June 26, 2013
If you’ve ever booked a “bad” flight, just to get frequent flyer miles, you understand the power of a well-run loyalty program. People pay extra for tickets, fly at off-hours, and pass up direct flights on competing airlines because their loyalty has value. Passengers earn free tickets for key milestones, but just as important, they earn key perks as they move from level to level within the loyalty program. After all, everybody wants to be part of a club – particularly a special one – so it’s no coincidence that the airlines call this “status.” As the internet matures and becomes more social, businesses have opportunities to create that kind of status in new ways, leveraging content instead of goods or services. New tools and techniques make it possible to distribute content the way airlines manage tickets and perks, using the value of that content to reward top customers and prospects. Better yet, once the cycle starts, the techniques drive deeper engagement that provides the insights to surprise and excite people with unexpected rewards as the relationship moves forward.
Most companies have strategies to engage with prospects and customers – with websites, white papers, special events and big research articles. Much of the content distributed is currently released for free, with the belief that accessibility yields the largest return. The concept makes sense, but that content could actually be leveraged more effectively by distributing it in tiers. After all, if 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers, shouldn’t you treat them differently? For instance, you could reward customer loyalty by:
- Giving them access to research before it’s released to the public.
- Holding an invitation-only event with the author of the report.
- Scheduling a special on-site meeting to discuss the data.
Done right, your content can become social currency, a powerful concept that describes exchanges based on “the benefits derived from preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals or groups.”[i] When content is traded online, customers decide to exchange personal information – by clicking a button to sign into the site – and determine whether the value of that content is worth their while. So the yin and yang of social currency is that customers give information to receive content, and the key to the transaction is leveraging the relationship properly and efficiently.
Make It Worthwhile
Forrester studied 21,000 insurance policyholders, and found that many would be willing to exchange social information for cash rewards (41%), loyalty points (29%), and exclusive deals or discounts (25%). And the numbers were even higher (53%, 40% and 36%) for younger policyholders. In other words, many customers see value in their data, and they’re willing to trade on it.[ii] Even better for B2B businesses, 19% would exchange social data for VIP perks (rising to 35% in the younger group). Why is this important? Because VIP perks, like exclusive access or content, are more consistent with B2B relationships. Customers and prospects are interested in something that can make their company better or further their career (or both). So, getting early access to a big report or an invitation to a big launch event would not only fit the bill, it fits the desire to belong to an exclusive club. Exclusive perks are the B2B versions of free drinks, early boarding, or access to flight clubs that airlines use, and they can be distributed in escalating tiers, just as the airlines do.
Value vs. Broadcast
Blasting content has the value of complete coverage, but by properly managing tiered releases it’s possible to reward loyalty to your top customers. The rest of your audience will still be reached, just a little bit later. The process can start simply, with an invitation to a special online community that requires registering with a user name and email address. That information can be combined with CRM, transactional data, social analytics and marketing automation to create a rich customer profile and increasingly relevant engagement. To improve these efforts and capture audience data quickly, consider using a social login, which makes logging into the site easier by letting visitors use their credentials from Facebook or other social networks. Industry leader Janrain says 77% of its users prefer social login,[iii] and frankly, so should all businesses. Instead of starting a user profile from scratch, social logins come with a wealth of demographic details from the user’s social profile. This information jump-starts the kind of customized, personalized interactions that drive better engagement. The magic of social marketing is that once you identify people who are interested in extra information, exclusivity, or VIP treatment, you can track their responses and learn which kinds of offers get the most traction. The key is making sure the sharing of information goes back-and-forth, in an even exchange, because if you are truly authentic, you can use those insights to replace the blind sales pitches of the past with relevant and valuable offers.
How It Works
In keeping with Magnet 360’s “Rockin” value, let’s use attending a concert as an example. People used to go to concerts to listen and experience the band, in a very one-directional manner. But now they listen and share their experience multi-directionally, by taking pictures, posting videos and checking-in. This allows a band to tap into some very valuable social data about their audience. Why not use that data to identify top fans, reward them with offers like free downloads or discounts on concert tickets, and then use that interaction to start an engagement cycle that gets better and better? For example, a fan’s social login gives the band access to birthday information, making it easy to surprise and delight the fan with a special birthday offer. As an added bonus, fans who are engaged socially are likely to share their experiences socially. So, when you consider the value of social currency, consider the value of the original customers and prospects, but also consider the benefit of loyal customers broadcasting your brand to their entire social network. This is the power of social currency.
- Using content as social currency is a game changer and huge opportunity. New data and new insights are readily available, for a price.
- Businesses must create content, experiences and offers that are high-value and high-demand for their prime audiences.
- Create a win-win situation, and make sure you continue to deliver to retain and grow the relationship.
[i] Is Social Capital Really Capital?, Review of Social Economy, Lindon J. Robinson
[ii] Trends 2013: North American Insurance eBusiness and Channel Strategy, Forrester Research
[iii] The Value of Social Login, Janrain, Inc.