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What is customer affinity? How to turn buyers into brand loyalists

**Definition:**Affinities are personal or emotional connections forged between consumers and a particular brand or business. Highly-successful online businesses are able to gain affinity from customers who help a brand achieve rapid growth.

Loyalty vs. affinity

Businesses have always tried to imbue their customers, — whether present or future — with brand loyalty. The idea of brand loyalty is a consumer will only purchase products from one brand over all others, either because they have already tried it once and are satisfied, or because it is marketed as a symbol of something greater. However, the hold one brand has on a consumer can be easily broken; the customer might try a new, cheaper product, for instance, or the marketing strategy might change.

The advantage of brand affinity is that it is based in a personal, emotional relationship with a brand or business, which is more difficult to sever. Rather than being just a habit or routine the consumer is stuck in, an affinity will lead a consumer to see a particular brand as inherently superior because of the connection they have with it. Consider the example of Apple products - besides their technical advantages, many consumers will buy them based on the perceived bond they have with the company. Social media happens to be an effective way to forge just such a connection.

Building customer affinity with social media

Social media is becoming a more and more integral part of our daily lives. According to data collected by Statista, Americans spend most of their online time on social media sites. It's therefore an ideal way to get involved with your customers on a personal level.

Rather than broad campaigns broadcast into the ether, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are marketing at a micro level, allowing you to beam your message directly to a consumer in a way that feels personal and intimate. It's the great equalizer - there's little difference between a post from a close friend on Facebook and a post from a business.

Social media also lets you set your company apart from other brands and businesses. Part of the process of creating an affinity with consumers is a unique persona or image to which users will emotionally attach themselves. The topics that you post about, the images that you share, the way you write a post - all of it plays a role in bonding customers to your business over the rest of the marketplace.

Finally, this cuts both ways: Social media lets your customers have unprecedented access to your business. They can tag you in posts and tweets and give you feedback directly and publicly, which means you have to be ever vigilant in following up, if you don't want to lose a connection.

Keep these tips in mind for establishing customer affinity

Whether start-ups or veteran enterprises, any business should be using social media to build affinity with their brand. Perhaps the most important tip in this regard is to avoid using your social media site to sell or push products.

**Give your audience something they want.**Remember your social media use is about forming an emotional bond with your clientele - and no one appreciates someone sticking a flyer in their face. Look at what matters to your followers or fans online and cater your social media presence to that. If you're successful, your page or account will turn into an affinity hub, a nerve center for customers wanting to share experiences or impressions about your business.

Don't get stuck on trying to quantify affinity. This abstract concept has no formal benchmark; rather, there are several indicators that customers are passionate about your brand. It's important not to mistake Facebook friendship or someone following you on Twitter for affinity. This represents the mere click of a button — affinity itself is a more meaningful connection. Generally, however, the amount of comments, likes, shares and retweets can be a good indicator of whether or not you're building affinity with users.

Creating affinity among your customers isn't an overnight task. It won't just happen, and it's always earned. Focus on doing everything right by your customers and craft promotions and campaigns that encourage your For the success of your business, however, it's worth it. If you can truly forge a personal connection with a customer, it will make for a much deeper and longer-lasting relationship that won't be undone by a mere price change.

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