BUILDING BRIDGES

•October 29, 2012 • Comments Off on BUILDING BRIDGES

We all know how amazing social media can be. We use it to enhance our daily conversations with our friends and family, and even strangers. It’s easy to understand how social media is used in our personal lives. It is harder to understand how and why businesses and organizations use social media. Here’s something I’ve learned on how to visualize corporate use of social media.

Social media is a wooden rope bridge, connecting the seller to the buyer and vice-versa. Web 2.0, the social media infrastructure, acts as the individual planks of the bridge. Social media strategy is the rope that binds it all together. Companies are now building these social media bridges to connect with consumers who were once too far away or disengaged.

In the ‘Fashion in Social Media’ blog post, “French Connection and Youtube“, Liz Bixby shows how a clothing company uses Youtube as their social media “bridge.” The social media strategy, or the “rope” of the bridge, is usability. Youtube has allowed French Connection to integrate a “buy now” click option in their Youtube videos that will lead the customer directly to their online store. With the help of Poke, website designers, and the “planks” of the bridge, French Connection is the first brand in Europe to have done this and they are calling it a “YouTique” – Youtube boutique.

Another company that has strengthened the Youtube bridge with the rope of usability is IKEA. In the ‘Hospitality and Travel’ blog, Gina Cook shows how “IKEA Gets Personal With New YouTube Tool.

Many companies hastily build these “bridges” to connect with their consumers and do not take the time to carefully consider which planks and ropes they should use. When a company builds a reliable bridge, consumers will want to cross it and enter your playground. Just make sure that you maintain your bridge on a daily basis, because one loose plank or fray in the rope can ruin the entire experience.

-Brian Scholl

SOCIAL MEDIA HAS REINVENTED HOW BUSINESS IS DONE

•October 29, 2012 • Comments Off on SOCIAL MEDIA HAS REINVENTED HOW BUSINESS IS DONE

Businesses that are not present in the social media landscape are archaic.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs; corporate or not, and other interactive sites increase accessibility and accountability to major corporations.  Big suits, old white men, and resentment toward every and all executives has been replaced with a new and dynamic impression of big money.  Corporations that did not have a face now do.

Yet still, consumer behavior is changing must faster than companies are adapting.  There has been a recent push, but as a Genesys study proves in the article Big Companies Aren’t Using Social Media for Customer Service, companies are still seeing social media through the lens of marketing, not as a part of their branding strategies.

A company’s brand is dynamic.  Every experience, whether a commercial, catchy slogan or jingle, product purchase, or even a friend’s interaction with a company, shapes how we perceive them.  Logos are important, but open dialogue is more so.

All companies need to cut marketing costs and get online where the services are free, or very cheap.  New, smaller businesses can take advantage of replacing traditional marketing with social media marketing.  Their revenue is already less than that of big companies, and if they try to market like established corporations have historically done, they will fall flat.

There is a pattern in the lessons of our blogs.  Successful organizations use social media, unsuccessful ones fail to do so.  The climate is changing, and companies have to keep up; the way they communicate, the fluidity of their message, and the dramatic importance that should be given to their brand.  Every company needs to use online media regularly and engagingly, allow your corporate suite to buy in to a blog, and be accessible to any and all interested parties.

-Daniel Benn

CONSUMER PACKAGED GOODS INDUSTRY AND SOCIAL MEDIA: WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

•October 29, 2012 • Comments Off on CONSUMER PACKAGED GOODS INDUSTRY AND SOCIAL MEDIA: WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

At this point, it is safe to say that most any company in the consumer packaged goods industry can benefit from social media use.  It is almost to the point where you could say that a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company who is not engaged in social media is missing out.  As a social-media-savvy CPG company, you gain access to important information and the ability to engage and attract your customers.  A company is able to become more transparent while at the same time promoting their brand and making connections with consumers.

According to an article made by Radian 6, a social marketing and engagement company run by Sales Force, there are five main benefits that a CPG company can gain from social media involvement:

–       A company can operate its customer service online through social media.  Twitter and Facebook have been successful formats to implement this since they are public and able to be seen by all.

–       Shopper loyalty can be instilled through social media.  By offering special discounts to those who follow you online you can create an interest in your online presence and increase sales.

–       Campaign or promotion management is another possible application of social media.  Companies most commonly spread awareness of their current campaigns and offers through Pinterest, Facebook and other social media outlets but social couponing, companies like Groupon, have become increasingly popular.

