Image“Give and it shall be given to you” is one of the oldest proverbs from the Biblical gospels. Giving has a reciprocal reaction when done sincerely. If you add value to people with the intent of solving their problems, making their lives better, or just giving them a shout-out, you will receive back.

In my series on developing loyalty strategies that produce strong brand advocates, we’ve already looked at conversation building and crowdsourcing. When rating social media loyalty strategies, adding value is at the top of the scale. But it is there for a reason—it takes the most work, but it produces the greatest rewards. And when it comes to crisis prevention, the support you’ll garner from implementing value-adding strategies will be your strongest shield.

Simplified, adding value has three tactics:  give nods, give gifts, solve problems. It’s not about you or what you want the customer to hear.  This model is the most time consuming because it requires you to dig deep and find out what your customers really need. Adding value to fans means making a commitment to know them as people, not acquisition numbers. Not necessarily each and every one, but it requires well developed personas.  This piece from Heidi Cohen illustrates the importance of using personas in marketing. If you’re not familiar with how to build and use personas, my new book has some good information on how to engineer personas for social media strategy.

Give nods. Shout-outs, thanks, links to outstanding brands—these are all examples of how to give nods. Nonprofits and higher education are experts at the thank you video. Businesses would do well to follow their example. AT&T put together a highly successful campaign of thank you videos on YouTube. It’s an inexpensive way to draw attention to your supporting fans. “Fan of the week” campaigns would also be a good example here.  Also, draw attention to your fans that solve the problems of other community members.

Give gifts. Who doesn’t love coupons? But there is a caution here. A Constant Contact consumer survey  recently found that the majority of people follow brands in social media to receive discounts and deals. The missing link in this research is that there was no correlation to engagement levels. We know we can hook people with promises of discounts and freebies, but does that “value” foster growing loyalty? My husband loves to buy anything on sale, whether he needs it or not.  The value, for him, is in the discount, not the brand. To connect gifts and loyalty, make sure your gift solves a problem for your fans.

And what if you are B2B? You can offer discounts on event tickets, a free hour of consulting, or free enrollment in a service. Use your imagination here.

Solve problems. American Express has developed a large group of invested fans in their OPEN forum which concentrates on solving problems by interest and need. It allows small businesses to connect immediately with people who have similar needs and situations. Also they enlist experts to write articles and answer common questions for small business owners. 

Find the sweet spot of value for your fans, and design content and rewards that hit that spot. That may be a combination of discounts, shout-outs, problem-solving, crowdsourcing, reward points for new products, or many other options. Even though value-adding takes a lot of research and work, it pays the highest rewards. How do you add value to your fans? Leave some suggestions for the rest of us in the comments.

This article is taken from the new e-book, Listen, Engage, Respond: Crisis Communications in Real-Time by Chris Syme. Get your copy here.