Social media marketing using ‘relationship’ and ‘intellectual’ messaging is best for loyalty program members, says NCSU study


RALEIGH- An international team of researchers has found that the social media posts that resonate best with loyalty program members differ from the posts that resonate best with other customers. The discovery could shed light on how best to design social media campaigns aimed at either of a company’s customer segments.

“Loyalty programs and social media are both important tools in contemporary marketing, but there is very little research on how these two marketing tools interact with each other,” says Mike Stanko, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of marketing at North Carolina State. University.

Specifically, the researchers wanted to know which social media posts made loyalty program customers more likely to buy something, and whether there was a difference for customers who weren’t part of loyalty programs.

“It could inform a range of marketing activities,” Stanko says. “For example, does it make sense for a company to commit resources to developing separate social media channels for customers who are members of a loyalty program versus customers who are not? Or, if a business commits to using a single social media channel, should it use different messages to reach loyal and non-loyal customers? »

For the study, the researchers focused on data from a large European company. Specifically, the researchers assessed a year and a half of social media posts to determine which posts led to sales to loyalty program customers and which led to sales to non-loyal customers.

The researchers used a team of trained ‘evaluators’ to assess all of the company’s social media posts, scoring them on a range of characteristics, such as their intellectual, behavioral, relational and sensory level.

“Relationship” content appeals to the connections an individual has within their social network, such as a social media post that features a brand in the context of spending time with family and friends.

“Intellectual” content appeals to an individual’s conscious mental processes related to practical problem solving, stimulating curiosity, or applying the individual’s creativity. These would include posts that provide detailed information or engage a consumer’s critical thinking.

“Behavioral” content relates to the physical or behavioral actions of an individual, such as posts showing someone using the relevant product or using the relevant service.

“Sensory” content is designed to shock or produce a visceral response, such as posts for ski resorts that show mountain views, or posts from a coffee company that show colorful photos of coffee plants.

Content rating scores and sales data related to each post were fed into a statistical model to control for confounding variables and determine which types of posts resonated best with loyal customers and non-loyal customers.

Researchers found that relational, behavioral, and intellectual content performed well across all domains. In other words, the higher the relational, behavioral and intellectual scores of a given publication, the better it performs for loyal and non-loyal customers.

However, the magnitude of the effect varied for loyal and non-loyal customers.

Researchers found that relational and intellectual posts worked significantly better with loyalty program customers, while behavioral posts performed better with non-loyalty program customers.

“Loyalty program customers are more likely to systematically process social media information from companies they relate to — they’re just more willing to take the time to listen to those companies,” Stanko says. “We believe this is why loyal customers are more responsive to intellectual and relationship posts on social media.

“Meanwhile, since non-loyal customers aren’t necessarily focused on a specific company’s social media posts, they’re more likely to respond to behavioral posts. They see a message that shows someone buying a cup of coffee and they decide they want a cup of coffee.

Surprisingly, the sensory messages found no resonance with either audience.

“We assume that there is simply too much spectacular or shocking content on social media for sensory posts to stand out,” Stanko says.

“It would be good to see additional research exploring this topic to better determine to what extent these findings apply, but we believe there are some clear take-home messages,” Stanko adds. “On the one hand, you really need to think of loyalty program customers as a separate audience from other consumers. The findings also suggest that companies should track how well their social media content reflects behavioral, intellectual, and relational messaging. .

“In terms of future directions, it may also be useful to explore how other types of content, such as sensory content, may resonate with other audiences,” Stanko says.

The article, “Brand Generated Social Media Content and Its Incremental Impact on Loyalty Program Members,” appears in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences. The first author of the article is Blanca Hernández Ortega from the University of Zaragoza. The article was co-authored by Rishika Rishika of NC State; Francisco-Jose Molina-Castillo from the University of Murcia; and José Franco from the University of Zaragoza.



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