Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 | 13 min read
Recently, we chatted with seven social media and marketing experts to learn about how they define their social strategy, adapt to changes in the digital space, ensure that social is a part of all aspects of their business, and create positive customer experiences online.
The Q&A included conversations with:
Here’s what they had to say!
Consumers connect much more with a brand when we have a person, or brand voice, that speaks to us.
Think of the success of brands with strong forefront personalities like Steve Jobs or fictional characters like Ronald McDonald. It allows for some sort of connection on a human level. Social now provides an opportunity for all brands to become more human and participate in these conversations.
People are discussing your brand whether you’re there or not, and any brand that ignores social is giving up a huge opportunity.
For HarperCollins, our goal on social is to engage and delight. Getting clear about that has led to a lot of growth, especially on Twitter, in the last year. We’ve doubled our following, and our engagement rate is regularly twice that of accounts two times our size. Social is, for us, a top-of-the-funnel activity where we can start conversations about books and book culture, about which we are passionate.
Say Media has always prided itself on being a strong voice in an overcrowded digital space, and incorporating social has made that voice even more vibrant. Now, instead of simply tossing messages into the air and hoping they stick, we’re having meaningful conversations with our fans.
We’re able to learn more about them to deliver content, products, and advertising that is more meaningful to them.
Experience management is about two things.
One, it’s understanding the needs and expectations of the audience. Two, it’s following through on those needs and expectations with a response.
For years, companies have been gathering information about their audiences, but there isn’t much value in data without action. Acting on audience needs should lead to greater satisfaction, loyalty and, eventually, advocacy.
The days of trying to be in control of messages and customer experience are over. Instead, you must guide your customers toward the opportunity to have remarkable experiences and to be blown away.
The customer really doesn’t care about your job title and department or what platform you’re connecting with them on; the customer just wants solutions to problems, whether they’re in-store, online, or on mobile.
Social media helps you deliver solutions and makes you better as a brand. As soon as businesses realize that consumers are now empowered with information, they can more readily embrace transparency and storytelling, and can become a likeable business.
As a platform that backs over 40 million monthly page views, we fully recognize that experience management begins wherever our consumers discover our content. That means we take personal responsibility not only in where our readers end up by providing elegant, user-friendly websites, but also by managing the avenues of access, whether that be social, search, or syndication.
You have to be mindful of the customer’s experience from beginning to end.
When I advise companies on their social media strategy, I stress that their content needs to have a huge emphasis on conversation and focus very little on marketing.
Brands should spend minimal time talking about their products and instead demonstrate that they care about their customers and bring value to their communities. I’d say content should consist of 90–95% engaging in conversations and 5–10% selling. The more of a human touch brands can bring to their social profiles, the more they connect through sharing new news stories, conducting polls, asking questions, and using humor, the more successful they will be. We all relate on these levels, whether a big name, a brand, or an individual.
Brands need to show that they don’t just care about the bottom line – show that they are humans as well with relatable hopes, dreams, and fears.
One of the biggest areas of opportunity in social for us is helping prospective students get a real sense of whether our university is a good fit for them socially and academically. We want them to see what real life is like as a student here – the good stuff and the hard stuff. Similarly, more than ever, college these days is about preparing for a job, and social media plays a huge role in career management now. In addition to the traditional academic curriculum, we teach our students how to leverage social media and their networks to help progress in their careers.
Likeable Media is focused on creating, curating, and promoting content in order to drive results.
We believe that social content done right can absolutely drive measurable results if brands listen first – and never stop listening – in order to determine the wants and needs of their customers. If you manage and track every experience a customer has with your brand, from an interaction on Facebook, to downloading an e-book, to asking a question on the phone, you can better customize their experience and provide value at every step.
Truth be told, we’re still working on this.
We use social on the front end of the student experience to help show prospective students an authentic view of student life here. Once you are a student, social is woven into the classroom experience.
Threaded discussion boards, for example, are a core element of our online learning curriculum. Many faculty work social media into class projects. For example, one of our standout Senior Class Capstone Projects this year was a group of students who created a social network for aspiring musicians called UpStage.com. And of course social media plays a large role in how we stay connected to alumni and help alumni stay connected to one another.
As both the sports league and the players’ association, the PGA TOUR looks at social media from the perspective of the PGA TOUR brand, as well as our players. For most fans, connecting with the PGA TOUR is one thing – and it can be rewarding and useful – but the opportunity to connect to the players themselves is an invaluable experience that we can provide.
To facilitate these connections, the PGA TOUR team is a resource for our players, helping some of them get set up in social media and helping others with advice, best practices, or even introductions to contacts at social networks.
Connecting directly with our customers has been at the heart of our strategy for decades, and it is now reinforced even more with the rise of social media as a marketing tool.
Pernod Ricard’s founder Mr. Paul Ricard was a visionary who truly transformed the spirits industry by building passionate brands and giving a clear motto to his employees: “Make a new friend every day!” Since then, Pernod Ricard has spent a majority of its marketing efforts building strong and close links with local communities and moments of celebration. Through technology and powerful content, we’re able to amplify the social nature of our business at scale.
The biggest change for us has occurred when social comes into play for our campaigns. Say Media has always been pretty digitally savvy, but in the past, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest were seen as content marketing tools that didn’t come into play until after the editorial process was complete, or as added value for advertisers. Now, we’re looking at what has resonated with our fans in the past before we start selling and creating future content.
It has also become a more integrated part of our partner campaigns, which has pushed us to find new and innovative ways to broaden the reach of paid messaging.
Within the past year, we’ve shifted our approach to content, embracing the idea that all content is social. Whether we’re crafting a tweet or a story for pgatour.com, the goal is the same: to engage our fans and encourage them to share and continue the conversation in some way.
To execute on this, it’s meant a shift in responsibilities among our in-house team of content creators. Each producer is now responsible for developing content across all of our digital platforms. It’s up to each producer to take a story and then look at the tools in the toolbox, determining which platform or platforms are most appropriate.
The goal isn’t just to build up their personalities online but also to ensure they’re developing relationships with our audience and, hopefully, as a by-product, creating more loyal fans of the PGA TOUR.
The biggest thing that has happened is that – like “digital” before it – “social” has ceased to be a separate practice or specialty apart from other media. This is overdue and is the typical trajectory for all innovations. At first it is new and at the margins, then it is a specialty, then it becomes another tool in the toolbox. Social is now another tool in a toolbox, with its unique strengths and weaknesses.
My favorite social media tactic is our regular Twitter takeovers, as they so clearly put our company values into practice. At HarperCollins, authors are the focus of everything we do – so instead of just tweeting about them or interviewing them from our account, we periodically let an author run our account for a few hours. We change the picture and the name and let them loose. Who better to speak for us? They are what we are about.
We’ve seen a lot of success on social with our brand-specific campaigns. These campaigns, such as the Jameson First Shot, Malibu Best Summer Ever, and the Chivas project “The Venture,” allow our fans to connect with our product and brand in a fun, creative way. These campaigns inspire user-generated content, increase exposure to new customers, and reinforce our brands’ images.
One example of a Likeable Media case study is our project with Entenmann’s. The baked goods brand wanted to better bridge the gap between generations and reach a younger audience. With these objectives of awareness and engagement, the brand aligned its efforts with Grandparents’ Day and launched a social media campaign connecting families to their products with the tagline “grandparents never run out of hugs or cookies.”
This drove excellent awareness and consideration among the younger demographic and resulted in 10 times the industry average engagement.
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