–       Monitoring competition is another thing that becomes more feasible in the social media world.  Not only can you see what your adversaries are up to, but you can learn from past successes and mistakes that other companies have made.

–       Finally, CPG companies can have more control in the event of a crisis.  In crisis management situations, CPG companies that are connected through social media will be able to reach their constituencies more directly and authentically.

Position 2, a social media and search engine marketing company, would agree entirely with Radian 6’s ideas.  Position 2 operates a blog and in one of their posts, they discussed how CPG companies are succeeding by establishing social media systems.  Not every company is fit for social media but most are.  Position 2 found that only 11% of CPG companies have neither Twitter nor Facebook.  Those CPG companies that are using social media have seen great success in their customer engagement, customer service, and overall sales.  Old Spice, a Proctor and Gamble brand, changed their image from a grandpa’s aftershave to a younger audience’s choice deodorant with a series of YouTube videos.  Through a social couponing site called Groupon, Unilever have increased their consumer base and sales.  It is safe to say at this point that for CPG companies, social media is a sink or swim scenario.  Those who have adopted it are getting leaps and bounds ahead of competition in the areas of customer service, brand awareness and loyalty, and transparency of the company.

 

-Pierce Gulley

 

CREATING CONVERSATIONS

•October 29, 2012 • Comments Off on CREATING CONVERSATIONS

Over the past few weeks, we’ve explored social media, and the various ways consumer packaged goods companies use it to connect with their target audiences, advance their brands, and extend their marketing reach. Although the topics have been wide-ranging, some common threads have emerged that describe a set of best practices for corporate social media.

One recurring theme is the importance of establishing an authentic voice in the social media conversation. Whether it is a company Facebook page, a blog by the CEO, or a Twitter feed, today’s consumers expect a social media conversation to be exactly that – a conversation, a one-to-one exchange between individuals with distinct personalities and perspectives. If in any conversation one of the participants is dissembling, pursuing an agenda, or being in some quantifiable measure, less than openly and transparently honest, the other party will tune out, if not grow outright resentful. Our trust of each other is the standard currency by which we measure the value of every single social exchange, including our transactions with the corporations whose products we buy, or just consider buying. It is a simple idea, and one that we have all more or less taken for granted – be honest with people and they will trust you. Don’t trust people who are not honest with you. But it actually flies in the face of what had been the conventional wisdom of marketing and PR professionals for decades; that the company has to control its brand, and has to shape its brand perception in the minds of the consumers. The advent of social media has turned that idea on its head, and is transforming the way companies connect with their markets.

In this presentation on Ted Talks, Clay Shirky makes a compelling (and, at times, wonderfully entertaining) case for adapting open-source programming techniques to the democratic process. It’s also highly instructive to anyone who is using, or planning to use, social media for enterprise, on why honest, transparent dialog is essential for success. Shirky correlates the version control systems that are an essential component of open-source software development with how other types of communities form. The subject matter is fairly technical up to around 10:50, at which point he turns his attention to the larger internet community. He focuses on how communities come together through the application of new media technologies, and why the internet can change something as large, complex, and pervasive  as our democratic form of government. All sandwiched in between the saga of Martha Paynes “NeverSeconds” food blog.

This is all very big-picture, but it ties in quite neatly with why openness, authenticity, and transparency are crucial in corporate social media. Social media, whether programmers collaborating over the internet to develop software, hypothetical citizens collaborating on legislation, or a nine-year-old Scots schoolgirl blogging about her school dinner, has democratized access to, and sharing of, information, more so than any previous technology. For corporations, this means it is now the consumer who controls the brand, and ultimately the power to shape the identity of the corporation itself. In the brave new corporate social media world, the conversation is happening with or without the participation of the companies being talked about. If they are not already, those companies need to join the conversation and  they better be ready to converse in an authentic voice, or the consequences will be worse than if they stayed quiet.

– Paul Heitsch

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES

•October 28, 2012 • Comments Off on SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES

Social media and Web 2.0 are the current frontiers of marketing and advertising, and have thus become crucial to the process of reaching out to consumers. Businesses, both big and small, need to utilize social media sites to facilitate a conversation with consumers and use feedback to better both the product and the channels of communication.

