Shopper marketing has become the fastest growing segment in marketing, but insights from these programmes are often ignored when it comes to marketing in social media. Social media has a strong influence on consumer purchase decisions, but for many marketers customers are anonymous online. Social media conversations are not connected to in-store purchase activities and loyal customers with the potential to be persuasive advocates are not recognized or engaged in a personal way.
Brand advocates — customers who recommend specific brands to their peers — are a valuable resource for marketers. The detailed product reviews and recommendations they create and share across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Amazon and various review sites influence the purchase decisions of many other consumers.
Many marketers looking to build brand advocacy target potential advocates based on demographic profiles, the brand's Facebook/Twitter followers or social advocacy scores. People identified through these methods may not have a strong connection to the brand, so their advocacy can lack in-depth personal experience and be short lived, limiting their influence on sales of the product.
Marketers collect extensive amounts of data on customers based on their purchases through retailer loyalty cards. These data enable online retailers to create ‘shopper DNA’ profiles of each customer that can be used to deliver highly relevant offers and promotions. Targeting offers based on shopping behaviours is far more effective at improving loyalty and growing brand value.
For many marketers, these valuable shopper insights are underused in social media. Social media is the most trusted and the most influential media, but most of a brand's most loyal customers are completely anonymous in social channels. They see the same Facebook posts, tweets and blog posts as everyone else. Word of mouth generated by these customers is not connected to their purchases or to the purchases made by anyone they may have influenced.
Most attempts to build advocacy with social media marketing are organized around the fans and followers of a brand's Facebook page. Yet these followers are not necessarily your best customers. The number one reason people follow a brand on Facebook and Twitter is to get free products and special discounts,1 so it makes sense for brands to dig deeper.
Targeting people based solely on their demographic profile is problematic because demographic surveys have an inherent response bias. They often represent what people say, not what they actually do. Targeting based on social influence algorithms is an emerging practice, but the best advocates are not always the ones with the most followers on Twitter. Social media celebrities do not usually have a deep connection to a brand or the personal motivation to help others make better purchase decisions. Often, their engagement is shallow and short lived or driven by compensation.
Effective advocates are everyday people whose discussions are based on personal experiences. So it comes as no surprise that loyal customers can be the most effective brand advocates. They have deep experience with the product, are brand loyal and want to help others make better purchase decisions.