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Creating Your Own Social Network to Foster Customer Loyalty

A report from The Nielsen Company showed that there has been an increase of 82% in time spent on social networking sites. Across the globe over the past year average time spent on social networking sites grew from 3 hours per month to 5.5 hours. Additionally, people spend the majority of their time on the Internet using social networks.

There are obviously many conversations taking place on these networks and if you and your company are not taking part, there is an opportunity being missed.

From a company Twitter or Facebook account, or utilizing other platforms, a company can use social media in a variety of ways in order to better understand customers, engage in a direct dialogue, and, ultimately, increase customer loyalty.

According to a January 26, 2009 article in Direct Marketing News, four marketers provided the following hints for utilizing social media to boost CRM efforts:

  • Brad Vettese, EVP and managing director, Ips
    • Social media is a good loyalty tool because it builds a community around a brand
  • Joe Fullman, Senior analyst, Greater Than One
    • If consumers have something to gain from social media, they are more likely to engage
  • Daina Middletown, SVP of Sunao, Moxie Interactive
    • Create a conversation about a brand by offering something relevant to participants
  • Erick Mott, Communications director, Lyris
    • As a loyalty tool, social media works best in conjunction with other channels

But social networks aren’t limited to Facebook and Twitter. Earlier this year, Triscuit wanted to capitalize on the growing trend of home farming and consumer demand for seemingly more healthful foods with fewer ingredients. In response, Triscuit created a new social network for those who grow their own food called HomeFarming.com.

Triscuit Plants Social Network for Home Farmers

Launched quietly earlier this year, homefarming.com claims about 14,000 members. The site features information about recipes related to farming, as well as information on the “home farming movement,” which will be celebrated on April 12 a.k.a. Home Farming Day.

What does a box of crackers have to do with farming, you ask? According to a rep for Kraft, Triscuit has sought over the past year to align itself with the “real food” concept. “The effort taps into the trend of people getting back to basics in a tough economic environment and wanting to grow their own food,” the rep says, adding that “it’s a perfect fit for Triscuit.”

Like some other brands, most notably Haagen Dazs’s Five and Frito-Lay’s Lay’s potato chips, Triscuit has recently put a spotlight on the fact that it “starts” from a few basic ingredients — wheat, soybean oil and salt. The jump from simple ingredients to home farming was a fairly logical one. Last year, the brand created 4 million “home farming” Triscuit boxes with plantable herb seed cards. The brand plans to double that number this year.

Triscuit’s goal is a daunting one; creating a social network from scratch, rather than setting one up on Facebook, has proven to be an elusive goal for most marketers. Though weight-loss brands have claimed some success doing so, Walmart, among others, has failed to get user levels into the seven-digit range.

In analyzing HomeFarming.com through the four points at the beginning of this post, it seems as if Triscuit has hit a proverbial homerun. It is utilizing a niche of home farmers to build a community giving members a resource to ask each other for advice and help, as well as provide other information that members can turn to for information. These aspects of the site give people something to gain from being members, giving them a reason to participate on the site. Also, the site is relevant to its members. Finally, Triscuit is using other marketing tools to reinforce the message of the site through the home farming boxes and the creation of Home Farming Day. HomeFarming.com is building a strong online community that will endear members to the Triscuit brand. There is the potential to make the members of HomeFarming.com into brand ambassadors that spread the word of the wholesomeness of Triscuit.