People enjoy feeling as though they belong. It’s a part of our universal desire to form strong bonds with other people and feel connected to those around us. From student clubs to neighborhood organizations, this desire plays out across our nation in a variety of settings.
This desire also has a firm place in marketing. One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty involves encouraging customers to feel as though they’re part of an exclusive group when they use your brand. When people feel connected to your company and to other users, they’re more likely to become repeat customers and even recommend your brand to others. Few companies have enjoyed the success Facebook has in this regard.
The early days of Facebook
Back when Facebook was first developed, it was available only to users at colleges and universities, and they had to have a .edu email address to register. This effort to create a distinctive market resulted in a very strong community among Facebook users. Many users today still reminisce about the early days when their parents and grandparents weren’t registered and it was just a way to communicate with their college friends. In many ways, the desire to belong to this exclusive ‘club’ of Facebook users helped the company grow exponentially.
Revising the Facebook exclusivity
After a few years of immense popularity with the college-age crowd, Facebook began to open registration up to people outside their original targeted demographic. At first, this upset many people who had eagerly waited until their college years to join, only to find that everyone else could now, too. In recent years, there have been some reports of the younger generations leaving as they search for a platform that allows them to converse with their friends without their parents and grandparents seeing their comments. Overall, however, the platform has continued to grow. This is because the developers have taken the time to still encourage feelings of community among users, even though everyone can now join.
How have they managed to maintain this feeling?
1. Newsfeeds update users to their friends’ activities as soon as they log in. This offers a unique way to stay in contact with friends and family. Users know they would lose all this information if they were to leave.
2. Games and similar activities encourage users to work together on the platform for entertainment, connecting people by common interests within the platform.
3. Since Facebook use is so prevalent, the default is to use the platform. People expect to be able to connect and communicate with others through it. Those who don’t have a page risk losing out on a key form of communication.
How businesses can learn from Facebook
Facebook has managed to build a community so strong that it appeals to nearly every demographic. Few companies will have the reach to accomplish this, but they will be able to strengthen their own connections to encourage customer loyalty and retention.
For example, try building portions of your company website that allow and encourage communication between customers. You can occasionally interject advice as needed, but in general try to keep the conversations between end-users, to encourage a connection between your customers.
Loyalty programs and rewards programs are also helpful. By offering prizes to those who use your products and services regularly, you’ll show your appreciation and encourage customers to return to earn more. Publicly rewarding customers, such as showcasing particular people for their loyalty, can also help enhance brand loyalty. Even promotions such as free t-shirts can help customers feel connected to your company.
Facebook has shown the business world what is possible when a brand manages to build such a strong sense of community that users cannot imagine doing without it. Companies of all sizes can take some of the lessons to heart and begin to build their own communities.