6 Ways to Socially Reward Your Customers

social media how toLooking to build your customer base and keep people coming back for more?

The answer is to reward your customers.Want to know how? Keep reading…

Why Rewards?

It’s easy to see that social media and other digital technologies are making a huge difference in the way brands interact with customers and how customers perceive a brand’s image.

With so many new business owners testing the waters of social media, it can be easy to forget what our focus should be. Just like any business situation, the customer should be our first priority, always.

Social media is another great way to drive traffic to your website, people into your stores, and ultimately, money into your bank account. One of the best ways to grow your customer base is to reward them.

Social media and online communities are the perfect playing fields for a customer rewards scheme, and can offer new possibilities to business owners in any field. Let’s take a look at six ways you can reward your customers online.

#1: All the world’s a game—stickers, badges and pins

Commonly seen on “check-in” applications like Foursquare, GetGlue and Gowalla, collectible stickers, badges, pins, medals, stamps, items or trophies add a game-like competition to the user experience.

Not only does this create an urge to collect all the items available, but also a competitive spirit is aroused, as users compete against friends (and “enemies”) to collect more items, more quickly.

As evidenced by Foursquare, users flocked to the location-based app because of the appeal it held by using a leaderboard and creating competition among its user base.

“]getglue

Stickers make a great collectible reward for customers. Photo: GetGlue

How can you use this strategy?

Depending on the size of your customer base, you may want to start your own collecting competition—stickers or digital stamps are cheap and easy to acquire, and if you take the time and effort to design rewards for specific user actions, the “game” becomes more challenging and more interesting.

This strategy is perfect for businesses that thrive on frequent repeat purchases. It could be used to reward repeat purchases, similar to the idea of “buy 5 coffees, get 1 free” you might see at your local café, or to reward customers for recommending friends to your business.

For smaller businesses, jumping on board with an established brand dealing in collectible rewards may be the best way to go. Many small- and medium-sized businesses have started promoting their physical stores as Foursquare check-in points, and many better-known brands now offer exclusive stickers to collect using GetGlue.

The more possible ways a customer can interact with your products, services or staff, the more opportunities you have for developing an engaging, collectible reward system using either of these methods.

#2: Digital discounts: Online-only offers

With discount sites like Groupon growing in popularity, consumers are not only hungry for discounts, but they’re beginning to expect them. Offering discounts, exclusive offers and coupons is nothing new, but focusing this effort on your online audience is a fairly recent idea.

groupon

You can choose what you want to offer, the discount you want to give and how long you want the deal to last.

How can you use this strategy?

Whether you’re looking to reward the online customers you already have, or increase the size of your online customer base (or, more likely, both), discounts and special deals that are exclusively available online is a great approach.

You may want to offer coupon codes for a discount in your physical store, which users can print from your website, which will drive traffic to your site and sales to your store. Or you could offer regular discounts or special offers to your email subscriber list. This will encourage new customers to sign up, and give you a bigger and more receptive customer base to send news and information to.

To make this process simpler, you might like to sign up with Groupon or a similar service to offer a special deal to your customers. However, remember that you need to find out where your customers spend their time online before you start, so you can meet them on “their turf,” and reach more people.

#3: And the winner is… Content-creation competitions

Competitions are another tried-and-true way of engaging new customers and rewarding existing consumers. While giving away free prizes can be a great way to reward your customers, content-creation competitions have recently become a popular way for brands to use social media and digital technology to involve consumers, while achieving free publicity.

Any competition that requires a user to create content of some kind in order to enter is a ripe opportunity for brand publicity. A recent example is Microsoft’s Cannes 2011 competition, which required users to create “an entertaining and engaging 60- to 90-second film that shows how a Windows 7 PC is at the core of a student’s life.” This is an obvious example of a competition that led to user-created content promoting the brand and one of its main products.

microsoft

The grand prize winner received $8,000 in cash and a trip for two to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in France.

How can you use this strategy?

A great prize will encourage people to enter a competition, but it’s also true that the majority of online customers are content consumers, not creators. Therefore, to have a content-creation competition be successful, the prize needs to be more impressive to encourage more effort from users. The Microsoft competition offered thousands of dollars in prize money, as well as a trip to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and a meeting with Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg.

