And while 'relationship' is the promise of the social Web, most brands have missed the boat when it comes to their social marketing initiatives. Instead of investing in relationships, brands have largely invested in a token presence on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. It's no wonder they haven't seen an ROI.
Don't get me wrong, plenty of people go to Facebook or MySpace for plenty of reasons; your brand just isn't one of them. My company recently completed a study of the entertainment sector, for example. What we found was that while there were plenty of fan pages for TV shows & movies, and they had thousands or even hundreds of thousands of 'friends', these members did not actually engage. In fact, we didn't find a single brand that had even close to one engagement action (comment, photo, video, etc.) per fan. Let's face it: people are on social networks to do just that, socialize with their friends. Forcing yourself into those conversations puts you in the same class as telemarketers calling during dinnertime. You're interrupting and out of context.
So how can your brand benefit from its fans online? The solution is not to barnacle onto existing social networks, but to create your own -- either building it yourself or using any of the various solutions in the marketplace. By doing this, you'll attract your brand superfans -- the people who will actually want to interact with your brand. These superfans will do more than you ever imagined, without a dollar of marketing spend. Your fans will find you and stick with you if you let them do what they want to do: celebrate and go crazy with your brand. Take, for example, how fans of FOX's popular show Dollhouse recently played an integral part in the show's renewal by orchestrating campaigns on the Official Dollhouse Fansite and creating fansites like www.SaveTheDollhouse.com. FOX's ownership of the fansite allowed the network to interact with the show's supporters and gain greater insight into the show's popularity, eventually influencing their strategic decision to bring the property back.
It's clear why this matters to brands and should matter to you: your biggest fans are your most valuable and authentic social marketing vehicle. If you invest in a true relationship with them, you'll be able to move and react quickly to their ever-changing needs, and even ask them for help. It doesn't take much to keep them happy - just creating a special and honored place and engaging in honest dialogue. When you invite them in, you unleash their willingness and desire to recruit other fans that will gush and rave online with them. Just look at Starbucks' MY Starbucks Idea campaign from last year, which by the way, is still going strong with the coffee community. Starbucks built an environment where their fans and customers could come together and discuss ways to improve the already immensely popular café experience. Starbucks fans have submitted, discussed, and voted on somewhere around more than 60,000 ideas since the site went up. That's impressive online engagement, to say the least, for a company who hasn't been top of mind when it comes to successful internet campaigns. No matter what industry you're in, when fans beget fans, you've got a recipe for continued success.
To take the next big step in monetizing fans' passion online, you have to go beyond having a page on the social nets. Build an environment where fans can connect with other fans as well as your brand because they love it, not because it's there. This is an environment where you're not just one among thousands of brands. It's an environment where your brand is the destination.
(Image source: fastforwardblog.com)