Nurturing Advocacy

Like any other tool, Social media can be used for good or ill. Some brands use social channels primarily to promote products. Like a car alarm in a parking lot, a stream of hype quickly becomes a noisy annoyance to customers. But once in a while, a brand takes great care to understand and then meet the specific needs of their customers.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the 2010 LavaCon conference in San Diego. The opening keynote speaker, PETCO’s Natalie Malaszenko painted a beautiful picture of the community that blossoms when a brand intentionally pursues the long-term interests of their customers.

PETCO understands the emotional connection between people and their pets. They built on this understanding by providing social media opportunities for people to rave about their furry and feathery friends. Here are a few examples:

  • PETCO offered a prize for the best Pet Halloween costume photo. This was so successful, they invited people to vote and comment AS their pets.
  • PETCO learned than many beloved pets had been lost to cancer. In response, they created an online tribute wall where owners could memorialize their dear lost ones. They also added a place where owners could give thanks for pets who’ve fought cancer and survived.
  • When PETCO realized that Tillman (the Skateboarding dog) would ride a float in the Rose Bowl parade, they were able to have Natalie ride the float and live tweet the parade, resulting in real-time community engagement.

PETCO engaged their audience and built a community around shared interests. In doing so, they have served their audiences core need to be heard. They have provided a platform for their customer to discuss things near and dear to their hearts. And along the way, PETCO has nurtured loyalty among thousands of devoted brand advocates.

The keynote concluded with few key thoughts that I wanted to pass along to you:

  • Your customer is now your business partner.
  • Give them something that is going to inspire them
  • Take something that’s FUN and make it social.
  • Empower your community: Let them do things for you.

YOU can do this too: You simply have to passionately ponder your customers. Who are they? What matters to them? What inspires them? What is fun for them? How can you provide opportunities for them to connect and contribute?

5 Responses to “Nurturing Advocacy”

  1. What a great post! Thank you for sharing some of the work PETCO has done with your audience. We have had so much fun connecting with our customers and creating contests, content and opportunities for them to share their stories with us about their beloved pets!

    • Most welcome, Natalie!

      We all learned so much from your successes. I know I speak for many when I share my hopes that our community hears from you again soon.

      Thank you again for sharing these lessons at LavaCon!

  2. Tristan, thanks so much for sharing your great summary of the work Petco is doing to strengthen its brand through meaningful engagement with its customers. Although pet lovers like me can easily identify with the successful social media work that Natalie described so well in her talk, your post reminds us of something even more important: that no matter what business we are in, our customers want to be heard, respected, and affirmed. They want what they bought from us to help them get a job done, to solve a problem, to make their landscape a little better for having done business with us. They want to matter. They want to know that they are getting our respect as well as a product or a service. When done right, social media can forge the relationship that makes all of that happen. It’s both a wonderful opportunity and a daunting challenge.

    • Thank you Lori,

      You are so right: In every industry, the crucial actions are to listen, respect and respond! You summed it up beautifully, once again.

      I appreciate your insight and encouragement.


  1. How to lead your company to raving fans | Margie's Library of Marketing Musings and Morsels - November 30, 2010

    […] Tristan Bishop (@knowledgebishop) wrote about Petco’s approach to customer service. Petco leads customers to an interactive and useful community, and everyone benefits. Read this great post, which is called Nurturing Advocacy. […]

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