Court social media fans and followers who like you, because they don't all love you

Like most people, a select, elite few brands have my heart. They are brands I love, that I will always purchase if they are offered among others, even if the price tag is higher. I will proudly like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, welcome their eblasts about new products, and recommend them to friends without expecting anything in return.

I consider these brands as a match to my identity. My good experiences with the brand have made me align myself with the products so much that I consider it a part of who I am that I use and prefer this brand. (I’m bursting to tell you which ones… Ask me which ones! Okay, it doesn’t matter if you ask, I’ll tell you anyway, since I love them so much: OXO (kitchen and household products), Munchkin (baby products), Dyson (oh, the pet vac…a Chocolate Lab and Golden Retriever have me hooked on Dyson), among others.) In short, I am a brand enthusiast.

One way or another, these brands have already done the work to get me on board. So they don’t have to do anything additional to get me to buy their product. They don’t have to do much to get me to recommend them to friends. A reminder on occasion would help, but for the most part they just have to keep being awesome, and I’ll keep buying their products. In fact, I’ll seek them out on my various networks, so I can tell the world I love them by fanning them or following them. How they can tap into people like me to do some of their marketing for them is a discussion for another day. Just remember, there is a lot of power and potential in your brand enthusiast, especially on social networking sites.

You want a pack of brand enthusiasts for your product or service, but let’s be realistic—the vast majority of those that are in the market for your products or services would not list you as a part of their identity. I know, I know. It’s much easier to think of every one of your customers as loving you that much. But let’s face it—most people are passionate about a select few brands, and the rest they choose for other reasons. Think about your own favorite or best brands—you probably have only a handful. The rest of the products you purchase are for reasons other than the fact that you know you love the brand, such as cost, necessity of the product or service, convenience, and other factors. Unless you’ve had repeatedly great experiences with a company’s product or services, you may have a mild interest or would claim to enjoy a brand, but you wouldn’t seek them out to offer yourself to them as a fan, follower, or email contact. It’s part of the reason Facebook switched from “Become a Fan” to “Like”–more people are going to fall into the “like” you category.

So while talking to and creating brand enthusiasts can be an ultimate goal for your marketing and social networking efforts, you will need to do far more than tap into and focus on those powerful few who already love you. You are going to have to offer those who enjoy your products but are not passionate about them a reason to jump on board. Think of it as a courting ritual–you bring the girl flowers, and she might give you her number. And you need to offer up something good, because your customers won’t give their information out to or connect with just anyone. They are more particular than that. After all, if they are connecting with you on a social network like Twitter or Facebook, they are acknowledging some sort of relationship with you, and they know they will be be seeing your messaging among the messages from their friends. And with all the spam out there, your customers are very guarded with their email address. By connecting with you on social networks or offering you their email address, they are giving you an awful lot—their attention, time, and a little bit of their privacy—and it’s very likely if they are not brand enthusiasts yet, they are looking for something in return.

So what do you have to offer? When I look at those products I’m following or fans of that I don’t consider as “my” brands, some have convinced me to join through occasional discounts, coupons, or special offers. Consider this fact from the Compete “Online Shopper Intelligence Study”: Among those who use Twitter and Facebook to connect with retailers, 2 out of 3 respondents said they use the tools to keep up to date on retailer sales and promotions. A few other facts from the study show that offering up a discount is good for you also: of those online shoppers who used a coupon to make a purchase, 57% said if they didn’t have a coupon, they wouldn’t have made the purchase; they spent almost 2x as much as consumers who didn’t use a coupon; and satisfaction and intent to purchase again from the retailer were both higher.

But if you’re not a retailer, you’re not at a loss to find new fans and followers. Others have convinced me to join simply by being relevant, entertaining, interesting, and informative. You just have to know how to spark that relationship with your potential consumers and discover what kind of information will keep them around. (As a personal example, I’m a fan of Babies R Us on Facebook–they aren’t my favorite baby retailer and don’t offer me any discounts I don’t already get through snail mail, but I enjoy their cutest baby of the week photo contest, product recall information, and occassional baby advice. And if my cute baby ever wins that contest, you can bet I’ll become a brand enthusiast!)

Think of what you are a fan of and follow, and how they get and keep you on board.  Think of what makes you willing to give out your email address. And then start to think of what your brand or product has to offer fans or followers. You just might come up with some new way to capture those who think you’re okay. Once you have them, you can start working on moving the relationship from like to love.