For smaller businesses that don’t have film stars and international flights handy, giving away free products or services may be enough to encourage consumers to make a short video or take a picture, and ask their friends to vote for them.

#4: Say cheese: Involving your customers in advertising and promotions

Another great way to get customers involved in promoting your brand is to directly involve them in your advertising.

Doritos has a great example of a successful campaign called Make an Ad, Make a Fortune, where users created a commercial for Doritos corn chips, with the most popular commercial (voted on by the public) broadcast on prime-time television.

doritos

This is the second year that Doritos has handed creative control over to the Australian public to come up with the next TV ad for Doritos.

Another great example is the Vauxhall Corsa billboard competition that ran through a Facebook application. The winning design was professionally painted onto a London billboard, advertising the car.

billboard

Graffiti billboard for the Vauxhall Corsa designed by the Facebook competition winner.

How can you use this strategy?

Whether it’s as a billboard designer, a spokesperson in a television or radio commercial or a model for your poster advertisement, offering customers their own “15 minutes of fame” is sure to be just reward for their efforts in promoting your brand.

Ensure that you make the requirements clear and simple and encourage customers to involve their friends to grow your customer base. Choosing a winner based on the most votes received online is a great way to encourage word to spread about your competition, and ultimately, your brand.

#5: Hand ‘em over: Collecting suggestions and ideas

Starbucks is a brand that immediately comes to mind when thinking about businesses that have succeeded in showing customers that their ideas are truly appreciated.

“My Starbucks Idea” is a platform designed to collect ideas and suggestions for improvement from Starbucks’ customer base, and allow other users to vote on suggestions they agree with. The most popular ideas are then implemented throughout the coffee chain.

starbucks

Customers can make suggestions, other customers can vote on and discuss them, and Starbucks can see which ideas gain popular support.

Dell’s Idea Storm works in a similar way, and both companies have taken ideas from their customers and implemented them. This not only rewards the customers who made suggestions or voted for those they liked, but offline customers win as well, as the company develops in a direction driven by its customers’ desires.

ideastorm

The goal of IdeaStorm was to hear what new products or services customers would like to see Dell develop.

#6: Gracias, Merci, Danke, Xiexie: Thank you goes a long way!

Perhaps one of the easiest, yet most often overlooked, ways of rewarding customers is to simply say thank you.

This may come in many forms—recognition of the competition winner who designed your poster or new slogan, a discount or freebie for repeat purchases or even a simple “thank you” in-store. A simple thanks makes for a more enjoyable visit, and a feeling of appreciation, which will leave your brand with a positive sheen in that customer’s mind.

How can you use this strategy?

Remember those customer feedback forms that were once so popular? Perhaps you still use them in your stores. If you don’t, you should. You can also implement this online—set up a simple feedback form on your website; monitor conversations on Twitter and Facebook about your brand, your industry and your product; and most importantly—listen.

Listening to your customers and implementing their ideas is where the real magic happens. If they’ve taken the time and effort to get in touch with you and tell you what they think, reward them by taking their suggestions onboard and find a way to execute them.

If you send out an email newsletter to subscribers, add a freebie, a discount coupon or an exclusive offer now and then to thank them for subscribing. Perhaps you could set up a discount or special deal for your customers on their birthdays, or even just an email to say “happy birthday.”

If your customers can collect tokens, stickers, points or add currency to their accounts on your website, encourage them to persuade their friends to sign up by giving them bonuses for recommendations.

Using Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, you can thank your customers personally by reaching out to them, responding to their feedback, and following up on any suggestions they’ve made to you.

As social media and the digital world continue to grow, increasingly more opportunities are available to businesses, which enables interaction with customers at a level we’ve never seen before.

What do you think? What do you do to reward your customers and make your business stand out from the rest? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Belle Beth Cooper

Belle has spent the past four years as a freelance writer and social media consultant and now spends her days wielding a pencil as Attendly's resident Inbound Marketer. Follow her on Twitter @BelleBethCooper. Other posts by »




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