So, we’re all agreed that social media can facilitate a long-term relationship between a brand and it’s customers. But if you want to go-steady with your customers, I think the important question here is: what kind of relationship do you want to have with them?
Yes, there are some pretty old stats that point to the fact that most people used to follow brands for deals and money off vouchers, which is pretty one dimensional in the relationship stakes.
I think we need to get beyond this if we want to interact with customers on a level that builds a deep sense of trust between customer and brand. And trust is all important for two reasons: it’s the mother-load when it comes to accruing brand equity and it is a prerequisite for sharing content via social networks.
For me this notion of building a long-term relationship is a really exciting frontier. In the old world of 30 second commercials this depth of relationship was simply not possible. Here’s a blog that puts this point across pretty well. Marketers now have the opportunity to inject value into brand by providing a narrative that builds up memories, like your grandmother telling you about a family heirloom.
Story telling frames the relationship
It’s the stories you tell and how you tell them that will frame the relationship. There have been a number of experiments to use social networks as platforms to tell stories. And these experiments gladly move away from ad hoc or ‘initiative lead’ status updates and the type of PR set pieces that tend to suffocate social media. This is a good one, as is this from Mind, the mental health charity (disclosure I worked on this campaign) and also this. Ok, I know this last one’s a guy’s not a ‘brand’ brand, but he’s certainly having fun with it; projecting a character.
What’s the best practice?
From my viewpoint it seems that best practice for building a long-term relationship with customers through story telling falls into five points. Some are simple, some more interesting – they are:
- Work out your basic plot and story cycles. How quickly do you want the cycle to turn? Are you a soap opera or War and Peace.
- Choose your narrative hub. Where are your customers online? It may just be a question of which of the big networks you want to use, but there is a whole galaxy of other niche networks emerging out of the gloom. Once you’ve chosen it, use the platform as the spine for your content.
- Show, don’t tell. Build your narrative using a wide array of ancillary tools. For example, Foursquare is not as ubiquitous as Facebook, but it can feed into Facebook as a tool to set the scene of your story.
- Have a good set of characters that update your profile or, indeed are your profile. I think characters, fictional or otherwise, are the big creative opportunity on social networks. They breakdown barriers and people want to interact with them.
- Work out your central conflict. What does your brand fight for? What is it trying to get across to your customer? If it’s simply ‘buy my stuff’ then you probably will not be around for too much longer, but that’s a whole other story for another day.
I hope you find this interesting and valuable – if so please do share across your networks or make a comment. I’m interested to hear what you’ve got to say.
[Image Credit: with thanks to theirhistory, through Creative Commons]