Leveraging C2C: how to influence social interactions about your brand

The rise of social media has allowed for more customer-to-customer communication opportunities than ever before. Arun Subramanian and Sundar Bhuvaneswaran of Mu Sigma explain how marketers can make the most of C2C channels.

 

In the wake of digital disruption in the past decade the marketing landscape has completely metamorphosed, making it more intricate than ever. A quick recap of the past tells us that the digital age of the 80s and early 90s had enabled marketers to reap the benefits of cost effective and one-to-one marketing channels such as e-mails. With advancements in technology and rapid growth of e-commerce – in the mid-90s and early 2000 – marketing channels became more directed and personal. However, the (digital) marketing revolution came with the evolution of social media channels, which enabled people to connect and share, giving rise to a whole new arena of C2C communications. It was just a matter of time for the companies, across B2B and B2C spectrum, to realise the vast potential of capturing and leveraging the “voice of customer” to enable growth and profitability. The transformation, however, is not just limited to the marketplace but also how customers make purchase decisions.

This emerging trend of C2C conversations poses itself both as a challenge and a potential opportunity for marketers to leverage. By committing and channelising marketing efforts towards collaboration with customers, marketers can infuse a sense of belongingness and ownership in the minds of the best marketing consultants and ambassadors they can bring on board – the customers.

These technology-enthusiastic customers of today prefer to interact with fellow customers, across various channels, before zeroing in on a product or a service. To this effect, the role of marketers has become more daunting and challenging, to say the least. There is an obvious “power shift” among manufacturers, marketers and customers, as customers become critical influencers in the marketing and communication process. Irrespective of the time and mode that a customer chooses to interact with a product or a brand, they expect a seamless and personalised experience in real-time. In turn, they influence the purchase decisions of others by sharing experiences – good, bad or ugly – through channels such as social media, which then becomes accessible to anyone. The outcome: the age-old marketing funnel, which has dictated the marketing scenario for long, has now evolved into a customer hourglass because of customer influence and the opportunity for customers to become brand advocates.

 

Leveraging C2C communications to enhance brand equity

In today’s time when profit cores can deplete at an astonishingly fast pace, creating brand advocates in the form of existing customers can be highly profitable. These are the individuals who are both buyers and brand marketers. They have a relatively higher lifetime value compared to loyal customers who may purchase more from you but may not necessarily advocate your product or service. To this effect, knowing and understanding your customers better in order to retain them and leveraging the information to attract more customers should always take precedence, especially when they are ready to engage with the brand and share their voice.  What does this mean to the brand? Companies must harness the power of customers as they continue to emerge as key contributors to an organisation’s brand marketing efforts.

The below points can help organisations chart a plan to collaborate with customers and be able to drive meaningful results from it.

 

1. Facilitate C2C

By creating a seamless multi-channel and multi-device ecosystem, organisations should encourage customers to share their experience. They can do so via online forums, social media (fan) pages, reviews and ratings pages as well as engaging through company promotional videos on video streaming channels such as YouTube.

 

2. Create share-worthy content

One important aspect to keep in mind while doing so would be to ensure that the content is helpful and not promotional. The focus should be on driving engagement and not sales. Innovative techniques such as gamification can be leveraged to drive participation while companies can invite customers to co-create meaningful content.

 

3. Active participation in C2C

Companies should identify top trends and key influencers that can help them amplify their reach. More so, companies must not hold themselves back while responding to both positive and negative sentiments that play up on the social media radar.

 

4. Encourage brand advocates

Having identified the top/key influencers by measuring their impact both on POS purchase and advocacy, companies should encourage them with customized incentives and/or exclusive previews.

 

The wrap  

The age-old saying, “customer is king”, remains true in this new digital setting. In these times when competition is intense and marketing costs are skyrocketing, C2C can offer a compelling arsenal to marketers, provided they drive meaningful engagement with customers. Customers don’t just buy a product or service but also share experiences with fellow customers influencing their purchase decisions. Tapping into this potential and using it to their advantage can help organisations at large and marketers in particular to retain not just existing customers but also open channels for new prospects.