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?
While I’m sure that you’ve all read a number of ‘top tips for social media’, I really like this list presented by Squidoo’s VP of Partnerships, Lauryn Ballesteros, on how to do social media and business well.
Although each individual step/tip involved in the below requires its own planning, research, integration and execution with the others, I think it’s a great list to keep saved and front of mind when planning and evaluating social media and communication activities.
So, without further ado, here are Lauryn’s five ways to do social media well – I hope you find them of great use.
Thanks to Lauryn and the teams at Squidoo and Creative Village NYC for the great event.
1. Be generous.
Provide value to your community on an ongoing basis – not just during a single ‘push’ or campaign.
2. You need to have a story.
Use social platforms to tell your brand’s story. This is the heart and soul of the brand, and what it represents.
3. Be strategic in your use of platforms.
Each channel has its own codes, engagement and audience. Research where your audience is, and the content they are engaging with to develop and execute your social media activities. The platforms you utilise need to have ease of access, use and reach.
4 + 5. Trust and Authenticity (Lauryn grouped these two together)
To succeed in the social space, brands needs to show themselves to be both trustworthy and authentic not only in the content they share, but the manner in which they engage and communicate with the community.
What do you think?
Would you add any tips to the above list for doing social media well (or not so well)?
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).
If you’re in media/communications/marketing/social media and have an hour to spare, I highly recommend checking out the full hour-long video discussion regarding the future of journalism. As an add-on, you might also like to check out the discussion on Twitter via the #heraldsunfoj hashtag.
Moderated by Steve and featuring Phil Gardner, Campbell Reid, Renee Barnes and Russell Howcroft, it discusses not only on journalism, but topics including marketing, advertising, paid content, communications and the wider use of social media by media organisations (particularly newspapers).
Pixels & Ink: A Discussion About the Future of Journalism
‘Media as a snack’ vs ‘Media as a four-course meal’
Steve described two types of media content in the current environment – that which we snack on in bite-sized pieces, and that which we delve deeper into (the four-course meal). Media need to understand consumer engagement with each form, as well as the ability they provide the consumer to share this content.
Content surplus as a bankable trend
In an era of self-publication (for brands as well as individuals) and increased noise we’re all faced with the problem of too much content and not enough time. For media companies, scaling this information and providing value through quality curation is a great opportunity to solve this problem for the consumer.
Steve’s top tips for being a quality curator:
Be knowledgeable and well read on your subject matter of choice
Save materials for later reading – it’s all an opportunity to be well informed and provide value to others
Focus on depth, not breadth. As Steve said, he knows a lot about a few things, and little about most things.
People want to engage with people
People ultimately want to engage with people. The same applies for brands and media. That is, people want to connect with the human element of a brand and those that work for the organisation. Just look at the spectacular success of Zappos and the introduction of Reuters’ ‘social pulse’ as examples of this.
Journalists and media are now community managers
Following on from the previous point, with media personnel now across social media as part of their day-to-day function sharing, curating and creating content – they now have to be adept at managing a community.
Those leading in the media field understand this, and see their role not only as a reporter/journalist/presenter – but as a brand ambassador who is able to acquire consumers and an build an audience through these channels.
Steve cited The New York Times’ Brian Stelter as the best example of this media professional – and I most certainly recommend following Brian and his colleague David Carr on Twitter and subscribing to them both on facebook if you’re interested in media and communications particularly.
Media need to understand the channels
Media need to invest the time and resources to not only understand the distribution process for established and emerging channels, but to investigate how content is being spread, which particular content is being spread, and by whom.
Steve’s top three emerging trends for media?
Building business models that incorporate curation,
Increased data mining and analytics about real-time engagement with media content (Steve used the particular example of chartbeat during the discussion), and
The increased importance of facebook’s open graph. Those media that understand and utilise the open graph to increase views, shares and engagement will improve their edgerank greatly. In short, those media that engage with facebook in this manner will be more valuable than those that don’t.
The public no longer sees media and social media as separate
The one point that Steve wanted the audience to take from the discussion is that the public don’t see media and social media as separate – they see them as one. For that reason, it’s up to media organisations to embrace and understand these channels, and how their story pervades across those with which they choose to engage.
What do you think?
Do you have any additional tips for being a curator or trends you think we’ll be seeing in media?
Were you there last night, and if so did any additional points stand out for you from the discussion?
What are your favourite media brands and who are your favourite media individuals engaging in social media. What about their practice do you particularly admire?