Thanks to technologies like social media and smartphones, today’s fans can get closer to their idols than ever before. They can post comments and photos in real time, or even chat with a superstar on Twitter. Think back to the 1950s and 60s. Elvis devotees, for instance, didn’t know what The King was up to every moment, though they probably would have tweeted @elvispresley: I love you #hounddog, if they could.

Social media has taken brand love and loyalty to a new level, with fans creating memes and millions of tweets in a matter of minutes. Fun fact: The King’s estate still manages an Elvis Twitter page with more than 130,000 followers.

Brands hope to inspire this type of intense devotion and loyalty. But technological wizardry also can create a dilemma. Technology can bring people together, but it can also dilute genuine relationships and brand devotion. Consider Elvis again. Fans who really wanted to engage with the superstar had to attend his performances and wait hours for the chance to get a “hello,” an autograph or a heartthrob smile.

Engagement Takes Effort

Today’s fans have it easy. Facebook “likes” and Twitter posts are the most minimal form of engagement – many if not most superstars have handlers who manage their image and presence on the top social media sites.

In an age where loyalty is up for grabs and true fan devotion is elusive, how can brands increase their own fandom? A partial answer comes in the form of loyalty hubs.

Loyalty hubs like ours are about bringing consumers, merchants and loyalty programs together in a union of passion, people and product that drives greater engagement. How? By instantly delivering a wide variety of rewards relevant to members’ needs . And if accrued points or miles don’t meet consumers’ immediate needs, they can be tracked, traded and exchanged instead.

Encouragingly, coalitions that unite multiple loyalty programs under one digital roof are already popular worldwide. In fact, Finaccord estimates that memberships in such programs exceed one billion. Canada’s AIRMILES – essentially a mega-partnership across different brands and industries – is an excellent example. AIRMILES understands that helping customers get up close and personal with preferred brands is a complicated mix of price incentives, timeliness and relevance. Social media actions only go so far if brand engagement isn’t augmented with something real or tangiblelike a free flight or seat upgrade.

All Shook Up – For Loyalty

The days of winning only complimentary event tickets – whether they’re for One Direction, college football or Les Misérables – are over. Fans want more and loyalty programs are finally recognizing this need. Loyalty programs must find emotional connections to build mutually-beneficial long-term “relationships” with members.  In a recent Points of View Panel survey, we asked members of multiple loyalty programs which loyalty program features were important to them. Almost thirty-percent told us getting special treatment from their loyalty program – being recognized as more than the average customer – was important. Finding a way to show loyalty programs members they matter can increase engagement and grow long-term program loyalty.

Elvis may have left the building decades ago, but his brand still engages fans today with a mix of social media outreach, genuine rewards and price incentives which keep them coming back.

What are some of the ways your program or brand is engaging its fans? Share your thoughts with us below.