Social networks are booming and the conversation–on current events, media content…–has become social. Brands and their consumers are also in social networks, leaving aside traditional advertising channels. The big audience has abandoned those channels, bored by their one-way communication and messages. Consumers are asking to be listened to: they want to communicate between equals with the brands they consume.
A report by the University of Michigan shows how social media, where there will soon be fierce competition between brands and entropy in their messages, will give rise to a second phase in which brands and consumers draw closer in more reduced and exclusive forums.
These are what have come to be known as user communities, where brands and their audiences debate on one exclusive topic: their products or services. They keep their social essence, are participatory, open, democratic and allow for one-on-one communication. But they focus the debate on the brand and what they have in common with their followers; what brings them both together and interests them both.
The report states that consumers who belong to one of these brand communities are willing to spend 19% more on the brand. They are what the report’s authors call “social dollars”.
The rise of communities of this type–like those of brands such as Alain Afflelou, Hotusa or Lego, among others–appear to confirm the report’s claims. Consulting firms like Forrester already highlighted in 2016 how 87% of brands see these communities as a way to strengthen their clients’ engagement.
Beyond a like or a promotional message, according to Forrester, these communities not only help brands listen to their clients to resolve incidents. They also aim to make clients participate constructively: contributing ideas on their favorite products, on how to improve their shopping experience…
Thus, in addition to transforming them into co-creative elements, brands also offer their clients a community, a sense of belonging to an exclusive club where their opinion counts.
In short, an emotional marketing experience where a brand’s clients can willingly become brand ambassadors.
A study concludes that brands with online communities increase their users’ expenditure by 19%. This is now known as “social dollars”.
And what do brands get out of it? Firstly, a community of identified clients that is easy to maintain, because users themselves create content.
But above all, a valuable source of data and information to learn from. Either through their browsing habits (big data) or through the preferences they express directly, in their ideas and messages.
All this enables brands to bring their offer closer to clients, even co-creating new products with them or reducing the margin of error in product launches, because their commercial viability can be tested and even endorsed by client opinions.
Brands have a vast space before them, that they can use to move closer to their clients and create a novel (and productive) relationship. It is all up to them, and it is not just a matter of creating loyalty among clients or innovating with new products. Their image is also on the line, how people perceive their brands. Their genuineness, their freshness. And their market position.
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