By The Grocer’s Associate editor (features) Simon Creasey
To tweet or not to tweet – that’s the question every company has to address at some point. Although many business leaders are reluctant to establish a presence on social media, the fact of the matter is that that’s where all of your customers are. So as Ashleigh Soppet, social media executive at digital content marketing agency Headstream explains, those SMEs and larger manufacturing groups that aren’t already on social media need to get there – fast.
“Statistics from Social Media London show that one quarter of all internet users visit video platform YouTube every day, ranking it as the third most visited website in the world,” says Soppet. “Search media giant Facebook claimed second place, both losing out to search engine Google. With two of the most visited websites in the world being social media platforms and the other being the place for customers to find your social channels, it’s time for all businesses – regardless of size – to get relevant.”
But how do you go about ‘getting relevant’? How do you choose what channel to forge a presence on, how should you manage your social media channels when they’re up and running and are there any potential pitfalls that you need to be aware of?
The first thing you need to consider when you’ve taken the decision to establish a social media presence is how you’re going to use it. The beauty of the medium is that it can be used as a marketing, public relations and a customer service tool, and in the main you can enjoy all of these benefits for free, says Anna Lundberg, digital marketing consultant and coach at Crocus Communications.
“It [social media] gives you a direct channel through which you can talk to your customers and even more importantly listen to them and understand what they care about.”
It’s a view shared by Rebecca Appleton, managing director at digital marketing specialists Dakota Digital. “It’s a fantastic medium for customer service as it allows for an instant response in a more informal setting,” she explains. “Sites like Twitter and Facebook can really showcase your brand’s commitment to customer service, with other users able to actually see how promptly you responded, how helpful and knowledgeable you were and what the client experience is like. It’s also great for creating brand advocates – the nearest thing you can get to word-of-mouth online.”
But it’s not just a useful tool for B2C, adds Lundberg. “A strong social presence can also be effective for B2B marketing in gaining your business exposure and increasing traffic to your website, as well as for reputation management.”
The benefits of building a social media presence are clearly manifold, but how do you go about choosing what channels to build a presence on? It’s not as straight forward a decision as it might at first appear – as a spokesperson for Kleenex explains: “Different channels have very different purposes so ultimately it depends on who you want to reach and how. Before making the decision on whether to plunge into Facebook, Tumblr or Vine, you need to have a view of what you’re intending to achieve and who you’re looking to reach.”
Headstream’s Soppet also cautions against companies spreading themselves too thinly. “You should aim to have an active presence on a couple of platforms so that you can do it well, as opposed to having a presence across all platforms, but be unable to seed different content to them all.”
Each social media channel offers different benefits and potentially different consumer demographics, adds Soppet. She cites the example of Facebook, which has seen three million teenagers deserting the platform over the last three years, but these users have been replaced by a significant number of people aged 55 and over.
“In fact, Britons visit the site 24m times a day, so for a business marketing a product like tissues, which does not have a specific target audience as it is needed by everyone, Facebook is a great place to start,” says Soppet.
Twitter is commonly used as the platform of choice for businesses offering customer service and support as it allows for easy two-way communication in real-time, but as consumers expect an answer around the clock she advises Twitter users state on the page if the account isn’t managed 24/7, otherwise this could antagonise consumers who are looking for an immediate response to a query.
Then there are the visual platforms. “Instagram and social scrapbooking platform Pinterest are great for inspiring potential and existing customers, particularly the female demographic,” explains Soppet. “Video platform YouTube is a good place to house television adverts and other video campaigns. And then you have platforms like Vine, Snapchat and WhatsApp, which are gaining in popularity with progressive brands that are experimenting with content placement, particularly those wishing to attract a younger audience, but this is more ideal for bigger brands as opposed to SMEs.”
Whichever channel, or channels, you ultimately opt for, it’s vitally important that you create a strategy to manage these platforms, according to Peter Qvillberg, SCA’s online communications manager. “A social media strategy is very good, especially before you decide to form a presence in social media. Then the strategy can help you choose the right platform to support your goal. The strategy should contain the business directives and how to manage the presence, and the business objectives should be given very clear KPIs – if the goal with a Facebook page is to increase sales you need a KPI that measures how many leads or sales you get from that Facebook page.”
