Establishing Brand Loyalty through Social Media
Story: Trevor Bell
Sept. 5, 2013
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In its most basic form, brand loyalty can be simply defined as when consumers use a particular product regularly, despite competitors’ attempts to earn their business. Social media use can be simply defined as when an individual has a social media profile – whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. – and the extent to which the individual uses it. The question that still remains, however, is: can brand loyalty be built and strengthened through social media? Given the current environment where companies have a multitude of available communication channels through which to talk to their customers, the apparent answer is yes.
Through social media, companies now have access to a channel where they can speak directly to their consumers – a luxury that was not easily available or cheap before the advent of social media. Twitter is the optimal platform for such interactions to take place. Whether it is a customer reaching out to a company or a company sharing information with its followers, this constant communication is ideal for encouraging customers to remain brand loyal. A 2012 study in the Journal of Marketing demonstrated that brand loyalty can stem strongly from word of mouth, which is something at which Twitter excels1. Because of this, companies can take advantage of Twitter’s innate ability to rapidly spread information whether it is through retweets or mentioning a company in a tweet.
Additionally, companies must constantly interact with their followers in order to build proper brand awareness and loyalty. A 2012 study by Martha Knight and Serena Carpenter from Arizona State University looked at how national companies use their Twitter accounts to respond to consumers2.
The national companies surveyed in the study included: Whole Foods, Starbucks Southwest Airlines and Marriot International . These four companies were chosen because they were ranked as companies who use “the best practices for brands on Twitter” in 2011. The study found that companies who effectively use Twitter and engage in conversations with their followers were most likely to gain brand loyalty from those individuals.
Moving on to 2013, one company – Starbucks – still remains a powerhouse on Twitter. According to SocialBakers.com, which is a user-friendly social media analytics platform that allows brands to measure, compare and contrast the success of their social media campaigns, Starbucks ranks #4 in the Top 100 Twitter Brands. For Starbucks, it’s apparent as to why they are effective in using Twitter to make people brand loyal – they are engaged with their consumers. When looking at their timeline, most of their tweets are replies to individual tweets. Simply put, they listen to what their consumers are saying and giving feedback.
We used Hootsuite Enterprise to conduct a sentiment analysis of tweets discussing Starbucks during the previous two weeks; the results show that Starbucks is typically discussed in a positive light. The pie chart below illustrates how the majority of tweets about Starbucks are positive, with 60% of all tweets demonstrating enjoyment and elation, affection and friendliness, contentment and gratitude, or amusement and excitement.
Following the Starbucks model, it is wise for companies to engage with their followers on social media. Plain and simple, consumers like their voice to be heard. Companies should take advantage of the tools social media gives them when it comes to connecting with their audience. A strategic and open social media plan could prove influential in morphing consumers into being brand loyal.
1Batra, R., Ahuvia, A., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2012). Brand love. Journal of Marketing, 76, 1-16.
2Knight, M., & Carpenter, S. (2012). Optimal matching model of social support: An examination of how national product and service companies use Twitter to respond to consumers. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, 27(2), 21-35.