Loyalty360 sought the answer to that question, along with a few others, and found an expert willing to accommodate. Social media is being used by various loyalty marketers in a variety of ways to build customer engagement.

Chris Teso, Founder and CEO of Chirpify, participated in a Q&A with Loyalty360 to shed some light on the situation.

How would you describe the current state of social customer engagement?
Teso: The current state of social customer engagement is varied, with brands on one end of the spectrum embracing social loyalty holistically, and on the other end, brands including social elements to their campaigns on an ad hoc basis. Across the board, however, there remains opportunity to grow program strengths by getting to know social customers better and further hone social experiences to better match customer expectations.

How are brands using social media well to spark customer loyalty, and where do the challenges lie?
Teso: Successful brands are linking social to loyalty programs to create a virtuous cycle of engagement and participation that further enforces loyalty while creating valuable earned media in the form of impressions and implied social proof that grows new customer acquisition. This positive cycle can snowball easily for brands, making customers more active, in turn, growing customer data and spend.
The challenge brands face is in creating a value exchange that works for the brand and customer. Consumers understand their value to the brand and want to be rewarded for their brand advocacy. This is an opportunity for brands as customers indicate they would spend more money with – and be more loyal to – brands that reward them for their social and other non-purchase actions. 

What social trends do you see now and in the future that would impact customer loyalty and the overall customer experience?
Teso: We are seeing a greater push for utility in social (and across channels). Consumers are measuring brands on how much utility they provide, and how easy it is to engage and do business with them. Consumers are well ahead of many brands in understanding that they have a mobile remote control in their pocket and they want to use it to engage with brands in the moment. This demand will continue until brands are able to catch up with consumer use of social mobile technology. Moreover, customers expect that this utility and their interactions are integrated across channels. 

As far as brand participation, what is your best estimate as to what percentage of brands use social media to some degree in their respective marketing strategies?
Teso: The vast majority of brands are using social media marketing in one form or another. However, the level of sophistication and integration across marketing functions varies widely. And, harkening back to your earlier question, it is a brand’s ability to link social marketing with other brand programs, like loyalty, that will provide the utility that customers demand. Those that are able to embrace and enable a unified approach will gain and maintain a competitive advantage among a growing number of consumers who want to be identified and appreciated across channels.

Is it catching on among loyalty marketers faster or slower than you expected? And why is that?
Teso: Social loyalty programs -- in which social plays an integral role in recognizing, engaging, and rewarding loyal customers – are beginning to reach mainstream early adopters. We have seen real excitement across industries and from both brands with existing loyalty programs, and those who want to start a new social loyalty program. This excitement is driven by increases in engagement, conversion, and customer value to the organization, as well as the new, unique data a social loyalty program brings. 

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