More than one-in-three small businesses now has a loyalty program in place, but that doesn’t mean that local merchants are always taking full advantage of the benefits that these hyperlocal marketing platforms can provide. While most businesses know that loyalty programs can be beneficial for customer retention, they aren’t aware of how integrating social media components could impact their ability to acquire new customers, as well.
Here are seven ways that businesses can use existing digital loyalty programs to help increase reach on social networking platforms.
1. Target loyal customers first. “Once you have a lot connections, you want to figure out who are your most loyal customers and get them connected with you on social media. You could train cashiers to ask your customers to follow you on social media. Or, you could send a personalized text message or email to your most loyal customers and invite them to follow you. This is also do-able with FiveStars, where we allow merchants to segment their customers by visits and send them emails and texts. We also have the ability via our AutoPilot feature to automatically send out an email or text inviting customers who have visited a certain number of times to follow you on social media.” (Chris Luo, FiveStars)
2. Ask for reviews when the time is right. “It may feel awkward and somewhat intimidating, but customers won’t know you want referrals or a Facebook review unless you make it known. Mention it when a customer hits a rewards milestone, or when they come in to redeem a deal you sent them. A customer who is excited and full of gratitude is more willing to give your business a rave review.” (Anduena Zhubi, SpotOn)
3. Incentivize referrals. “One of the reasons that merchants should want a loyalty program is to empower advocates for their brands. Referrals, reviews, and word-of-mouth are keys to garnering new business. With regards to referrals, we have designed the system so that after a member earns a vPunch reward, a member also receives a reward that can be shared with a friend. Because the reward is coming from the friend’s email, the members’ friend will be more inclined to redeem the reward. Moreover, because the reward is linked to the referred friend’s credit card, we can track the reward redemption, and give points back to the referring friend.” (Jeff Mankoff, vPromos)
4. Use customer purchases to fuel online buzz. “Using a purchase or visit event to fuel buzz by immediately posting to the social media channels that are linked to a loyalty program leverages the proven influence that word-of-mouth has on sales. This can be driven by offering additional loyalty points for linking to social media accounts, as Tasti-D-Lite did some years back with its TreatCard program, which then auto-posts the purchase, check-in, or event visit.” (Nick Mecozzi, Zcubator)
5. Take advantage of SMS. “One of the best ways to drive social media exposure is to use effective text messaging campaigns. This is a challenging task for small businesses that commonly don’t have a database of phone numbers or a robust communication platform. SpringBIG’s technology empowers merchants to send ‘links’ to their social media pages within their text messages. Text surrounding this link can be used to entice the customers to ‘like’, ‘follow’ or otherwise engage on the merchant’s page, preferably with a reward incentive.” (Michael Gross, SpringBig)
6. Document loyalty-related events. “Don’t miss an opportunity to show your online followers the benefits of being a loyal to your business. Post a photo of the new Dan Murphy sushi roll on your menu, named in honor of your top customer. Or just tip your hat to the customer of the week.” (Anduena Zhubi, SpotOn)
7. Use card-linked offers. “Twitter’s acquisition of CardSpring will eventually make it possible for consumers to simply click a link on their Twitter feed to add a deal to their card — no need to print a coupon or do anything beyond clicking the link. Card-linked offers are also more sharable. Once a consumer links a deal themselves, they can then share the deal with all their followers.” (Doug Spear, Linkable Networks)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.