Importance of long-term relationships in social media era
The importance of building and maintaining long-term relationships with strategic consumers is further emphasized by the rise of such phenomena as global competition, sharing economy, service industrialization, and private labels. Increasingly, what differentiates one brand from another is not its visual ID or personality, but its overall relationships with consumers. It is quite limiting to assume that relationships reside in one corporate function; instead, relationships evolve anywhere there is a meaningful interaction. A company’s marketing team is often considered the “relationship hub” that orchestrates all the actors involved in the relationship building process.
Marketing becomes the art of building and maintaining meaningful relationships with strategic consumers.
In that respect, relationships are a brand’s most important asset regardless of the channel they initiate, evolve, or terminate.
Every company should leverage key consumers as powerful marketers that are able to guide the company’s decision-making process.
Brand managers must have an active role in conversations with consumers and should aim to involve them in the company’s internal processes.
The democratization process of a relationship, in which brand lovers and brand owners have an equal relationship, is visible in the rise of crowdsourcing platforms which function as relationship strengthening tools towards strategic partners. Consumers are forcing companies to become “social business”.
Social media users have increasing expectations regarding a company’s ability to directly engage into conversations with them. For instance, questions asked on Facebook brand pages increased by 85 percent in 2013 compared with the year before (SocialBakers, 2013). It is not surprising that 50 percent of consumers expect to receive a response to a question posted on social media within one week; otherwise, they are likely to switch to another brand (KissMetrics, 2013). Whatever issue a company has to deal with, if not solved online it might turn in additional offline costs. In fact, 40 percent of unresolved social complaints result in costly call center calls (ClickFox, 2013).
Besides helping to save costs, well-handled online conversations can turn negative opinions into positive ones (Grönroos, 2007), building the reputation of a good social business and stronger relationships with customers. Therefore, any interaction initiated from a consumer is an opportunity for the company to show its genuine interest in individuals. Whenever a brand neglects its customers, it runs a significant risk of losing them to its competitors. A study published by the software company Oracle (2011) showed that 89 percent of individuals have stopped doing business with a brand due to poor online service.
As many authors have pointed out, consumer-brand relationships are born through many acts and encounters and not via a single event (Grönroos, 2004). Time represents a key variable in the creation of quality relationship perception in the consumer’s mind. The initial proliferation of brand accounts on every platform (for example, one profile for each country or language) was followed by a reduction of touchpoints due to a lack of internal resources.
Brand Managers should never forget that resources play a significant role in the emotional connection development, as relationships are not “self-run”.
Founder & Creative Director of BrandMate