I was recently asked if I had experience helping brands reward or incentivize social media followers with in-person experiences used to strengthen the customer relationship. My friend Connie wanted to expand beyond the traditional discounts, and social media mentions for a human-centered interaction that would enable her to meet her customers face-to-face, and personally thank them for their brand loyalty, kind of how it used to be done before she had 6,000 social media followers.
So, I asked my business network for examples of how they put aside the “Like” buttons and social technology to provide a human interface to meet their most loyal brand advocates. Here are 5 great examples:
Burkett’s – Savvy Clothing for Women
When you are located in the heart of Everett, WA, and offer a specialized collection of sophisticated women’s fashion, a loyal customer base is essential to remain open and profitable. Burkett’s – Savvy Clothing for Women has remained relevant for more than 35 years with a focus on superior quality clothing and excellent customer service. Owner/Operated Holly Burkett-Pohland has built her business and reputation on her ability to choose high-end apparel that her customer base is fiercely loyal to. She thanks them by offering exclusive access to after-hour events and trunk shows. She connects with and rewards her social media followers with invite-only “designer meet-ups” and merchandise giveaways. “Human connection and relationships are the foundation of Burkett’s,” said Holly. “We have been built by a community that is loyal beyond belief. Since it’s that personal touch that has set us apart, we try to extend it as best we can through social media.”
The Little Bipsy Collection
How does a small up-start with 57,000 Instagram followers create lasting customer relationships beyond social? For Brittani Moe, owner of The Little Bipsy Collection, you meet them on the fly. The Little Bipsy Collection is a hip, modern line of baby and toddler apparel sourced from around the world. Brittani first designed a onesie that grew in popularity on Instagram followed by infant high-top shoe that sold out in roughly two-months. Her social media following exploded – and six months later, her social media presence is the primary source of customer traffic. Recently, she started creating opportunities to meet her customers in-person.
“Meeting my customers face-to-face is such a great way to connect with them on a very personal basis. Now, more than ever, consumers want to support authentic brands created by actual people. By hosting Little Bipsy Mommy Meet-ups and Pop-Up Shops, we’re able to connect one-on-one and forge long-lasting relationships with our customers, creating strong brand ambassadors and fans of our products.” Brittani Moe – Founder, Little Bipsy
Skip Rock Distillers
Established in 2009, Skip Rock Distillers of Snohomish, WA, sets a distinctive tone by creating a host of high-quality spirits using premium, locally-sourced ingredients. Owned and operated by Ryan Hembree and his wife Julie, Skip Rock Distillers are known for their award-winning potato vodka, Bicycle Tree Gin, and a host of other specialty liqueurs. Skip Rock hand-produces in small batches to ensure optimum flavor, and have worked to differentiate themselves in the crowded craft distillery market.
“Our customers are the most important part of our business,” said Ryan. “It’s our customers who help spread the word about our events and product launches, so we’re always creating new ways to thank them for their support. Our most popular response comes from inviting our followers to exclusive special releases of a new product. It’s a great way to express our gratitude for their engagement.”
“Oh! I do this!” said virtual-reality game developer, Troy Hewitt who often creates clubs themed to the products he’s developed for his hyper- engaged followers. “We throw parties and fly them to our global events where they get to hang with developers as part of the team.”
He continues, “While there is an air of exclusivity, the “community coaches” programs are actually designed with the intention of encouraging new people to participate. Followers get personalized swag, food, lodging, and access to the developers. The best part is that they get to share their authentic views on the project as an anointed authority, talking to other gamers and even the press!”
As the ultimate perk in social media incentives, Troy recently began a new startup with Jeannie Voirin-Gerdeeven, a game developer he met through his work with community coaches. PlayQuirk is the result of cultivating and nurturing those social media relationships.
Not in my network, but a worthy example, Naked Wines uses a membership model to crowdsource funds to enable talented winemakers to make wines under their own name or label. The company has about 150,000 “Angels” who pay $40 each month in exchange for price savings of 25% to 50% every time they buy a case of wine. Some Angels can assume a more proactive role, becoming “Archangels” who become ambassadors of Naked Wines in which they communicate directly on a closed area of the website. They are involved in reviewing, tasting, and searching for wines; examining the website for weaknesses and helping new members become more confident with the Naked Wines community. With so many Angels and Archangels, Naked Wines rolls out the VIP treatment by inviting them to exclusive in-person tasting events, private meets with winemakers, and access to a private online blog and smartphone App. They even partnered with Lyft to provide a transportation option from one of their Angel events.
And Amazon, the leader in online and social engagement understands the need to connect directly with their consumers face to face. Recently, they announced that they are building additional brick and motor stores. Read more about it here.
As brands seek to remain relevant and deliver value to their customers in the digital age, in-person customer engagement is vital to keep customers satisfied and loyal. If you have a great example that works for you, share it with us!