Business and Operations
A Social Plan
January 28, 2011 By Michelle Brisebois
As you sit down to draft your marketing plan this year, social media has
likely made its way onto your list of marketing tactics. Nestled right
next to newspaper advertising and sponsorship of the local baseball
team, social media is simply another way to get noticed and steal market
As you sit down to draft your marketing plan this year, social media has likely made its way onto your list of marketing tactics. Nestled right next to newspaper advertising and sponsorship of the local baseball team, social media is simply another way to get noticed and steal market share. But remember, when improperly done, social media is at best a static online brochure with limited impact. At worst, it can be a nuisance to customers and a poor reflection of your brand. However, social media can be a cost-effective form of marketing if done well.
If your business is new to the social media scene, you’re in good company. A recent report on the state of social media by SmartBrief confirms that about half of the 6,000 companies surveyed began using social media in the past year, and nearly 20 per cent began in the past 13 to 18 months. With so many social media newbies out there, finding good examples to follow in your own social media activities can be tough. Rather than modeling your social media after someone else’s, try developing an approach that works for your brand.
How many of your customers come in and buy something sweet to take back to the office for a co-worker having a bad day, or for a family member as a gesture of love? Probably lots. What would your business look like if you could allow customers to send other people a treat on a whim, without ever leaving their office chair? Cold Stone Ice Cream, with more than 1,400 locations in the United States, noticed that Facebook users would send each other virtual birthday cakes or hearts in response to someone posting that they were having a bad day. The company wondered how they could turn those digital treats into real, revenue-generating gifts. Cold Stone created e-gifts ranging in value from $5 to $7 which could be sent via Facebook or e-mail. To redeem the gift, recipients simply showed the coupon on their smart phone at any of the company’s American stores. The results were impressive. During the six-week campaign, franchisees experienced $10,000 in incremental sales. The cost of a virtual coupon on Facebook was pegged at $0.39 for each response versus traditional print, estimated at $3.60 per redemption. Moreover, Cold Stone estimated the response rate for the Facebook coupons to be 14 per cent, versus the traditional print response of 0.02 per cent. This case study demonstrates social media’s true power: it links business to the natural interactions between people.
Although creating a virtual coupon may be more than you want to take on at the beginning, you can still use social media to create awareness and become part of the online conversation. Start by making a list of questions your customers typically ask. They might be curious about your ingredients, hours of operation or even what time of day the fresh bread comes out of the oven. Begin posting answers to those questions. You can even engage your customers in one of the hottest trends: consumer-driven product development. You could announce “Thinking of introducing a sweet potato pecan pie. What does everyone think?” on your Facebook page. As your followers start clicking on the “like” button, everyone following their posts will see that their friends have “liked” a post by your bakery. Curiosity will get the better of many and they’ll check back to see what the fuss is about. You could then launch the pie and send an event notice to your followers for a formal tasting at your bakery. Take pictures of the event, post them to your Facebook page and watch the buzz develop.
As a complement to Facebook, Twitter is a form of micro-blogging that offers you a chance to follow specific conversations and trending topics. Make sure you track what’s being said about you via Twitter Search. Log on to your Twitter account and look to the top of the page where you’ll see a search bar to the immediate right of the Twitter blue bird. Type the name of your own business or product into the search bar and click on the magnifying glass icon or hit enter to begin the search. Up will come all of the recent tweets mentioning your business. You can refine the search to check out those tweets that also feature links, limit the search to tweets from people near you, or check out the people posting tweets that mention your search term. Click on the “save this search” box in the upper right-hand corner and the search will be saved on your Twitter profile. Then, all you have to do to see your entire list of saved search terms is click on the little upside-down triangle next to the “searches” heading. Make sure you check at least once per day to see who’s talking about you.
Once you’ve started using Twitter, you’ll quickly come across what’s known as a hash tag. A hash tag is a tweet that has a “#” prefix (the “#” is a hash symbol, hence the term hash tag or hashtag). For example, if you’ve seen tweets related to the debate in Toronto around city transit, you may have noticed some of them featured the term #savetransitcity. A hash tag is simply a way for people to easily search for tweets that have a common topic. If you search on #GLEE (or #Glee or #glee, because it’s not case-sensitive), you’ll get a list of tweets related to the TV show. What you won’t get are tweets that say “I’m filled with glee” because “glee” isn’t preceded by the hash tag. To make a hash tag “live”, all you need to do is write a tweet and add #sweetpotatopie to it. The hash tag can appear anywhere in the tweet, not just at the end. Remember that if you create a hash tag, you should probably announce it to your followers.
When planning your marketing strategy this year, try including a few social media tactics. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do, and what will add value for your customers. It’s better to do a few things well than to take on too much and stumble. Yes, social media is new and a little intimidating, but it’s definitely not going away any time soon. / BJ
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with expeience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.
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