Loyalty club clients respond differently to social media marketing

By our News Team | 2022

Researchers study which social media posts make loyalty programme customers more likely to purchase something, versus other clients.

An international team of researchers has found that the social media messages that resonate best with loyalty programme members differ from the posts that work best with other customers. 

The finding could inform how best to craft social media campaigns aimed at either segment of a company’s customer base.

“Loyalty programmes and social media are both important tools in contemporary marketing, but there’s very little research into how these two marketing tools interact with each other,” says Mike Stanko, corresponding author of the study and an Associate Professor of Marketing at North Carolina State University in the US.

Specifically, the researchers wanted to know which social media posts make loyalty programme customers more likely to purchase something, and whether there was a difference for customers who aren’t part of loyalty initiatives.

Loyalty Programmes

Image by Dean Norris from Pixabay

“This could inform a range of marketing activities,” Stanko explains. “For example, does it make sense for a company to commit resources to developing separate social media channels for customers who are members of a loyalty programmes, versus customers who are not? Or, if a company is committed to using a single social media channel, does it need to use different messaging to reach loyalty and non-loyalty customers?”

For the study, the researchers focused on data from a large European company. Specifically, the researchers assessed a year-and-a-half’s worth of social media posts to determine which posts led to sales to loyalty programme customers, and which led to sales to non-loyalty customers.

The researchers used a team of trained ‘raters’ to assess all of the company’s social media posts, scoring them on a range of characteristics – such as how intellectual, behavioural, relational and sensory they were.

‘Relational’ content appeals to the bonds an individual has within their social network, such as a social media post that presents a brand in the context of spending time with family and friends.

‘Intellectual’ content appeals to an individual’s conscious mental processes related to the practical resolution of problems, the stimulation of curiosity or the application of the individual’s creativity. These would include posts that provide detailed information or engage a consumer’s critical thinking.

‘Behavioural’ content concerns an individual’s physical or behavioural actions, such as posts showing someone making use of the relevant product or using the relevant service.

‘Sensory’ content is designed to shock or produce a visceral response. Examples include posts for ski resorts that show a mountain vista, or posts from a coffee company that show colourful photos of coffee plants.

Some content did well across the board

The researchers found that relational, behavioural and intellectual content did well across the board. In other words, the higher a given post’s relational, behavioural and intellectual scores, the better it performed for both loyalty and non-loyalty customers.

However, the size of the effect varied for loyalty and non-loyalty customers.

The researchers found that relational and intellectual posts did substantially better with loyalty programme clients, while behavioural posts did better with non-loyalty programme clients. 

“Loyalty programme customers are more apt to systematically process social media information from companies they have a relationship with – they’re simply more willing to take the time to hear those companies out,” Stanko observes. “We think that’s why loyalty customers are more responsive to intellectual and relational social media posts.

“Meanwhile, because non-loyalty customers are not necessarily focused on a specific company’s social media posts, they’re more likely to respond to behavioural posts. They see a post that shows someone buying a cup of coffee and they decide they want a cup of coffee.”

Surprisingly, sensory posts didn’t resonate with either audience.

“We speculate that there is simply too much spectacular or shocking content on social media for sensory-oriented posts to stand out,” Stanko says.

“It would be good to see additional research exploring this subject to better determine how broadly these findings apply, but we think there are clear takeaway messages,” Stanko adds. 

“For one thing, you really need to think of loyalty programme customers as a distinct audience from other consumers. The findings also suggest that companies should keep track of the extent to which their social media content reflects behavioural, intellectual and relational messages.

“In terms of future directions, it may also be worth exploring how other types of content, such as sensory content, may resonate with other audiences,” Stanko says.

The paper appears in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Read more about the research here.

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