So you want to fold social into your loyalty program? Good! Because that's a sound strategic move.

Many of your best customers probably follow you on social channels, visit your website, or receive other communication from you, but making it easy and natural for customers to participate in your existing loyalty program via social is essential.

How to do that while mapping rewards to the goals of both your overarching loyalty program and your marketing is just what this article discusses.

1. Know who your social customers are

The first step in the process is to connect with your customers' social accounts. Provide an initial incentive to customers to get them to sign up on social or connect their social handle with an existing loyalty account number. Map that incentive to your overarching goals; for example, if your goal is to drive more in-store sales, entice consumers with a percent-off coupon for an in-store visit.

To kick-start the process, many organizations "socialize" an email: They email to a customer list with an incentive, such as a contest entry, and ask recipients to respond on their social channel of choice. This exercise not only helps the brand connect with customers on social but also gives a sense of which networks customers prefer.

If you don't already have a loyalty program, now is the time to establish one. Make social media the hub for connecting the various facets of your program, letting customers know they will be rewarded for their social actions.

2. Make an actions map

Once you've given people incentive to participate in your social loyalty program, create a short list of social actions you want to reward—maybe a check-in, or using a #hashtag linked to your business, or any other action you want the customer to take.

Feel free to be creative, and start with the end-goal in mind. For example, if the goal is to grow earned media, you might consider rewarding consumers for actions they take on social that helps amplify your message.

Social actions should be easy for your customers to take, and something that they would naturally do. Maybe your customers would normally post an Instagram photo of your product or service. Reward that action immediately, showing your appreciation and reinforcing the behavior.

Listen for not only what your customers are saying, but how and where they are saying it, and use that knowledge to help determine your choices regarding social actions you want customers to take.

3. Define your rewards

Now that you know what actions you want to reward, the next step is to define the rewards you want to associate with each action. For example, maybe a Tweet warrants program points, whereas a check-in receives a coupon.

Again, rewards should map back to marketing goals. For example, a hotel that would like to increase on-site spending might offer a coupon for a free appetizer with the purchase of an on-property meal. Or a retailer seeking to increase in-store basket value might provide a percentage-off coupon once a certain sales price is reached.

Don't stop there. To keep your participants surprised (and delighted), make sure to change it up once in a while. Add new actions and rewards that will continue to build customer loyalty. Seasonal events and promotions are a great way to do just that. Promote back-to-school opportunities, for example, to keep moms loyal and excited about your program over the summer. Layer in holiday event tickets as a social reward, or special seating at crowded holiday times.

Most important here is to be creative, tapping into what will surprise your customers and delight them to the point that they'll want to further share with their social network.

For tiered programs, give VIPs the opportunity to participate in even more special promotions, creating additional earned media for you while increasing their loyalty and lifetime value.

4. Measure

Social media is bursting with opportunities for deriving data. Use that to your benefit and measure what is working well and where there is room for improvement. Fold that data back into your strategy to refine the actions that you want customers to take, the attendant rewards, and—most important—their impact on marketing and business goals.

Tie that social data together with tracking of rewards as they are redeemed. Encouraging customers to use their loyalty program card/number when they make a purchase gives you further data to help give you a more holistic view of your customer, providing greater understanding of their lifetime value.

* * *

Social can play an important role in measuring and reporting on loyalty program participation, and even on the impact of super-fans on driving word-of-mouth. Start with the end goal in mind and work backward, defining your social loyalty actions and rewards that are sure to surprise and delight customers, in turn creating loyalty sure to propel your business goals forward.

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How to Create and Define Social Rewards That Map to Your Marketing Objectives

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image of Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams is senior marketing manager at Chirpify, where she is responsible for social strategy, engagement, and conversion in concert with SEO, analytics, and digital marketing initiatives.

Twitter: @Jessica_J

LinkedIn: Jessica Williams