Written by: Anna Fedusiv
Abstract: As the penetration of social media is growing dynamically, and consumer eagerly spends their time being social online, brands should react to the changes and be where the consumers are. Social media is a unique environment, where users are ready to share their emotions, are opened for interaction with each other and the brands. This article provides the recommendations on what marketers and the agencies responsible for brands promotion should know and what rules should they take into consideration to succeed in social media and build strong relations with consumers. The article concludes that it is vital to adhere to all of the rules to succeed in the social media environment.
I would like to share some fascinating figures with you. Can you only imagine, that 46% of the whole World population now has the digital connection, while in some regions this number goes up to 67%. Be prepared to have another even more fascinating fact: 31% of world’s population or 2,3 billions of people have profiles in social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. This number grew by 10% only within a year, and in last five years, the amount of users doubled. Another fascinating fact is that 91% of people aged 15-34 are nowadays owners of the Facebook profile (Smith,2014).
I may assume, that those figures are impressive. But what this means for us as marketers? What should we take into consideration when creating our marketing strategies? How those facts influence the way how brands interact with the consumer? And finally, what role should social media play in media strategy? I will try to give the answers to this questions later.
As once mentioned Hennig-Thurau et. al (2013), the environment in which consumers live currently, has changed significantly. If just in the early 2000s, the whole interaction of brands with customers resembled the linear bowling game, nowadays as target audience dedicates more and more attention to social media, the interplay becomes similar to chaotic and interactive pinball play. With the help of social media consumers become more interconnected and have a stronger desire not only to perceive the information but also interact with the brands, share their brand experiences and reviews with peers. So, from marketer’s perspective, this means that brand has to be where a consumer is – in social media. This also implies that type of interaction needs to be reconsidered. However, it is not sufficient just be present in social media.
NATURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND IMPLICATIONS FOR THE BRANDS
Brands have to understand the fundamental rules of interaction with their consumers to foster healthy customer-brand relationships and make it clear that the way of interaction should differ from accustomed. Quintessentially social media is a unique environment as suggests to express thoughts and emotions openly, allows users easily interact with each other and with brands. Moreover, in this environment, consumers easily share their ideas, views and opinions (Gensler et al. 2013.). From the brand perspective, given environment is an excellent tool to build long - lasting and quality relationships with consumers as allows brands to communicate with on the individual level, in the environment where they are ready and willing to perceive the information. At the same time, marketers have to be aware that engaging with consumers in such environment is not an easy game to play, as there are many actors wishing to capture attention, while at the same time, attention and emotional resources of consumers are limited. Therefore, brands have to follow the set of clear guidelines to differentiate and succeed in this environment (Hennig-Thurau et. al, 2013).
RECOMMENDATIONS: HOW TO SUCCEED IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Having in mind personal experience of the social media strategies development for such brands as Somersby, Tuborg and Carlsberg I confirm the position of Shih et al. (2014) who suggested that in order to succeed in social media and to build robust and long – lasting quality relations with consumers, brands should:
- Provide users with useful and relevant information and be valuable. Today’s world is overfilled with the news. Therefore, customers need to form a definite feeling that brand has a certain value thus is worth following. To do this, brand needs to define set of topics consumers may be interested in – think about what sort of valuable and unique data brand may spread for his own account. Afterwards, develop concise content plan with clear periodicity of publishing and set up general stylistics of brand community publications.
- Communicate in an honest and positive way, pay extreme attention to the speed of response. Consumer’s feedback is unpredictable and barely controllable, only transparency and the rate of reaction often may play the major role in crisis situations and deliver information as needed.
- Attentively review consumer’s feedback – as it may provide brand owners with valuable insights. This recommendation is also worth pursuing as if brand adheres to consumer’s recommendations the audience feels valued and needed and helps to build more tight connections.
- Unite as a family. As was mentioned by Mike DiLorenzo, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) social media marketing and strategy director, ‘‘Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences’’ (Wyshynski, 2009). And given experiences occur when brand owners manage to build overall brand strategy in all the channels based on principles of engagement, relationships of trust and honesty (Hanna et al., 2011).
