Turn Your Customers Into Influencers to See Tremendous Growth How thriving brands are utilizing their customers to build community and encourage engagement.

By Christian Johnston

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No matter the industry, most brands realize the importance of engaging users on social media, but most will also agree that this is easier said than done. Creating content across different platforms that actively engage customers and promote action is a constant race among retail brands and across many industries.

Those thriving the most in today's evolving engagement landscape are able to use their social following and allow users to contribute and interact rather than simply judge and scroll. This can be accomplished in a multitude of ways, including giveaways, polls, influencers, Instagram stories or live feed engagements. The key is to execute thoroughly and listen to your community: Simply having a giveaway may create interest, but communicating the rules, perks and actually following through by showing the community how their involvement moves the needle toward something positive is the ideal. This could happen any number of ways, and requires considerable thought from those close to the brand who understand how to best engage its community.

The community can feel like part of the brand

In my experience as founder of GLD (@ShopGLD), a winning strategy for us was to run a monthly giveaway called #GLDgang. Part of its structure is requesting our community to post photos or videos to social media while wearing GLD jewelry or apparel. Each month, winners are chosen and posted on our social media accounts. (And some are more excited about this than the actual monetary prize!) This is an important component because it allows the community to feel like a true part of the brand. An additional benefit for us is great user generated content (UGC), which can be later used on our social media or website. Additionally, it creates engagement and promotes community innovation and creativity. The hashtag #GLDgang has 10,000-plus posts on Instagram and 26 million-plus views on Tiktok, which shows abundant proof of interest.

Related: Beginner's Guide to Social Media Marketing

And this is just one example: Many other brands are having similar success. Beyond giveaways, there are ample ways to engage an audience and generate excitement for a movement (whatever that may be). Peloton is an example of a brand that has done a tremendous job of both re-engaging its existing community and reaching new potential users. Its efforts include effectively "gamifying" workouts with a leaderboard. Users can turn on/off the leaderboard to avoid added pressure, yet can still show off results and post them to social media. This is what seals the deal: They have essentially created celebrities of their trainers, each of whom actively re-engages users — encouraging them to share results on social media and providing feedback — effectively using its roughly 2.33 million users as individual marketers! (Data derived from Peloton Subscriber and Revenue Statistics (2022)).

Related: It's Time to Redefine the Influencer

How fast-fashion brands have built massive followings

Fast-fashion brands have also done a great job in recent years building social media communities. Companies like Fashion Nova, Boohoo, and PLT have used similar approaches to build massive followings. Fashion Nova specifically has utilized its considerable influencer base to turn regular customers into brand ambassadors. It has built such a strong influencer base, in fact (often using the hashtag #novababe), that regular customers possibly experiencing "FOMO" feel compelled to join. The result is a genius cycle wherein customers strive to be influencers and busy themselves tagging the brand and hashtags. The company was able to achieve this by showing influencer content throughout its website, reposting on socials and making sure such content is always front and center for the consumer. Fashion Nova also provides real-life examples of customers turning into influencers, which gives the existing customers a glimpse of what could be if they create the right content. Many brands use similar tactics, but with their own twist, yet Fashion Nova has always stood out to me because of how well it has done at getting everyday customers to actively market.

Related: 7 Instagram Reels Ideas to Better Connect With Your Audience

Maybe you don't have millions of customers in your database or a massive budget to use on influencers. Even so, you can utilize similar tactics to mold a strategy that fits your business. All enterprises are unique, and there is no "one size fits all" solution when it comes to engaging customers, yet there are key takeaways:

• No matter the industry, social media can be effectively used to engage customers.

• There is not a single right answer. You must create a plan that's unique to your business.

• Execution is key. Make sure customers understand the goals, the perks and the brand.

• The world is changing faster than ever, so don't be afraid to innovate and try new things. All of the above examples simply required a dream to kick things off.

Christian Johnston

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-Founder/President of GLD

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