How to best cultivate an engaged social community

Prof. Ko de Ruyter

Ensure you create a sense of community 

Professor Ko de Ruyter, Co-Director of Motivforce R&D and Professor at Cass Business School, City University London, previously presented this research at an event hosted by Motivforce Marketing and Incentives. He presented research on how to best cultivate an engaged social community and focused on: marketing strategy, customer relationship management, social media and customer loyalty. He used popular culture icon Lady Gaga as an ongoing example throughout his presentation. 

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1. Invest in symbolic capital 

Create labels and symbols the members of your community can be represented by. Look at Lady Gaga's social strategy as an example; Gaga calls her fans 'little monsters' and they identify with the outstretched 'monster claw' symbol. 

This allows fans to identify with each other and connect.

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2. Leverage social value 

Understanding your consumer's passions and how they relate to your brand allows for "relevant value". Your social community should encourage people to participate and share their experiences. 

When people share experiences, you add social value. What we're finding is, whether it is a community, LinkedIn groups or internal intranet, people like to share stories. Telling stories is an important part of social loyalty.

3. Textual healing - Honesty in your loyalty program

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It is now possible to monitor conversations and aggregate online chatter into usable data and information. 

We don't analyse numbers as much anymore. Now we're doing a lot of studies where we analyse what people say. We're finding if you analyse how people converse – by text finding programs, by machine learning algorithms – you can predict what people actually do following what they read.

There is a method to identifying whether or not a community member is being honest or not. We call it "Project Pinocchio", the design of an algorithm that will enable us to discover in a loyalty program if people are honest or not. 

Is it 100 percent correct? No, but it is an indication.

4. Crowd sourcing

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Crowd sourcing is a powerful tool, but it's not for the aggregated information. We're finding crowd sourcing tends to deliver a lot of rubbish. When people participate – the fact that they get involved – that boosts loyalty. What we see as a secondary effect is very positive.

5. Engineer made-to-measure engagement 

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Reward programs are one way to drive community engagement. Let us draw parallels with frequent flyer points, where people are rewarded the more they travel. Members can earn points for helping one another with, for example, technical support. Those who reach a set quota can be awarded a title, such as 'Olympian'. 

Engagement is the new 'customer satisfaction'. It's a buzz word.

6. Build your loyalty haus 

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Social loyalty does not only apply to customers and organisations. It also applies to the organisation structure. 

Dell started a social media listening command centre, a physical unit that coordinates communication platforms and social platforms within the company. This is evolved and fueled the creation of a complete shadow organisation. 

All kinds of people within Dell's organisation could now work together on a single project. Through these networks a laptop design could be negotiated between engineers, marketing executives and customer representatives. It has led to the creation of a shadow structure of the organisation. Now they are marketing this as a social media consultancy to other companies.

7. Have a purpose 

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Social also means socially responsible. 

We're finding even within loyalty programs, having a meaningful purpose, tying it into meaningful things and engaging people with meaningful subjects, is very important. It's not all about making money; it's also about having a social purpose. You can still make money, as long as you have a purpose.