2014 is new in a lot of ways for social media marketers. Right now there are new platforms to explore, new features to experiment with, and fresh crop of customers to be entice. But while it’s necessary to bring in new prospects, that shouldn’t happen at the expense of your current fan base.

In 2011, Forrester Research found that the number one marketing objective among CMOs was “acquiring new customers.” Only 30 percent of CMO respondents listed retaining customers as a top priority. That’s a remarkable statistic considering 80 percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers, according to the Gartner Group.

The Sprout Social Index shows that user engagement is growing nine times as fast as Twitter and Facebook combined. As a result, “businesses need to regroup and retool to shift from a largely marketing-driven focus in social channels to one that revolves around the customer,” according to Sprout Social CEO Justyn Howard.

With the new year upon us, many marketers might be compelled to revamp their social outreach strategies. As a result, most campaigns tend to solely focus on customer acquisition instead of customer retention. So before you ditch the old strategy in favor of the new one, make sure that you have a plan in place that benefits your existing customers as well.

Reward Your Customers


Strengthening your relationship with existing customers is one of the best ways to increase sales thanks to social recommendations. In a study by social media marketing agency Zócalo Group, 92 percent of consumers reported that word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family are the leading influences on their purchase behavior.

Let your existing customers spread your brand for you. Instead of chasing down new prospects, love the customers you have now and focus on keeping them around. Credit your customers’ contributions and highlight their success stories using your product or service. Loyal fans want their favorite brands to succeed; reward their efforts and acknowledge their input.

You don’t have to break the bank with a grand gesture; it’s okay to start small. If someone says something positive about your product on Twitter, ask your social team to tweet back thanking them for their kind words. Even a small thank-you on a social network can go a long way.

Make Your Customers Feel Included


It’s natural to want to feel like you’re part of something, especially for customers who invest their time and money into your business. Find creative ways to make your fans feel like they have the inside scoop. If you’re preparing to launch a new product or feature, send out a sneak-peek or invite existing members to beta test.

You can also target the customers you already have through ad campaigns. A great example of this is the billboards put up by MailChimp that displayed just the company’s logo. In this specific campaign, MailChimp wasn’t trying to target anyone who wasn’t already familiar with the brand. Instead, the ad made existing customers feel like insiders.

Keep Adding Value


This is an important tip for community managers who interact with existing customers on a regular basis. You bridge the gap between your customers and the business side of things. Listen carefully for updates within the company that your fan base might find interesting. This can include hints about a new feature or product, new team hires, fresh case studies, and so on.

Not only does this help to keep your customers in-the-know, but it also provides them with information that they can’t access anywhere else — another way to make them feel like insiders. It’s an easy way to keep loyal fans interested in your social channels, and a valuable method of collecting feedback to share with the rest of your team.

More importantly, give your customers something without asking for anything in return. Don’t trade a sneak-peek for a tweet; or a shout-out for an email address. Practice a no-strings-attached approach with your customers. You’ll find that they’ll return the favor without you needing to ask for it.

So why does any of this matter? Apart from it being difficult to consistently attract a new batch of customers, it’s much easier to convert an existing customer. According to Market Metrics, it’s 60-70 percent easier to convert an existing customer than a prospect. Studies have also shown that repeat customers are more likely to spend 33 percent more than a new customer.

Combine that with the power of word-of-mouth marketing and customer retention is starting to look like a pretty lucrative goal. Social media has made building relationships with your customers even easier. Not only can you keep a close eye on metrics, but you also get to know the individuals behind the Facebook Likes, tweets, reviews, and videos.

[Image credit: Kris Krug, Digital Game Museum, cjmartin, HarshLight]