I was reading through Kathi Kruse’s post on 10 surefire ways to fail at Twitter this week when I found myself faced with the great dilemma: to continue following or unfollow?
Allow me to elaborate.
I’m a HUGE fan of a particular consumer brand’s content marketing. It produces exceptional content that is entertaining and continually resonates with the audience – I find it captivating, even mesmerising at times.
It also does a great job of sourcing content from its community and incorporating it within its efforts, and invests a great deal in getting out and about on the road with its consumers.
So, why would I press the unfollow button?
In the years that I’ve followed, mentioned, tweeted and blogged about the brand, I’ve not received one reply. In fact, the only reply I received was from a local store that stocks the brand after I posted about it (an excellent piece of real-time marketing and communication – hat tip David Meerman Scott).
I don’t know if I’m being over-sensitive or expecting too much of the brand here, but after all the mentions and shout-outs, it makes me wonder how much they care.
In this case, my contributions would relate directly to ‘social’ and ‘self-esteem’ needs. That is, belonging to a community and being recognized accordingly for those contributions.
The strange thing is, even if I do unfollow the brand on Twitter, I can’t bring myself to unlike it on facebook; such is the quality of its content and posts in this space. Even if the posting is more representative of a straight broadcast model of content distribution without replies or discussion, I find myself unable to turn away.
Does that make me a social media hypocrite? Can I continue to advocate for community but still like a brand that hasn’t responded to my calls for engagement and fulfilled my hierarchy of needs?
More importantly, what does that say about the relationship between content and community?
In an ideal scenario, I believe in the power of content and community to work together to achieve business and communication objectives. With regard to social tools, these can range from driving sales to servicing and supporting clients with questions and issues that may arise before, during and after the purchase process or product development.
Now I’m not privy to this particular brand’s marketing plan and KPIs, but it may just be that broadcasting posts across facebook, email and including strong calls to action in both is driving more traffic and sales than it planned for, and that its in-person events are a spectacular success.
However I can’t help but see this as a missed opportunity for the brand (and others who employ the same strategy) – an opportunity to build an organic community of connected bloggers, evangelists and consumers willing to help spark that next rave about the brand, and to support it through the good times and the bad.
An opportunity to connect even deeper with the people behind the brand and extend the experience more than before, and to grow product use, knowledge and sales further.
The problem is, while tools exist to monitor and evaluate leads, calls to action and sales for this marketing content, it’s harder to measure the value of missed opportunities.
Then again, when it has fans like me willing to subscribe to its feed and purchase its products despite the lack of response and community engagement (yes, I’ve tried a purchase boycott but failed dismally), perhaps it doesn’t factor into the strategy and resources.
Only time will tell whether this is a sustainable strategy for the brand.
Should I press the unfollow button?
What do you think?
Is content alone a sustainable marketing and communication strategy for ongoing growth without community?
Am I being a social media hypocrite by championing community but supporting and subscribing to a brand that doesn’t actively respond to or acknowledge me?
Thoughts on the design aside, what followed for the club serves as an important reminder for communicators and community managers about the importance and power of connecting with and acknowledging your community offline.
One of the most noticeable changes to the jersey was the switch of logo to the Liver Bird that adorned the jersey back in the club’s glory days of the 70s and 80s – omitting the twin flames of the previous logo which represent the memorial that burns in honour of those 96 fans that lost their lives in the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989 – one of the darkest days in the club’s history.
These flames and the number 96 have been moved to the back of the jersey for next season’s kit.
While the club promoted and followed buzz surrounding the jersey among the online community using the #LFCkit hashtag, it was the reaction of the families of the Hillsborough disaster that sparked anger offline, and threatened to envelop the club in a PR disaster.
It was claimed in this BBC piece that while the Hillsborough Family Support Group were consulted about the proposed changes to the jersey, no individual family members of those who lost their lives at Hillsborough were consulted, and neither were members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign – who claimed the actions of the club to be “insensitive, divisive and deplorable.”
Although the club moved promptly and with transparency to defend its consultation process and reinforce its respect for the 96 who lost their lives and their families, the incident highlighted an important lesson for communicators.
That is, in a world of increased connectivity where we are all networked, it is just as important to pay attention to, and consult the community offline, as well as online.
In a panel discussion at Blogworld New York 2011, Gary Vaynerchuk called on brands and attendees to wholeheartedly embrace the feedback and voice of the online community. After all, if someone is saying something about you, wouldn’t you like to know, and wouldn’t you like the opportunity to address their concerns?
While I agree one hundred percent, this example serves as a reminder that brands need to remember and acknowledge that their communities exist in real life (IRL), as well as virtually.
Moreover, there are some scenarios in which consultation IRL is the appropriate way to communicate – and that failing to do so threatens to damage the reputation of the organisation in the domain of traditional and social media, with each potentially feeding the other.
