By Francesca Gargaglia, COO & CBO, Amity
Social media is a dominant force in today’s world. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, almost each and every one of us has created an account on a social platform. The same can be said for brands, with almost every brand using a combination of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to try and engage with their desired target audiences.
The trouble for brands is that they don’t own their social platform when it is hosted on a third-party site and, therefore, lose autonomy over how they connect with their audience. By using a third-party social network to engage with their users, brands give up the opportunity to get first-hand insights into what makes their audience tick, thus risk losing control over how their products and services are communicated to their audience.
The irony in all this is that most brands already own the perfect alternative to the big social media sites in the form of their own apps. By adding social features and experiences to their own apps, brands don’t need to rely on the social media giants to engage with their users, and can reap the benefits of regulating their own social platforms.
One of the biggest challenges for brands when they create their own app is ensuring that they are delivering a positive and engaging user experience, and the best way for them to do that is to collect their user data. In doing so, brands can find out what their audience like and dislike about the brand, how they like to interact with the brand, what content is most popular and crucially, what is going to keep them coming back. All of these insights allow brands to create a social platform that is better suited to their audience.
In contrast, when brands rely on third-party social platforms to engage with their users, they lose visibility over much of this data, as it is owned by the platform and not the brand. This makes it harder for brands to analyse their customer engagement rates, and thus makes it harder for them to continuously improve customer experience.
Creating their own social platform also gives brands autonomy over how their users see their content. They can remove the over-complicated clutter found on some third-party social platforms and replace it with personalised feeds that only show users the content they want to see, based on their previous app activity. Using feed algorithms, brands can display information about their products and services, together with user-generated-content (UGC) to create a more dynamic and personal feed.
Effective personalisation can only be achieved with utilisation of user data. By collecting behavioral data, such as what kind of content users are interacting with the most, what times they’re most commonly using the app at, and what they are using the app for, brands can optimise their app to suit the needs of its users. For brands that look to directly engage with their users, sending new product information for example, personalisation can enable them to ensure they are only sending out information at a time that suits the user.
Building long-term relationships
Building long-lasting relationships with customers has never been more important. Customer loyalty now often trumps both price and product as a decisive factor when it comes to consumers looking to make a purchasing decision. So, in a world where consumers are increasingly using digital channels to engage with brands, how can brands look to build customer loyalty? One of the most effective ways is by building a community around the brand.
This is a long process, but one that can be made much easier by using software development kits (SDKs) to power complex social features such as live-chat features and in-app groups. By adding these features, brands can create a sense of connection between users, but also between the brand and the user that will enhance the users’ in-app experience. In doing so, brands can ensure that their users will keep coming back to the platform and will generate guaranteed continuous engagement, which in-turn will give app developers better customer insight into how to make improvements to the app.
Building strong in-app communities can also have a positive impact on a brand’s sales pipeline. It is well documented that consumers place a lot of trust in online reviews. In fact, 93% of consumers claim that online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. By creating an in-app community of brand advocates, brands can replicate and enhance the positive impact of online reviews by putting brand advocates in direct contact with new consumers, most of whom have only just discovered the brand and may be looking for more information before making a purchase.
Taking back control
By creating their own in-app social experiences, brands ultimately can take back control of their customer relationships. They can collect user data that enables them to make better and more-informed strategy decisions; they can personalise the user experience to create a more immersive and engaging platform; and importantly they can dictate how they communicate with their audience to ensure that their users are only receiving the messages the brand wants them to, at the right time.