Kaplan & Haenlein, (2010) broaden the set of recommendations. Authors also put extreme attention towards honesty in the communication with consumers and state that it is important to understand clearly: as these days searching the data is an easy job, if the brand is lying, users may figure out the truth effortless. And it will be hard to excuse the company and bring back the consumer’s trust. Must admit, this principle may also refer not only to social media but other types of communication. The Volkswagen case that happened in Autumn of 2015 is one of many restatements of this fact. Trying to hide the truth about the discrepancy of emission standards in America (Bloomberg View, 2015), Volkswagen faced with huge reputation crisis that caused irreparable damage companies’ image and reputation. So being honest has to become an unbreakable rule. Moreover, there is evidence (Shih et al., 2014) that honesty may increase the trust level, that is one of the underlying forces in company - consumer long lasting relations.
Another important rule brands should follow when working with social media is always try to be humble. Brands have to be on an equal ground with their consumers – comply to them, a response to their requests and listen to their ideas. An excellent example of this rule provides Lego (Lego Ideas, 2015) that created an online portal, where consumers may suggest the ideas of the next mass-market erector sets. More interestingly, on this portal user not only share their thoughts but also give their feedback, exchange constructive criticism and vote for the best proposals (Marketing Matters, 2015). This strategy proved to be successful as lead to the great commercial success of the company (Lego Ideas, 2015).
When working in social media, brands have to show interest by listening and adhering to the consumer, help to solve their problems and not only playing the one- way game by promoting brand ideas. Such way of interaction may allow customers feel important and, therefore, create unyielding and long-lasting connections with brands. The great example of the attitude of such a kind gives Pampers that lately launched #BetterforBaby activation aimed at helping families in need through diaper and wipes donation (Twitter,2016). The peculiarity of this activity is that core channel of communication is Facebook and Twitter, and not the only company may engage in charity activity, but also social media fan members.
Kaplan & Haenlein, (2010) continue with another suggestion that is as follow: brand’s tone of voice shouldn’t be more sophisticated than the language of the average consumer, so brands have to be unprofessional. The author suggests that brands should build communication in the way so that everyone could understand: colloquial speech in this case is the best possible solution. This suggestion may give the opportunity to demolish boundaries with the audience and serve a background for long lasting relations. A good example of this rule execution is a Converse communication in social media. Its core target audience is youngsters aged 15- 25. Therefore, brand conveys the message in rather relaxed, partially inappropriate way for a broad audience, but precisely suitable for their core target audience (Facebook, 2016).
And finally, brand has to be active in social media. This means giving the feeling that brand is always ready to engage, answer the question, provide with suitable information. For example, top 100 US retailers’ response their consumers within one day on a Facebook (Morrill, 2015). From the personal observation, it is vital to reply within the 24 hours, however if the answer can be provided faster – there is no need to wait as consumers will definitely appreciate this.
When reflecting on other important rules that brands have to consider to succeed in social media, I would add the need to keep tabs on the events that are happening in the world and prepare to act with brand communication. The good example gives Oreo that created a massive campaign in the UK around the solar eclipse in 2015 (Adweek, 2015). Knowing when the event will happen, the brand developed digital activation with a countdown, produced commercial for digital media, moreover, on that day the Sun, a popular British newspaper published with the Oreo on a headline (Digital Tourism Think Tank, 2016).
The activation had an enormous success and helped the brand to increase its image perception. Oreo case indeed proved that power of real-time marketing campaigns is impressive. It is extremely hard to surprise consumers with pure advertising nowadays. Therefore, it is increasingly important to engage them in the creation and sharing of media and publishing content.
Lastly, brands have to inspire people to be better, encourage making good moves, ignite the desire for achievements and challenges. Moreover, it is important to develop sense of belonging to the brand and its community among consumers. Such suggestion may help building long lasting and solid connection. To my mind, Dove can be the among the best examples of this rule. In the campaigns, brand encouraged consumers to tell a story about someone who means something important for them in the comments to the video. Dove managed to gather the community of people who really were interested to share personal examples, but also read other user’s stories, that is priceless. Easily, communication got close to half a million of views and thousands of shares, likes and comments (Cite This For Me, 2016).
As we notice, the world in which consumers live these days has changed drastically. This means that to succeed, brands need to keep up with developments and alter together with consumers. As media environment is changing with user’s attitudes, and social media become the vital part of consumers lives, brands need to understand the rules of the game, learn how to exist and succeed in new realities. I can sum up that provided recommendations are not that hard to follow. However, it is important to adhere to all of them in order to succeed and build long - lasting trust based relations with consumers.
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