The Social Strategery: Share your bad brand self

Cold truth: 74% of online adults use social networking sites.

Cold, hard truth: 71% of these online adults use Facebook.

That’s a lot of people sharing, liking, tagging, following, stalking… you get the picture.

So in a sea of social, how does one make a brand stand out from crowd and really reach consumers? I’ve been doing a lot… I mean A LOT… of research on this very topic over the last week. What I discovered was a mixed bag of opinions, facts and so forth on the value and tactics of Facebook marketing. Some find that it isn’t worth a sack of potatoes to brands, while others find it is still important to have a presence on the top social network.

After more digging, I came up with a list of the top three ways brands should be using Facebook for successful marketing:

  1. Facebook should only be one part of an integrated marketing plan.
    From social sites and blogs to mobile apps and traditional advertising, today’s media landscape is in a constant state of change. Between updating posts, sharing digital content and distributing online videos, it can be easy for brand messages to become mixed. How does a company manage to maintain a strong brand identity both in the virtual and physical world? With a comprehensive integrated marketing communications plan that includes both a digital/social and print media component to help establish a cohesive brand image off screen.
  2. Talk to consumers on Facebook; don’t sell to them.
    Did you know that only 5% of Americans say social media impacts their purchasing decisions? Therefore, in order for brands to have success on Facebook, they must use it as consumers do — to connect and have conversations. Instead of pushing sales, brands need to post content that reflects their character — who they are (i.e. behind-the-scenes posts), what they stand for, etc. In other words, let the “voice” of the brand speak. Doing this will foster brand loyalty as consumers will relate better to, and feel like they are a part of, the brand.pr-gallup-reasons pr-gallup-influence
  3. Listen to consumers, and respond, around the clock
    The Internet and social media are active 24/7, which means brands need to be ready and willing to respond to consumers at all times. Why? Consumers expect immediate responses via these instant mediums; in fact research shows 42% of consumers expect a reply within 60 minutes of posting to a brand’s page.
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How do you interact with brands you like on Facebook? Does this interaction influence your purchasing decisions?

 

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Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who…

How many times have you made a purchase based on the advice of others?

Whether polling Facebook for recommendations from “friends” or relying on the reviews of strangers online, today’s consumers value the advice of others when making purchasing decisions.

Believe it or not, this idea of sharing opinions and experiences with a product or brand is a form of marketing. It’s called Word of Mouth Marketing —WOMM for short. Recognized as the most powerful and influential form of advertising, WOMM has taken the world of emerging media by storm as an effective and inexpensive way to get consumers excited about a product.

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Obviously, social media plays a key role in WOMM, enabling companies to get the word out about new products faster than ever. It also allows customers to share good — and bad — experiences or reviews, which can both help and hinder a brand’s image.

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So how does a brand generate the best WOMM it can? Why, with the Three E’s of course!

Engage— Brands need to be interactive on social media. Listening to consumers, answering and asking questions are all great ways to solve problems, gather ideas and generate positive conversation around a brand.

Equip— It’s important for brands to give consumers reasons to talk. From awesome products to stellar customer service and interesting stories, there are many ways to generate a buzz around a brand. The trick is to know what consumers are looking for and give it to them!

Empower— Brands find success in WOMM when they give consumers multiple platforms to talk about the brand and share what their thoughts and experiences. Letting people know that their thoughts and opinions matter  is a great way to stimulate consumer conversations.

One last thought: WOMM and Millennials
WOMM is especially important when marketing to the millennial demographic. Millennials are a very aware and engaged group of consumers, but they do not respond well to traditional methods of in-your-face marketing. Likewise, they value the opinions of other consumers more than anything else and usually base most of their purchase decisions on past buyer experiences. Therefore, getting satisfied customers to spread the word about a brand is key to marketing to this group.

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The power of a prize

Recently, I participated in a Facebook contest for Valentine’s Day on the LaCroix Water Facebook page. It was super simple to enter — you just had to like the company’s Facebook page and comment on the post about the contest. The prize was a Coach wristlet with heart graphics, a perfect prize for those looking forward to Valentine’s Day and a great way to spice up the cold winter month of February.

The winner was selected at random and low and behold, it was ME! I WON! WAHOO!

LaCroix messaged me via Facebook, I provided my mailing info and BOOM — the very next morning the adorable wristlet arrived at my door. I then felt obliged to take a photo of the prize and share it on my Facebook page, making sure to thank LaCroix Water by tagging them in the post and using brand- and contest-appropriate hashtags. After a day, my post received 25 “Likes” and generated five comments from my Facebook friends.

This made me think: I know what I got out of the contest, but what did LaCroix Water get out of it?

