spend so much time engaging brand relationships? And how does a branded cus- in open social networks like Facebook and Twitter, tomer community help create this context? Here’s marketers can strategically leverage them to build where the magic happens. Because a customer relationships with massive numbers of consumers community is owned and managed by a company at scale. The problem is that “likes” aren’t equiva- and contains valuable social knowledge that has lent to “relationships” with customers. Clearly, there been vetted by advocates and employees, market- is a missing tool in the social marketer’s toolkit. ers have more flexibility to address customer needs They need a way to connect with consumers and based on their stage in the customer lifecycle. For address their explicit needs and desires more example, customer engagement and content in the directly. community can be used to: This study sheds new light on the missing tool that Introduce new customers to your brand marketers need to build strong relationships with Influence new customers as they evaluate or consumers: a branded customer community. With- trial your products out a customer community that the “brand” owns Create better product usage experiences and proactively manages, social media strategies are simply incomplete. “Think of Facebook, Pinter- Gather feedback and ideas for improving est, and Twitter as doors, and until you invite your product/service experiences ‘friends’ into your branded customer community Provide self-serve, peer-guided service and where they can ‘talk’ with each other and with you support directly about your products and services, you’re Build customer loyalty essentially leaving them out in the cold,” explains Sakai. “The community can have an entry point on Identify and activate brand and product advocates your Facebook brand page, but your consumers want to interact with you in your branded customer community, not their open social networks.” The Unrealized Potential of Social Media for Marketers Because branded customer communities can be Without a customer community used to support every stage of the customer life- that the “brand” owns and cycle, they can generate significant return on invest- proactively manages, social media ment. In addition, because a customer community strategies are simply incomplete. is an engine for generating content that’s relevant to consumers based on their stage in the customer lifecycle, it’s easy to envision a future where most
  • 11. consumer interactions are pushed through a brand- and integrated with the brand’s Website. So when ed customer community. For example: developing and executing a branded community When acquiring new customers, a branded strategy, marketers should seek solutions where the customer community can be a destination for community: your social campaigns. Can be browsed, searched, and interacted For driving conversion in ecommerce, with by consumers on the company Website community content can help consumers make Has entry points on multiple pages of the purchase decisions. Website, such as on product pages, help To keep satisfaction and loyalty high, a pages, and marketing pages customer community can be used as a first Brings relevant customer conversations from line of service for exceptional, self-serve the community into the company Website and support experiences. places them on the appropriate product pages To increase market share, a customer Supports use cases that touch the entire community can be used to facilitate having customer lifecycle, such as pre-purchase your brand advocates and influencers share product evaluation and post-purchase content information about your brand with their social for service and support 9 networks. Action #3: Leverage Community to Turn Taking Action Your Best Customers into Advocates So how can marketers leverage these insights to Word-of-mouth marketing from a company’s best quickly boost the revenue impact of their social customers is the biggest untapped marketing oppor- media investments? Here are a few suggestions. tunity enabled by branded customer communities. Smart marketers will monitor their communities to Action #1: Create a Customer Community identify potential brand or product advocates and to Which All Open Social Networks Lead create programs to encourage them to share their The first step is to create a branded customer com- passion. munity. There are several software vendors that When evaluating and executing on a community specialize in building communities for brands. Based strategy, look for a community platform with fea- on the research on customer preferences for these tures designed to help identify, develop, and activate communities, look for solutions that offer the follow- advocates, such as: ing features: The ability to track consumer activity Strong linkages to social networks and behavior (through leaderboards and Technical flexibility to create custom social analytics) to identify potential advocates integrations (either through APIs or other The ability to display advocate content when integration tools) it is contextually relevant to new consumers Content that is crawled and indexed by search during the purchase process or when they are engines to encourage more discovery seeking support Support for easy categorization of content The ability to create special recognition (such based on consumer needs, such as specific as badges) for advocates to reward them for content types for consumer questions, their participation problems, ideas, and praise A way for advocates to share content with their broader social networks to encourage Action #2: Use Customer Communities to more community participation Make Your Website More “Social” These are just some of the ways that marketers As this study revealed, company Websites still can leverage the findings from this study – and turn matter! In fact, consumer preference was for their social marketing investments into powerful social experiences that were hosted by the brand customer-acquisition, retention, and revenue-gener-
  • 12. ation channels. States Sakai: “By giving consumers Today, tens of millions of consumers benefit from access to a branded customer community that is Get Satisfaction communities by reading content proactively managed and optimized to meet their posted by others. And many of the largest and most needs, companies can develop a stronger relation- powerful companies and brands, such as P&G, ship with their customers. This, in turn, increases Intuit, Adobe, Autodesk, and WebTrends, rely on brand loyalty, customer advocacy, and cross/up sell the Get Satisfaction Engagement Platform to build revenue and generates more sales leads.” a trusted connection with their customers based on one-to-one “conversations.” Companies can Learn More gather insight from these conversations to improve customer service experiences, increase customer This research was sponsored by Get Satisfaction, acquisition and retention, and drive innovation in the global market leader in customer engagement products and services. In addition, they can quickly powering 65,000 branded customer communities and easily execute their social initiatives by bring- around the world. Today, more than five million ing relevant customer conversations wherever they consumers actively engage in the Get Satisfac- take place: websites, social networks, search, and tion network of companies to ask questions, share mobile. 10 ideas, report problems, and truly engage with the brands and companies they care about. To learn more about this study or how Get Satisfaction can help your business, visit www.getsatisfaction.com. This research was conduted by the Incyte Group: http://www.incytegroup.com/