ImageMost social strategies are mapped out with specific business objectives in mind such as brand awareness, customer care or sales. But regardless of specific business goals, there’s a central component to any successful social program: building relationships. I recently sat down with Dave Kerpen, co-founder of Likeable Media and New York Times best-selling author of Likeable Social Media, to discuss corporate social programs and the role of relationships.

Relationships are the motivation and driving force behind social media. Connecting with others and finding value in these relationships is why we as consumers use social networks in our daily lives. The companies who find valuable ways to build relationships win share of voice, loyalty and ultimately, new business. The catch is that these relationships aren’t built overnight. They must be nurtured over time by consistently creating great social experiences for your customers.

The shift in mindset for brands is this: social isn’t about “quick wins”, but rather approaching each social interaction as one step in an ongoing journey to building lasting relationships. Striving to make each social moment great is what creates likeable brands, and lays the foundation upon which to implement winning strategies and tactics.

While the road to building lasting relationships is long, here are three crucial elements all social brands can implement to change their relationship status with consumers.

Be a trusted connection by listening first, and never stop.

Dave’s first piece of advice: “start listening and never stop.”  We don’t stay friends with people who only talk about themselves and we don’t want to engage with brands on social that do the same. As valuable as it is to get the word out about your brand, listening is essential to building relationships with customers. It provides brands with insight into their audience, their likes and dislikes, and what they can expect from you on social channels. In addition, listening for any negative customer feedback allows brands to always keep improving and ultimately give their customers what they want.

In late 2011, Netflix announced plans tosplit its DVD-by-mail service into a separate business named Qwikster. Customers took to social, among other channels, to voice their overwhelming dislike of the move. Tuning in and taking the feedback,Netflix listened and decided to change course and keep both their streaming and DVD-by-mail service under the same Netflix umbrella.Netflix not only rebounded from the dip in streaming subscriptions, but today has added more than 10 million new subscriptions for the service.  

Fuel conversation by responding and engaging.

In today’s connected world, when customers take the time to engage in conversation with your brand, they often expect your company to take the time to respond back. As a result, brands can no longer get away with being unresponsive on social channels. Responding to, and engaging with, your social customers signals that your brand is invested in each individual relationship. Acknowledging negative feedback provides an opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. Engaging with customers to answer a question or send appreciation can instantly turn a good experience into a great one.

Dave’s words of wisdom here: “the 4 most important words in social media are Thank You and I’m Sorry.” Even the smallest acknowledgements reinforce your dedication and focus on building long lasting relationships with your customers.

Become a storyteller by sharing and inspiring stories.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we as people communicate. A great story captivates and engages emotionally, leaving people inspired to share. Social brands can now tell their story – and stories of their customers – easier than ever before. A 6-second Vine from a customer anecdote can ignite community-wide excitement, and sharing the faces and voices behind your company’s four walls can connect customers with employees on a personal level.

Dave emphasized that every brand has a story to tell – be it customers who have overcome obstacles, humble beginnings or a glimpse inside the lives of leadership. Tapping into emotions and giving people a reason to share your story is one of the most effective ways to build word of mouth and deepen customers relationship with your brand. Unlike with traditional media, social offers the ability to tell new stories instantly and with little cost.  

EA SPORTS embraced the emotional power of storytelling with its FIFA “Goals of the Week” which gave gamers the ability to share their personal “goal of the week” via video. EA celebrated the personal glory of contributors by featuring a weekly highlight clip. In inspiring their community to literally show their own FIFA story, more than 10,000 videos were submitted which received north of 4 million views.

Creating great social experiences that build lasting relationships is no small task. It requires dedication and the above thoughts only scratch the surface of what it takes to make these meaningful connections.

How is your brand building social relationships that matter?

image: building business relationships/shutterstock