Yes, brands and organisations now have the gift of community that comes with utilising the plethora of social and connected platforms available, but these communities and methods of communicating should not be at the expense of in-person communication and the maintenance and consultation of a physical community IRL.
Communities exist offline and online.
What do you think?
How do you balance connecting your community virtually and IRL? Are there any other case studies you feel add to this area and are worth acknowledging?
The team at AMC's Mad Men have gone back in the show's timeline - giving brands a reminder of the great opportunity that the tool brings.
A few weeks ago I watched on facebook as the team over at AMC’s Mad Men added a host of images and events to the show’s timeline.
For those who haven’t checked it out, the added content includes pictures and plot from every episode, as well as major awards and milestones for the show.
In essence, it tells the Mad Men story – and is a great resource that I’ve sent my friends who are just catching up on the series to check out.
Why should media organisations (and other brands) care?
Because with tools like timeline, the past is just as important as the future in creating content that connects and resonates with an audience, and communicates where you’ve come from, and where you’re going.
Without getting too meta on you by citing Mad Men within a Mad Men post, but I think Don was on to something in this video (sadly not available to embed). That is, timeline is a way to put your history on show and allow others to identify with your thoughts, products, culture and values – and in doing so take them to a place in their own story that they identify with.
To quote Mr. Draper: “Technology is a glittering lure, but there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash – if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”
The question is: What’s your story and bond with your audience?
For media companies and brands, I’m sure this is just the start of what will be some great innovation and use of this tool as audiences engage and invest socially in characters and stories more than ever before (are we going to see major events and exclusive pictures of Dick Whitman and the other Mad Men characters appearing on the timeline soon, perhaps? Maybe some images and clips from the past exclusive to timeline?).
Hearst Corporation is another example of a media company doing a great job of this with its magazine portfolio.
Nice work and kudos to the team over at AMC – I look forward to seeing what comes next (or should I say what came before) in the timeline (insert Mad Men opening theme).
What do you think?
Do you have any favourite examples of brands telling a story and utilising timeline? What about their story and content resonates with you, and why?
How did caffeinated content fuel Costa Coffee's facebook community?
If you didn’t know, in addition to media and communication I’m a bit of a coffee fan – so when I saw an update from my friend Adam Vincenzini at Paratus Communications about the recent growth in Costa Coffee’s facebook community, it captured my attention.
I mean, caffeine + communication – what’s not to like?
In the past six months, Costa Coffee’s facebook page has doubled in size to 500,000 members – an impressive community for any brand.
Ever generous, Adam was kind enough to answer a few questions (below) about this campaign and case study, providing a great glimpse behind the scenes of the campaign – from research to planning, execution and evaluation.
Congratulations and many thanks to Adam and Costa Coffee for sharing these insights – I hope you enjoy the interview.
I’ve included a few of my thoughts on lessons for brands and communicators following Adam’s responses.
1. Adam, what was the brief from Costa Coffee behind this latest growth in their facebook presence?
Costa wanted to create an online haven for coffee lovers, a place where people who are passionate about the subject can receive their daily ‘fuel’.
By creating this environment, the fan base would be better equipped to act as advocates of the Costa brand amongst their networks of friends and help tell the Costa story.
2. Can you talk us through some of the background research that was conducted to determine the strategy for the campaign?
A great deal of research was undertaken prior to this campaign using our four stage strategic process: Listen, Create, Engage and Analyse.
The ‘listen’ element involved a look at what Costa’s competitor set had been doing across social media to identify a unique space for Costa to own.
We determined that in order to be popular, we needed to be different, and focus heavily on the enjoyment that comes the subject matter.
Having a coffee with a friend is a fun part of your day and this applies for the ‘Costa breaks’ you have on facebook.
3. You mentioned in a facebook comment that you attributed the success of the campaign to a new content strategy, a bespoke app and sponsored stories. Could you take us through the reason for each, and why you chose the combination of these three communication elements within the platform?
The approach was quite straightforward once we completed the listening phase.
The new content strategy was pretty obvious, as the previous approach was light on substance and post regularity. As for content matter, once we had an idea of what ‘coffee lovers’ liked sharing and talking about, we just made it easier for them to access this content.
The app was important because it gave people a reason to visit the page every day during March. Encouraging this type of regular interaction boosted the presence of Costa’s page in people’s streams and consequently drove up referrals/likes from those people.
Sponsored stories played a key role too because they allowed this great new content to be seen by a wider audience.
“The Magical Coffee Machine” – A Costa Express Production (embedded on the brand’s facebook page)
4. Doubling the facebook community to half a million across a six month period is a great result. Do you have some metrics and figures around the campaign that demonstrate just how much this strategy has increased engagement and earned media across facebook for Costa Coffee?