This understanding of what you’re trying to achieve through the use of social media channels is vitally important, according to Lundberg. “Do you want to raise awareness of a new product? Do you want to shift the perception of your brand? And who are you trying to target? What kind of questions do they want answered? Social media success sits at the sweet spot between what you as a brand want to communicate and what content your audience wants to engage with. Once you have identified your objectives, your target audience and the content you want to focus on, you can get into the details of creating specific posts.”
She suggests implementing a monthly editorial calendar where you plan posts ahead of time on different channels, but you will also need to be reactive just in case something unexpected happens that you need to address. This ties into one of the commonest errors made by companies, which is failing to keep their engagement going after an initial flurry of posts or tweets.
“You can’t just launch and leave,” says Lundberg. “A channel that is obviously poorly maintained and out-of -date can do more damage to your brand than to help it. Online marketing and social media especially is ‘always on’ 365 days of the year.”
Another common pitfall many brands fall foul of is setting up too many social media profiles just to be on the hottest property or site at the moment, says Dakota’s Appleton. “Rushing in can mean you don’t know enough about the platform to really get the most from it, or, take on too much and fail to update often enough or reply quickly enough.”
A further often seen mistake is to treat social media profiles as just another sales medium, cautions Appleton. “One of the worst things you can do is push sales messages via social media constantly. Consumers use social media to communicate, inform and entertain. If you have nothing to contribute other than sales messages, it probably isn’t the right space for your company.”
By establishing a presence on a transparent platform like social media you also run the risk of opening yourself up to greater levels of scrutiny and criticism, with consumers able to communicate with you directly and to other social media users who can see this interaction taking place live online.
“Social media is an open platform,” says the Kleenex spokesperson. “You can’t control what people will say so as a brand you have to be prepared and make sure you have a communications plan in place.”
But even if people are saying negative things about your brand on social media there are ways that you can turn this negativity to your favour, says Qvillberg. “If you are able to manage that [interaction] in a good way you can restore faith in the company and many times the unhappy customer can become a very satisfied customer in the end,” he explains.
And therein lies the power of social media. Normally it would cost you thousands of pounds in TV advertising, marketing materials or PR to generate this degree of brand loyalty and goodwill, but on social media you can essentially achieve this for free. So what are you waiting for – get tweeting!
The Grocer is the UK’s only paid-for online service and weekly magazine covering the whole FMCG sector.
Tissue brands doing social well
Headstream’s social media executive Ashleigh Soppet assesses the performance of different tissue brands that are active on social media.
“The toilet tissue brand ranked number 83 in Headstream’s Social Brands 100 – The Youth Ranking 2014. This report is based on brands that are popular with the youth market – ages 18-24 – and the engagement levels their branded content invites across their social channels.
Andrex has a Facebook and YouTube presence and one reason for the brand’s success – particularly amongst 18-24-year-olds – can largely be attributed to the adorableness of the Andrex puppy.
The result of this consistent and strong branding means that in Andrex’s social media marketing it now doesn’t need to have a product or logo in every shot as the puppy is synonymous with the brand. This leads to a more engaging and less intrusive advertising.”
“Bounty is a good example of a kitchen towel brand utilising Twitter to reach its customers. The brand recently partnered up with the Cincinnati Reds baseball team in America for its latest #RedsFoodPromo campaign, which aims to celebrate rather than fear the mess that can be created by snacks sold at ballparks – as long as you have Bounty nearby of course.”
“The brand has found a gap in the market and is renowned for posting witty and humorous content across its social channels.
By thinking outside the box in regards to its content creation, Charmin continually comes up with new ways to engage with its community around the topic of toilet paper. Examples of content include the catchy hashtag #tweetfromtheseat and Vine videos where the cameraman takes ‘bathroom selfies’ with unsuspecting strangers whilst they leave a toilet cubicle.”
“Facial tissue brand Kleenex also has a great brand presence across social media platforms. Going further than placing content on Facebook and Twitter, Kleenex has an active presence across visual scrapbooking platform Pinterest too.
Part of the brand’s success is down to really understanding the demographic of their customer and varying their content outside of the product to suit their customer’s interests. Branded boards include a back to school list, summer reader list and allergy season.”
“Kitchen towel Plenty and Juan Sheet have hosted a range of helpful videos in the ‘genius tips’ campaign. Alongside Juan stars his ‘nonna’ and together they both share a huge assortment of helpful cleaning tips with their community via YouTube.”