This is the first portion of a 3-part series where we take a look at how big loyalty programs are successfully using social media to engage their members.

Loyalty programs are gaining a reputation for being masters of social media, from airlines that are gathering huge followings and managing customer service requests, to retailers like Target who are innovating and changing the way they communicate with their customers. In this three-part series we’ll look at three loyalty brands that are using social media to improve their business, and what we can learn from them.

Target’s REDcard loyalty program has given competitors a run for their money by offering a flat 5% off all purchases for customers. But the bullseye-branded retailer is also drumming up devotion by using Pinterest to provide the information, convenience, and inspiration that customers want. Once they’re hooked by Target’s fabulous online imagery, the REDcard’s purchase-driving rewards help them take home the fantasy for less.

Target’s Pinterest Bullseye

Target joined Pinterest in 2012 and has used it to great effect with stylishly curated boards that appeal to customers’ love of browsing and discovery. Its boards are used to cover everything from look books for a specific designer’s new collection, to entertaining ideas — including recipes from Target.com — to holiday themed décor. By the end of 2012, Target was named the most shared brand on Pinterest.

In 2013, together with Pinterest, Target developed Rich Pins, an enhanced pin technology that provides product availability and price — an innovation that resulted in a 70% increase in the drive from Pinterest to Target.com. And over the 2013 holiday season, Target.com launched its Pinterest-powered Awesome Shop beta site, a click-to-shop online catalog containing the store’s most-pinned and best-reviewed products.

What we like about it: Target’s everyday, upbeat stylishness is a natural fit for hyper-visual Pinterest. Through timely and abundant eye candy, the retailer has created irresistible magazine-like boards that encourage both re-pinning and coveting. Target makes great use of a medium that is both visual and aspirational, while continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Its Pinterest presence has helped to build Target’s fan and customer base — without even a mention of its REDcard loyalty program. Target is now actively in beta with the Cartwheel personalized savings app developed with Facebook, so expect even more buzz about the brand and its social media activities.

Three takeaways for social media success:

  • Find your fit. Pinterest is a perfect match for a brand like Target. When medium and brand are aligned, content flows seamlessly.
  • Encourage exploration. Curating your content in a way that lets customers feel like they’re always stumbling on something great will keep them coming back.
  • Be helpful, not pushy. Offer messaging and imagery that can stand alone, without necessarily being a front for a sales pitch.