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Heineken beer bottles displayed at a press conference in London, Jan. 25, 2008. (SANG TAN/AP)
Heineken beer bottles displayed at a press conference in London, Jan. 25, 2008. (SANG TAN/AP)

Creative Concepts

The new BFF: brand friends forever Add to ...

It’s time to take your brand’s relationship with its most ardent fans to the next level. It’s time to become BFFs: brand friends forever.

Creative brand managers are always looking for the next best thing, and for brands on social, the next best thing has arrived in the form of “service social.”

This concept relies heavily on creating personalized content, and evolving the relationship between a brand and its most loyal fans. You want your supporters to look at your brand in the same way they would view a friend on the other end of a social connection.

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Service social goes beyond brand promotion and public relations in an effort to cultivate a fresh bond through new experiences, helpful hints and personalized interactions that often extend beyond a traditional comfort zone. The beauty of it is that, if done right, it can work for brands of any size. Whether you have 20,000 followers or a million there is an emerging opportunity that is definitely worth considering.

It may sound daunting, but all it requires is some strategic thought and a solid understanding of your audience. With service social you have an opportunity to shift simple friends to engaged brand followers.

What can we learn from those that are doing it right?

Beer maker Heineken recently launched its @WhereNext activation, which caters to the brand’s target demographic: millennials. Constant engagement on social media has led to many people developing a fear of missing out (FOMO), so Heineken created a Twitter-based campaign where followers can ask how to find the hottest parties and night spots in a given city.

Users geo-tag their location within a tweet, and the Heineken tool pulls data from multiple media channels to determine which locations are trending, directing people to the best parties. The campaign encompasses a full social integration of platforms consumers are already using in order to answer the popular question: where should I go?

But you don’t need a flashy campaign to perform a service your fans and followers find valuable and that also aligns with your core values.

Lululemon’s mobile app – The “Om Finder” – isn’t designed to sell sports bras or yoga pants, rather it’s solely focused on helping users find a nearby yoga studio. The app uses location data to find classes and allows access to tips and tricks from local ‘yogis.’ Knowing the brand’s target demographic of yoga enthusiasts, Lululemon was able to effectively engage its audience by solving the common problem of finding the next convenient class.

Service social is taking off as consumers look to brands to help them fulfill a pre-existing need. If a brand helps you overcome a problem or provides a free valuable service, you’re going to remember that interaction. And likely use it again.

Uber Toronto took a bit of a different approach to the concept of service social by taking to the streets to deliver ice cream to its users. The taxi-delivery service recently provided the option to request a cool treat rather than a car ride from noon to 6 pm. Using the hashtag #UberIceCream, this activation cleverly catered to the young-minded professional eager for a sunny Friday afternoon break.

Whether it’s an overall consumer mentality or the simple desire to cool down on a Friday afternoon, service social is helping brands authentically win followers and earn that BFF distinction.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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