Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Five Proven Ways to Keep Your Social Community Members Engaged

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In part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the importance of keeping retail store associates educated and passionate about your product. One way you can create an engaging and effective environment, particularly for Millennials, is through branded-social communities. For this generation, social media forums are part their daily lives.
Connect+, a MarketStar digital solution, has helped our clients acquire new customers and better engage with the customers they already have. The following are 5 proven ways to ensure your online social community is engaging, fun, and most importantly, successful.

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An online social community should be interactive, engaging, and fresh. Make sure you have plenty of discussion-worthy content that embodies your brand. Look at what you are doing daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly to develop a calendar of fun, engaging activities that keep your community lively and chatty.
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Having a Community Manager is one way to get and keep people talking. Community Managers maintain and moderate the content flowing in and out of the online community – they are the name, face, and action behind your products. They need to fit your product and brand, but they need to fit the community as well.

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Millennials crave authenticity. An excellent social community drives authenticity by being real, personal, and encouraging interaction. Enable participants to have a voice.
Keep open communication across the board (executives, key staff members, etc.), continuing a relationship with the brand and individuals who work for it.
As hard as it may sound, another piece of being authentic is to allow dissent and respond to it. Allowing your target audience to post negative sentiment or feedback on your site, will give you the chance to respond and resolve the issue. This helps build rapport, and establish a relationship with influencers everywhere.
The community manager helps with this authenticity. This individual must be witty, fun, engaging, and have real passion. He or she uses the products, lives the brand, and allows people to express their opinions. This will build not just participation but trust in the community.

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Research shows 80% of Millennials wanting brands to entertain them. Entertainment to social communities means driving friendly competition, creating leaderboards to highlight top contributors, and allowing all of your activities to be point-driven. Don’t focus on marketing messages – focus on conversation. Making activities fun, engaging, and unique will continue to drive competition and create an exciting platform that people return to on a regular basis.
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Gamification is more than just a buzz-word; it’s an effective tool. Everything your RSAs do should be rewarded, from logging in to completing a certification. Make sure community members receive enough points that they can buy a small token from the company. It shows that success isn’t hard to reach in the community, as long as they continue to engage. Points lead to swag, and swag leads to more points, which lead to more swag.
Millennials think it’s fun to be social and learn, but it’s more fun to earn a currency from all this socializing. The games, points, and leaderboards get people started, and the social interaction hooks them. Just keep it active and filled with new competitions and missions to complete. Once engaged, they return to the community.

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When they know what they will get from it, 95% of Millennials are motivated to work harder. Community members want to know they are working towards something worthwhile and exciting–whether that’s a new phone, brand t-shirt, or Starbucks gift card. This motivates them to continue to engage and contribute to the platform on an ongoing basis.
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A gift card would win more often than not. Cash is a real incentive and driver of engagement – so the more often you can use cash, gift cards, and monetary prizes on your community: do it. It will only grow engagement.

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With content and the possibility of learning within arm’s reach, a brand’s version of education on their social community should be engaging, quick, and modular. The days of 30-minute trainings are gone, and short, interactive trainings are now in. A training methodology MarketStar abides by is The Fantastic Five:
  1. Know your audience
  2. Make the right first impression
  3. Make a bold promise
  4. Involve participants
  5. Be memorable
You want to create a vibrant, engaging community, but it’s also important that they understand the specs of a product. You need to educate, without creating a classroom, create a study hall. The objective is for them to love your brand, so make it fun to learn and fun to interact while they are learning.

In closing, retail is not easy but the in-store experience works time and time again. Buyers still want to touch and feel the products they want to buy—before they buy them. You can create all the great online content you want to enable the highly informed and highly engaged shopper, but never forget about the Store Associate. They are the front lines of your brand.

Keep store associates educated on your products. If done correctly, you will create sales and impact the bottom line. There are lots of platforms to train RSAs, lots of ways to socially connect, but you must combine the two and make it worth their while. The key is to make the connection real and legitimate.

Motivating and Engaging Millennials – The New Retail Store Associate

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In the continuous changing retail environment, what do words such as social, mobile, gamification, showrooming, buyer journey, interactive, and Millennials mean and what do they mean for your business?
Today, shoppers stay informed, they are connected, and they have more choices than before. There has always been competition on the store shelves, but manufacturers now have to compete with reputations online and the errant bad review – “Two out of five stars – it didn’t arrive when they said it would, don’t buy this phone!”.

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Combine this with under-informed store associates who have a reputation of being nothing more than a living, breathing directional sign and you have a tricky situation for someone trying to sell their latest amazing product.
The retail store experience still works. Even the most informed and opinionated shopper can be turned at the moment of sale by a skilled and educated store associate. But with so many other brands to recommend and a lot of other informed shoppers to deal with, how do you encourage, engage, and motivate people that aren’t your own employees?

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People sell what they know, so how well do store associates know your product? Are you sending them a pamphlet or are you relying on the store’s Learning Management System? How about a social community?
Today, social communities continue to expand; they are becoming a great resource to create sharable, enjoyable, and educational environments for Retail Store Associates.
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Connect+ is MarketStar’s social learning and advocacy platform. It has proven to be successful, driving great results for clients. Through Connect+, we provide retail employees with the tools, knowledge, and training they need in order to sell your product and convey passion for your brand.
Microsoft PowerPoint - AMA MarketStar Lunch & Learn 2.18.15 FINABased on our experience in building and managing social communities, we’ve created the Game On! eBook. Game On! outlines tips on how to get retail store associates on your side, educated about your product, and passionate about the very thing you want them to sell.
First, it’s important to know your audience and key demographics. Millennials are a growing influencer in retail stores; they are the largest commercial demographic and one-third of the U.S. population today. Growing up with technology, Millennials have become the skeptical, involved technocrat. They know what marketers are doing online and are weary of advertisements and traditional media outlets.
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Research shows 64% of Millennials want brands to engage with them and hear their opinions. They are not just your customers; they are the same store associates selling your wares.

With this elusive, distracted, intelligent, and skeptical demo in mind, how do you create an engaging, fun, social, and effective community for them?

Part 2 of this blog series will cover distinct mechanisms we have identified to be successful. When all of them are integrated into Connect+, they have proven to not just increase activity and brand affinity, but increase sales.