Some of the key metrics included:
- Page views of the Costa page increased from 1,500 to 10,000
- Average reach of each post / status update increased from 50,000 to 100,000
- The ‘talking about this’ figure peaked at 38,000 in March 2012 after hovering at about 2,000 in December 2011
- Average ‘virality’ of each post increased from less than 1% to 2.5%
5. Did any of these results surprise you?
Yes and no. This community has been asking for this type of presence for a while, and once we were able to get everyone on the same page, the response was as we’d expected. However, the speed in which the results were delivered was a pleasant surprise. Most encouragingly, people haven’t been leaving the community either. We are adding new fans and retaining them.
6. Which form of content is driving the most engagement for Costa, and why do you think this is the case?
Photos, definitely. Your facebook stream is such a busy and competitive space and unless you are excited by a updated in the blink of an eye, you’ll scroll down to the next thing. The right imagery, supported by a fun and light-hearted commentary, seem to generate the best results.
7. The digital space is moving so quickly – something you keep a running commentary and analysis of on your own blog. With that in mind, were there any challenges in bringing this strategy to life given the rapidly shifting landscape of paid, owned and earned media?
Luckily, people don’t change. What is interesting to you and me will always be interesting even if the way we discover it changes relatively rapidly. While each platform has its own nuances, the theory doesn’t.
8. We’ve seen in the past brands build a significant following and community, only to disengage from the space after a defined period. How is Costa resourcing to make this content and community engagement part of their ongoing communication efforts?
This is the blessing and the curse of social media. Once you have established a ‘service’ expectation in the mind of your community, it is very hard to walk away from that.
From this overview, there are some great lessons and take-outs for brands and communicators, including:
While the brand may set-up and play host to a social space, these spaces are a place for your fans and consumers. Plan your content strategy, engagement and design accordingly.
Consider how you will take the offline elements and experience of your brand online within the given channel, and how this fits within your consumers’ online behaviour and use.
Be selective and strategic with your tactics.
Consider using the full suite of paid, earned and owned media available to you (within budget and objectives, of course).
How do small businesses plan and execute change communication?
I’ve always greatly admired change communication experts. Be it a corporation or your small one-shop business, change is never easy to implement or communicate.
Never was this more apparent to me than in recent weeks when two separate small businesses of which I am a community member implemented and communicated separate changes.
Sure, decreased barriers to entry across new media channels may mean that small businesses now have access to reach their consumers more than ever, but that doesn’t mean that there’s one cookie cutter model of change communication required – or that new media equals easier change communication research, planning and execution.
In fact, given the intimacy of some smaller communities, I’d argue that the impact of change upon them is equal to, if not greater than members of larger communities, and the work approach required to execute great change communication across them just as rigorous and comprehensive.
So, instead of a ‘top 5 tips’ post, I’m going to share with you below a few of my change communication observations for small businesses from the abovementioned examples.
Talk directly to the community about the impending change
One of the great advantages of being part of an intimate community is having that connection that makes direct communication (both in person and digital) possible. Talk openly and honestly to them about upcoming changes. One small business owner invited myself and another member of the community for a coffee to discuss possible changes they had in mind for coming months. As a consumer, it’s powerful to know that your thoughts and opinions are so highly valued.
Understand your community’s communication channels and habits
Yes, you may be a small business with the opportunity to speak in person with customers, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore other channels. One small business owner I know shot a one-minute YouTube clip announcing the upcoming change and posted it in the company’s closed facebook group during the peak lunch hours of 12-2pm. Why? Because that’s when many of their community members have access to social media during the working day. The result? I watched the video in-between monitoring social media pages and drafted my questions that evening on the train ride home. All were answered that evening in person.
Be clear in outlining upcoming action
As a member of a small business community, there’s nothing more frustrating than having multiple changes made. Although there may be hiccups and action necessary to tweak and refine changes as they are made within your business, do your best to plan out and anticipate the change actions and timeline and communicate this clearly to your community members so you can manage their expectations. Anticipate key points and questions and prepare collateral to answer and respond to these concerns. Be sure to also give them contact details so they can discuss problems or issues with you throughout the process.
Follow through and keep the community updated
As outlined action is completed or implemented, it’s important to follow-up with your community to let them know about your progress, and that you are being transparent in sharing the change project with them.
Invite constant feedback
Expanding on my first point, take the opportunity to invite ongoing feedback from your community in a variety of ways such as surveys or focus groups. Ask how they are finding the changes; are they experiencing difficulties, have they noticed improvements in service or product as a result of the changes? Every piece of feedback is invaluable in shaping your changes and maintaining a premium service with an engaged and satisfied community.
At the end of the day, change communication is all about making the community feel comfortable, informed and satisfied. The risk of not planning and considering this communication during change is to risk losing your community to a rival small business.
While we are creatures of habit, it’s hard to deny that one of the constants in life is change – and if we are to continue to improve as businesses and communicators, change communication is something we cannot ignore as the channels and opportunities to develop and engage communities continue to flourish and diversify.
What do you think?
Have you worked across change communication before? Do you have any best practice insights to share for small businesses looking to communicate change? Have you encountered any outstanding change communication campaigns for small or large enterprises?
I’d love to hear about your experiences and thoughts.