A new wave of commerce, known as F-commerce, is being created using the social media site Facebook. Small business are able to advertise and have a dialogue with consumers via social media, as well as allow consumers to purchase orders through the site. Better suited for smaller business, as consumers expect a bit more luxury in the online shopping centers of major corporations, F-commerce is a great way for small businesses to expand in the realm of social media. In a New York Times article, examples and tools for starting a small business’s Facebook page are outlined, as well as ideas every company should incorporate in their social media strategy. 

In my first blog post, I discuss how social media allows for dialogue between consumers and corporations, and how that dialogue allows corporations to anticipate changes in consumer behaviors and the marketplace. Social media as a whole allows for seemingly everyday people to become leaders amongst their fellow consumers. Every corporation, no matter mission, size or target market, should focus their social media efforts on creating conversation and efficiently using the feedback, both positive and negative, of their consumers.

 

-Rachel Chesno

THE FASHION INDUSTRY’S TWO TOP TOOLS

•October 28, 2012 • Comments Off on THE FASHION INDUSTRY’S TWO TOP TOOLS

Over the past few weeks, we have tirelessly explored just about anything worth exploring in regards to the best practices in social media. With the plethora of social media outlets available for use, it is important to evaluate industry needs and objectives in a social media strategy. When the focus is specifically placed on how social media can be used to further the goals of the consumer packaged goods industry, two major themes become apparent: transparency and interactivity.

Transparency is one of the strongest practices a company can implement with their social media strategy. The concept focuses on being honest about company policies, actions, and effects that they may have on constituents or shareholders. The importance of being transparent is highlighted in week four’s blog post dealing with Tropicana. The brand lacked transparency, failed to listen to customer input until too late, and failed to take action quickly. This resulted in a plummeting market share and the appearance that the company did not care about consumer interests. When practiced efficiently, a transparent company creates vital connections with influencers by being seen as genuine.

Interactivity is the process of building a relationship with constituents through a “two-way dialogue.” It involves taking input of consumers and responding to these influencers with a personalized message or, more importantly, company action. Allowing for participation in your brand creates positive buzz, and in turn, more reach to a target market. This is shown by the cosmetic brand MAC, and Bobbi Brown’s polls and efforts to bring back shelved products by popular demand. In the fashion industry, Rebecca Minkoff partnered with NY Fashion Week to hold an instagram contest, increase participation and attention for a show that might otherwise be “elite”, and earn positive attention and loyal customers. Old Spice reaped the benefits of interactivity when their “Smell Like a Man, Man,” campaign went viral and was an overnight Internet sensation.

When a company uses social media with interactivity as the focus, they understand that customer participation is key to keeping the business afloat, since peers are now the strongest influencers in the market place. A business that is also transparent recognizes that the company is “always on.” Customers are happy to contribute by sharing viral videos or leaving positive reviews, but they will also leave their brutal, and sometimes nasty, opinions of products or company actions. With the immediacy of social media it is important to realize that every move of a business is easily documented and tracked. When interactivity and transparency are correctly balanced on any social media platform, a company will absolutely prosper.

-Jen Parravani

GILBERT GOTTFRIED AND HIS TWITTER MISSTEPS

•October 22, 2012 • Comments Off on GILBERT GOTTFRIED AND HIS TWITTER MISSTEPS

Like our friends researching the automotive industry noticed, anything that connects your brand name to controversy has its repercussions.  In the article, Social Media – Chrysler, Aflac, and Shell  author Colleen McGrew notes examples of times when the automotive industry encountered tough situations with social media and highlighted a very interesting case with Aflac, the well known and widely used insurance company.  Aflac had long standing relationship with funnyman Gilbert Gottfried, who famously squawked into the microphone to impersonate the duck that gave the company a popular mascot and spread their brand.  His shtick had become a popular routine and a well known gimmick to draw in fans.  All was well, until the tragedy of the Japanese tsunami struck and Gottfried decided it was a great idea to tweet some jokes poking fun at the situation

Gottfried jokes forced Aflac to release a statement, saying that his comments in no way represent the sentiments of the insurance company. 

Aflac does 70 to 75 percent of its business in Japan, and with the tsunami, their stock prices have fallen 11 percent.  Now, along with losing a lot of good business, the company has to deal with this ignorant joker, who obviously has no grasp over the severity of the situation.

The lesson is, it is not just the company, and those within it, that can make comments that hurt image.  Anyone wearing your logo or advertising for you, advertently or inadvertently, bears the risk of hurting your name.

 

-Daniel Benn