The answer to that is A LOT. Here are just a few of the ways LaCroix likely benefited from holding this contest:

  1. A stronger brand community. Contests are a great way to build a community around a brand. People who have never heard of the brand may have discovered it because someone shared the contest on their social pages. More than likely, the post I created once I received the prize Social media contests exposed a few people new people to LaCroix Water, or at least my tag sent them to their Facebook page. This contest was a good way for LaCroix to interact with consumers on a personal level — as it required one to share his or her most memorable Valentine’s Day experience. In turn this experience can stimulate customer loyalty — I know I will continue to purchase LaCroix Water.
  2. New followers. Contests are great incentive for brands to garner “likes” or followers on their social media pages. In this instance, you had to “like” the LaCroix Water Facebook page and comment on the contest post in order to be eligible to win.
  3. Increased page exposure. When someone “likes” a page and comments on a post, this activity can show up on their personal page and there is also a good chance it will appear on the feeds of their friends. Therefore, LaCroix’s contest likely increased brand exposure on the social network.

So what are your thoughts on social media contests — from either a brand or consumer perspective (or both)? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Tweeting on a Vine: The #HashtagRevolution

Over the past decade, social media has revolutionized almost every aspect of human life. From education and networking to news and everything in between, services like Twitter have not only changed the way we communicate, but how we learn and interact with the world around us.

For this particular post, I’d like to explore the wide world of Twitter and it’s video counterpart, Vine.

Tweeting isn’t something birds do…
Twitter is an online social networking service that allows users to “Tweet” and read news, thoughts, opinions and anything else that can be shared in 140 characters or less. The social network has approximately 288 million monthly active users, eighty percent of which use the service from a mobile device. Supporting over thirty-five languages, Twitter boasts that seventy percent of its active accounts are located outside of the United States. A staggering 500 million Tweets are sent out each day, 80 percent of which are sent from a mobile device.

A hashtag isn’t what you eat at brunch…
Twitter is responsible for the hashtag revolution as well. A hashtag, or pound sign (#) followed by a keyword or phrase helps to categorize Tweets and make them searchable. A hashtag can be used at the beginning, in the middle or on the end of a Tweet and those that become very popular often are related to trending topics (e.g.: #superbowl, #grammys, etc.).

A Vine isn’t just for Tarzan…
Twitter’s video counterpart, Vine, was introduced in 2013 and allows users to create and share short, six-second, looping videos. Like Twitter’s limited character quality, Vine’s short time threshold inspires users to be creative in capturing image and sound. The social media service has taken off, growing exponentially in its first year. Today, it is widely used around the world by more than forty million users.

Marketing Tweets and Vines
These two social media platforms are great ways for companies to interact with consumers, spread the word about their products and build brand loyalty.

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Building brand buzz with Twitter and Vine can be successfully done by optimizing one’s Twitter and Vine bio, creating clever content and posting regularly, retweeting and using trending hashtags. Showing creative content on Vine can also be used to help humanize your brand, demonstrate a new product and show people what your brand is all about.

No shopping cart left behind: Are you guilty of giving online shopping carts a complex?

Does your shopping cart suffer from abandonment issues?

A week ago I was shopping a sale online at Old Navy. I had loaded several items into my cart, got distracted and before I knew it the window to receive an extra 30 percent off my purchase had expired. So what did I do? I closed the browser tab and went on my merry way.

The next day I get an email from the company with a subject line that reads,

Libby, Your Shopping Bag Has Abandonment Issues.

What? No way. Not me. I’d never do that to a shopping cart…

Truth is, I was guilty of leaving a virtual shopping cart, filled with innocent sweaters and dresses, to linger in the abyss that is the inter webs. But I’m not alone. Approximately 67 percent of online shopping carts suffer abandonment issues.

In 2014, an estimated $4 trillion worth of goods was left to rot in virtual shopping carts around the web, leaving the online retail industry frustrated and confused.

Why does this happen?
According to Statista, Of those who abandon online purchases, 56 percent do so because they encounter unexpected costs during checkout that make them rethink their order, such as taxes, fees and shipping charges. Below is a chart showcasing the main causes reasons consumers ditch their carts at checkout.

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What can be done to stop this marketing epidemic in our increasingly digital world?
According to Business Insider Intelligence, abandoned shopping carts don’t have to be the bane of an online retailer’s existence. In fact, savvy marketers can recover an estimated 63 percent of discarded purchases. Here are a few ways they suggest online business combat this growing trend:

  • 75 percent of shoppers guilty of abandoning online shopping carts claim they plan to complete the purchase later, either online or through another purchasing platform, such as over the phone or in store.
  • Streamlining the checkout process will greatly reduce the abandonment rate for online retail purchases.
  • Retargeting shoppers by sending reminder emails, containing a link to the shopping cart, within three hours of ditching goods can benefit retailers. Studies show these emails have a 40 percent open rate and a 20 percent click-through rate.
  • Marketers can take a neglected cart as a sign that the consumer is extremely interested in their brand and product. Often, the act of leaving goods behind online is part of the purchase process for consumers.

