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Unconventional Conversations with Consumers

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Unconventional Conversations with Consumers

Given a rise in omnichannel touchpoints, companies have the opportunity to create personalized marketing experiences across digital and physical spaces. The resulting community consists of a brand/customer ecosystem built on seamless, synergistic interactions. But how do these ecosystems emerge?

Let’s start with the basics. More likely than not, brands are leveraging community-based platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to create and sustain a dialogue with their customers. Although these forums are powerful community-generators, they tend to put the ball in the brand’s court, so much so that even user-generated content can be governed by brand marketers. To achieve the desired ecosystem, brands should also consider forums that give customers control to dictate the tone and pace of the conversation.

A transfer of control allows the brand/customer ecosystem to grow by providing a space where consumers receive a more peer-to-peer relationship with a brand. If these ecosystems are created successfully, brands can transform the average customer into a self-appointed brand ambassador, and together expand their ecosystem and consumer reach.

Spotlight on Reddit

One popular user-controlled platform, Reddit, is not traditionally a brand-friendly community. The website’s goal is to be a laissez-faire hub of free expression, removed from promotional influences. Users are incentivized to self-regulate content through “karma points,” earning positive karma, and in turn more visibility, when the community likes, or “upvotes” their content. Users who consistently earn “downvotes,” on the other hand, are deemed spammers and are effectively shunned from the community. It may not sound like the right place for brand promotion, but a website that sees 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users) and ranks fourth most visited site in the US (ninth in the world) cannot be overlooked.

Use Case #1: Friendly Competition

Some brands have figured out the trick to achieving positive karma. A Top Gear sub-reddit (i.e., a forum dedicated to a specific topic on Reddit) drives engagement by encouraging users to submit their favorite car pictures. Each week, the community votes on the best photo and features it alongside the sidebar of the page with the name of the user who submitted it. By giving users a strong sense of ownership in the community, this interaction encourages organically bred brand ambassadors.

Use Case #2: Consumer Ownership

The Philadelphia Phillies sub-reddit connects with users by keeping them informed about the team’s most pressing updates and upcoming events. Noting a user desire for quick access to important team information, the Phillies brand incorporated a calendar of events and a league ranking bar on the sidebar. Quick, unfiltered access to team content yielded a positive reinforcement loop, which continues to keep fans engaged even when the team is not doing well. A few months ago, in the midst of a losing streak, one moderator challenged fans to 100 upvotes, at which point they would make the sub-reddit Wawa themed until the team’s next winning streak. This tactic recognizes that Wawa has a cult-like following in the Mid-Atlantic, such that the relationship helps keep morale and engagement high despite a dip in brand popularity.  Check the now inactive subreddit here.

Use Case #3: Leveraging Popular Sub-Reddits

Some brands have been successful with less immersive tactics. To promote Anna Kendrick being on its cover, Glamour magazine had the star recite some of Reddit users’ “shower thoughts,” in which she ponders thoughts such as, “does a frozen yogurt headache burn fewer calories than an ice cream headache?” Upon release, the video quickly became the brand’s most popular YouTube video, in addition to a trending topic across multiple subreddit channels, and now has over 1.5 million views. It is a prime example of how creating lighthearted content that taps into the Reddit community can be so effective, particularly in cross-promoting a brand across media channels and increasing brand engagement.

Use Case #4: Ask Me Anything

Other brands prefer to take advantage of the Ask Me Anything feature, a chat forum that occurs between one user who hosts it and other users who want to ask questions (sometimes limited to timed sessions). If your company has a prominent figurehead, then an AMA session might be the perfect option for you. Some noteworthy hosts include Bill Gates, Woody Harrelson, Gordon Ramsey, and even Barack Obama (whose AMA temporarily shut down the site). While opening yourself up to questions can be risky, given that the Reddit community responds with honest, earnest and provoking questions, users appreciate brands that can face their users directly, rather than hiding behind a standard,censored media interview.

Take this discussion about Reddit as a challenge for your brand; a challenge to do something that is untraditional and intrinsically valuable for your users. Not sure how to proceed? We’re here to shepherd the way. Check out our UX consulting and/or digital ethnography services and let’s start a conversation about creating something unique for your greatest assets.