This is a guest post from Jenn Kim, a Content Marketing Specialist at AspireIQ—an Attentive Technology Partner and the world’s first community intelligence marketing platform. She writes about community engagement, influencer marketing, and social media trends for B2C brands.

Don’t get us wrong—advertising is an important channel to increase awareness and move customers through the funnel. But to build a passionate community of brand advocates, marketers need to diversify their channels and engage with their audiences in more personal ways. And in our mobile-first world, one of the most personal ways to connect with people is through text message marketing.

Personalized text messaging is much more intimate than traditional mass advertising. AspireIQ’s recent report—“Deconstructing the consumer engagement gap”—shows that the power of personalization is key to building a strong brand community. The data revealed:

  • 90% of consumers engage with their favorite brands
  • Only 21.7% of consumers say brands interact with them in a personalized way
  • 1/3 of consumers would like to contribute more to a brand’s story, content, product, or service

Consumers want to interact with brands in ways that make them feel heard and valued. That’s why text messaging offers an effective channel for brands to engage in 1:1 conversations, nurture deep relationships, and win over customers. Here are three ways to leverage text messaging to grow your brand community.


1. Listen closely to your community

AspireIQ’s recent report shows numerous discrepancies between what consumers want vs. how brands engage them. In general, people want to have more of a say in how their favorite brands are molded and see their feedback and opinions incorporated into future products. This means brands need to listen closely to what their audience is saying, and engage with them in ways motivated by more than sales.

Education organization XQ Institute recently launched its Rethink Together Forum, a platform for students, educators, and families to come together and discuss how to rethink high schools in their communities. To spark discussions on the forum, XQ sources ideas and questions directly from its SMS subscribers. In its welcome campaign, XQ asks subscribers: “What part of rethinking high school excites you the most? Reply to this message. Really, we want to know.” By repurposing subscribers’ responses on the forum—and in future content—XQ ensures its audience plays an active part in the organization’s work.

Text messaging is the ideal channel to have more meaningful interactions with your community members, especially since nearly 2/3 of survey respondents prefer to talk in private message threads rather than on open forums and feeds. Use text messaging to send your subscribers links to surveys or polls, answer their questions, provide support and resources, and back up your advice with helpful recommendations. Be sure to respond in a timely manner and interact in a human way.

2. Nurture long-term customer relationships

Community engagement is an evergreen process—not a one-and-done funnel leading to a purchase. It should be viewed as an ongoing cycle for growing your circle of brand advocates for the long term. Text messaging empowers brands to directly interact with loyal mobile subscribers in ways that are more intimate than on public social media feeds or open forums. Take advantage of the opportunity to engage deeply with them and grow their love for your brand.

One way to do so is through SMS-exclusive, limited-time deals that encourage subscribers to continue engaging with your brand over a longer period of time. For example, launch a “7 Days of Deals” campaign, and text subscribers an incentive each day. By providing multiple offers throughout the week, your subscribers will be excited to see what’s next, driving repeat traffic to your website and boosting the time spent engaging with your brand. 

Additionally, text subscribers an invitation to join your loyalty or rewards program. Not only do 52.2% of consumers want their favorite brands to invite them to join a loyalty program, but these types of programs encourage your audience to continue making purchases in exchange for redeemable rewards. When offering “hot deals” like double points or referral discounts, you’re able to expand customer LTV, as people organically tell their friends about the deals and spread advocacy for your brand.

For example, lingerie retailer LIVELY sends an automated text message to subscribers 30 days after they make a purchase to invite them to sign up for the brand’s customer loyalty rewards program. LIVELY includes a direct sign-up link to its “Perks” page so each shopper can easily learn more and join the program—an ideal way to retain customers and encourage them to stay connected to the brand.

3. Go beyond campaign messages

When it comes to building a brand community, be sure to send content other than sales or promotions. Offer valuable human-centered experiences that serve the members of your community, like incorporating customer service interactions, asking your subscribers for product ideas or design feedback, or sharing opportunities for them to help give back through their purchases.

Accessories brand Pura Vida Bracelets is dedicated to raising awareness for various issues, partnering with more than 175 charities around the world to donate over $2 million to causes its customers are passionate about. In addition to using personalized text messaging to update subscribers on new products and sales, Pura Vida Bracelets also uses this channel to discuss the causes the brand supports—demonstrating an authentic commitment to values modern consumers appreciate.

One example is the brand’s work with Feeding America, in which it pledged to donate $1 from every order throughout the month of April in order to deliver 2 million meals to those in need. Pura Vida Bracelets used SMS as one of its channels to spread the word about the initiative, reaching its goal of $200,000.

“If you have philanthropic causes or unique brand culture stories, tell your shoppers,” said Griffin Thall, Co-Founder & CEO of Pura Vida Bracelets. “They genuinely want to hear about it and participate in it, knowing their purchases are making a difference.”

 

Brands must remember that audiences are more than a number—it’s essential to treat customers as individuals.

By listening closely to your audience, nurturing long-lasting relationships, and providing value beyond transactions, marketers can build a community of brand lovers that organically spread word-of-mouth advocacy and ultimately drive more sales. 

For more strategies on building your brand community, explore AspireIQ’s new eBook, “Deconstructing the consumer engagement gap.”

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