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Kids, New Media and Food: An Ethical Conundrum

Today’s kids aren’t like past generations — they are more connected and know how to work mobile devices and apps before they even learn how to read. In fact, mobile devices have become an influential part of family life — even babies are being exposed smartphones and tablet devices on a daily basis.

So, in today’s digital age, is it ethical for companies to use new media to market to kids?

To even attempt to answer this question, we must first ask: What the heck is ethical marketing? The answer to this second question is both complex and contentious, as often the line between doing what is right and making a dollar is easily blurred  In general, ethical marketing is described as a philosophy that promotes honesty, fairness and responsibility in advertising. According to the American Marketing Association, advertising professionals are responsible for adhering to the following ethical norms in advertising practices:

  1. Do not harm. Marketers must utilize high ethical standards and follow all laws and regulations to avoid harmful actions or omissions.
  2. Foster trust in the marketing system. Marketers must strive for truth in marketing and avoid misleading or deceptive product design, communication, pricing and distribution.
  3. Embrace the core ethical values of honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, transparency and citizenship.

Okay, now that we have somewhat cleared up, back to our original question: is it ethical for companies to use new media to market to kids? According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the answer is no. Children are extremely vulnerable to advertising. In fact, research suggests a child under the age of eight lacks the cognitive skills necessary to comprehend the persuasive nature of advertisements — one 30-second advertisement can influence the brand preferences of a child as young as two years old. As a result, ads can unknowingly influence a child’s brand preferences, purchase requests and even diets.

Sneaky, sneaky… Do not underestimate the sneakiness of advertisers when it comes to marketing to kids.

As adults we are aware that marketing and advertisements are meant to persuade us, but did you know that most kids are not?

Research has shown that a child under the age of eight lacks the cognitive skills necessary to comprehend the persuasive nature of advertisements. Children younger than two often cannot distinguish commercials from regular TV programming while older children can have a hard time recognizing product placement as advertising. As a result, ads can unknowingly influence their brand preferences, purchase requests and even diets.

Fact: Children now spend $40 billion dollars of their own money and influence another $700 billion in spending annually – roughly the equivalent of the combined economies of the world’s 115 poorest countries.

From television to the Internet and even in school, today’s youth are bombarded with advertisements pretty much from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed. It is estimated that in the span of one year, a child is exposed to more than 25,000 commercials on TV alone. On top of that, one 30-second ad spot can influence the brand preferences of a child who is as young as two years old. So knowing this, is it ethical for marketers to target children?

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the answer is no.

And although there are some laws and regulations in order for limiting ads on television, the Internet seems to be somewhat of a free-for-all when it comes to marketing goods to kids. New media is being used to pedal everything from food to toys is ways so sneaky that many kids are oblivious to that fact they are be targeted. Here are some examples of the ways new media is being used as a tool to market to children:

Social media: Marketers target kids to like and share brands and products with their friends via social media websites. If they haven’t opted out with their parents, children under the age of 18 with a Facebook account can be targeted to receive “sponsored stories” based on his or her profile. There has been some recent uproar regarding Facebook and how it uses minor’s profiles, so hopefully more will be done to minimize this kind of online behavior. Read about a recent settlement regarding the topic, and the use of kids’ images in Facebook advertisements, here.

And if that isn’t bad enough, brands like General Mills offer kid-centric websites, like honeydefender.com, where children can make comics and movies starring the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Buzz. When complete, they are able to share their creations via social media and even allowed to email them to their friends. Sounds like General Mills is using kids to help create a “buzz” about their cereal (pun intended).

Data [Brain] Mining: Marketers are employing new technologies on children — such as brain scans, blink tests and eye tracking — to see how they react when exposed to certain characters, colors and other stimuli.

Advergames: New media has made it easier than ever for companies to target kids with interactive media. Using the Internet and mobile apps, big brands like General Mills expose kids to brands under the guise of puzzles, interactive stories and even video games. Don’t believe me? Check out LuckyCharms.com — you’ll find a plethora of games that kids can’t resist playing. They’re all free to play and star — you guessed it — the cereal’s mascot Lucky the Leprechaun, as well as the eight lucky charms (hearts, stars and rainbows… anyone?). It’s magically sneaky marketing.

And the list can go on and on and on and on and… well, you get it.

What are some ways marketers target youth using new media that you’re aware of? Comment below.