Social’s still working to unload some of the baggage of its past. Social marketing started out with “fan pages” and “followers.” With phrases and terms like that it's only natural that social got its roots in being about loyalty. It was about building up communities of brand advocates to keep them excited and motivated to talk about brands. Then it all fell apart.
Algorithms entered the world of social and made their presence felt in a big way. Organic reach dropped to zero, and communities of fans and followers became worthless. There’s no point in building a community of advocates on a Facebook Page if you can’t reach them, so in turn, organic content has become inefficient and ineffective.
Still, social carries some baggage. Many brands focus on building communities of advocates, and it’s a path that inevitably leads to disappointment. Disappointment stem from efforts being misallocated. Disappointment come from social’s (seeming) inability to push the business forward.
Social’s Loyalty Days are Over
There are certainly going to be instances, such as social customer service, in which social can be used to establish loyalty, but if that’s the main thrust of your social efforts, you’re missing the point.
According to Adobe Analytics, social media drives three times more traffic for non-customers than customers. That means people who currently aren’t interested in your business are three times more likely to visit your business than someone who is a current customer.
Social’s potential lies in acquisition, not loyalty.
The Case for Acquisition
Acquisition should be the primary goal of social. Stop trying to increase the loyalty of an already loyal customer base and start growing the number of customers.
The fundamentals of How Brands Grow remain as true in social as they do any other medium. It’s been shown by Binet & Field that only 44% of loyalty campaigns (e.g., organic social) have “very large” business effect. On the other hand, 77% of penetration campaigns (e.g., acquisition social) see “very large” business effects. Organic social is a distraction from what really propels businesses forward.
Beyond that, loyalty-driven social goes after already acquired audiences. After all, people become fans and followers because they buy, not because they plan to. Fans and followers are an already captured audience. Even if you did want to focus on loyal fans and followers, you’d be missing a huge swath of people. According to eMarkter, only 19% of people follow brands on Facebook, and only 29% follow brands on Instagram. Loyalty-focused social means restricting your efforts to only those who would follow a brand in the first place.
Finally, loyalty social is all about energizing fans and followers. In other words, your efforts are being measured based on engagement, but the problem with engagement is it has no correlation on ad recall, brand awareness or purchase intent. Most engagement comes from clicky users who are not receiving the brand’s message, according to Nielsen BrandEffect Analysis.
With all of that being said, loyalty-driven social is a misallocation of resources. Developing organic content means significant effort is being directed toward driving minimal return. Not only are you only reaching a fraction of your fans and followers, you’re also reaching the segment of your audience that is least likely to propel the business forward.
A Loyalty Focus Sells Social Short
Loyalty can still play a role on social. People are always going to have questions, and customer service is key. But dedicating significnant resources to reach fans and followers is a non-starter for a lot of reasons. When brands focus their social efforts on such an approach, they’re not embracing the medium for its full potential.