With the rise of ad blockers threatening organisations globally, the importance of social media to companies becomes ever more undisputed – companies that leverage it effectively open themselves up to an almost limitless customer base. As such changes take place companies would do well to update their social media strategies accordingly.

With the likes of Facebook and others developing tools that allow companies to really engage with users, an opportunity has arisen to make the online consumer experiences more engaging, interactive and social. The key is to intensify the consumer experience by looking beyond behavioural attitudes and noticing how your audience identify themselves online. My recent research into how people socially identify with Facebook fan pages shows that doing this could have the power to influence the way consumers perceive themselves on social networks, make them more willing to share their positive brand experiences with friends and intensify their ‘brand love’.

Observing how active brand followers are on online social networks, and the ways they prefer to interact, will illustrate the best methods for creating campaigns that give a truly personalised experience – which will lead to stronger levels of engagement. I used Facebook for the study because, with around 1.27 billion monthly active users, it’s the social network most preferred by customers for connecting with brands online. Having said this, the concept of creating a stronger online experience for consumers could be applied to any online social network.

Attention to detail

Aspects such as the consumer’s personality online should be taken into account. For example, the social experiences they choose to share and how their internet identity may differ from their character offline, will give a company insight into what activities may be of interest and how to best segment the followers.

Rewards and recognition

Offering social rewards and recognition from the fan page community to increase the way users socialise within the group and identify with the brand should also be encouraged. For example, ThisNext, a social shopping network, clusters users in five groups based on their level of social engagement, which refers to activities of recommending, voting, inviting, commenting and tagging. The most engaged users, named “Mavens – Shopping-guide creating machines”, accumulate rewards and a public badge on their profile picture.” This is particularly relevant with the new shopping tab and call to action option on Facebook fan pages, by giving incentives brands would be encouraging participation from followers - and increasing their likelihood of followers sharing their experiences once they feel something positive has been achieved from their interaction.

Online Social Networks aside from Facebook

People typically tend to associate the phrase ‘online social network’ with sites such as Facebook, however the ‘Lego community’ is a great example of a social interactive platform that encourages followers to engage with the brand through creating and sharing their Lego based ideas to earn ‘clutch power’ – points that equate to collectable badges. Such activities allow users to put their own personalised spin on the ideas, which they’re then encouraged to share with others. Through this process they’re embracing the Lego brand values from both a mental and behavioural perspective to integrate the brand values into their online personality.

Creating such personable and engaging experiences online will encourage people to make effective use of the new Facebook tools and positively share their experiences as brand stories on social media, having a direct influence on their relationship with the brand and the way they shape their internet identities. However brands need to understand that, regardless of the online social network, identifying with their social media audience in terms of how they associate with social network groups online, their preferred method of online interaction and how active they generally are on social networks, will need to be mastered for this to happen.


By Margherita Pagani, Associate Professor at EMLYON Business School (France).

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