Living Large in a Social Medium
You know a good oxymoron when you see one. Like an "unbiased opinion," or "old news," the phrase "social media advertising" sounds like a self-contradictory phrase. But when you really think about it, we do allow our favorite brand names a modicum of space in our personal interactions. Whether it's asking a friend for an evaluation of their new car or mentioning a positive or negative interaction with a brand, there is no commercial-free exclusion zone around our person-to-person conversations.
We might think our social media space is ruined by the mention of a brand or product, but not so, according to social media advertising pros. Is there a way to approach an effective plan for social media advertising without killing the medium?
They say that when you peer into the mysteries of subatomic particles like electrons and such, that you can never determine both the location and the speed of anything. Measure one and you lose the other.
Putting the phenomenon of social media under scrutiny reminds us of Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle. And injecting the idea of marketing into a realm of unpredictable social interaction reminds us that we tread on shifting sands.
With that, we'd like to argue that you can actually gain some insight into some possibility of proven success in a space that might seem at first hostile to building brand loyalty.
Creating favorable impressions
A group of researchers in Turkey set out to identify the most effective aspects of social media marketing on brand loyalty. They began with this question: What seems most natural and appropriate to establishing relationships with buyers and creating favorable impressions of brands in the public eye? The authors surveyed the issue from a consumer's perspective.
They found that the most significant force behind creating brand loyalty was what they called "advantageous campaigns," or content that adds tangible value to a social media based interaction. For example, answering a question in return for a coupon for the product. Or posting advance notice of an advantage that only followers of that brand can access, like an access code that saves on a purchase, or bringing an item into a store for a discount. Try offering specials on a certain day and informing only your brand-loyal social media followers, and those with whom they share the message.
In second place was relevance of content. This takes some diligent and continually refreshed familiarity with your social media audience. Relevance moves extremely fast on the internet. What was buzz last week is not even background noise this week. Just think about trends like "the mannequin challenge," or the ALS bucket challenge. And you might have missed the one where kids were donning bathing suits and diving into the deepest snowbank they could find. A brand that is serious about loyalty has no choice but to keep probing current trends and everyday watercooler gossip outside the bubble of their company.
Popularity is in third place. This is an elusive, difficult-to-control aspect. Many times your "coolness" factor just happens and you can do your best to ride the wave. Other times, a very perceptive organization can anticipate what has a good chance of becoming cool based on general opinion or perception. One window into the soul of popularity is current mass media- movies, TV, magazines, music and the like. Tie in your social media posts to current events, styles, fashion trends, holidays, etc. Think about brands like Levi's, which dressed the general public in heavy denim work pants and found ways to keep it cool since the 1950's. One popularity factor Levi's stumbled into was the perception of established authorities in the early 50's that blue jeans were the preferred pants of "juvenile delinquents". This predictably led to an explosion of demand among teenagers.
Popularity has a lot of back doors. Word of mouth is an additional layer of diffusion, so a focus on opinion leaders or respected voices in target communities should not be neglected. Television shows like Saturday Night Live have an outsized influence on our cultural milieu; it's what people talk and laugh about in every corner and level of American society. What's done on SNL can spread on social media like a virus (see what we did there?). When your post's shares go up, you know something good is happening.
Finally, the study revealed that pushing content out to multiple venues linked to social media in the form of apps, games, contests, sponsored content and other creative, interactive means was a boost to popularity.
Consumers' brand loyalty is also affected positively by maintaining a wide array of platforms and applications offered by the brand through social media, implying that consumers are asking for creative reasons, variety, and multiple experiences for engaging with the brands on social media. Thus, companies may work on creating more engaging, participative, interesting applications, games, content on social media to draw their customers' interest.
Now what to put in those social media posts?
The survey tested 22 types or themes governing content. Overall the general finding was that social media consumers in general tended to respond much more favorably to upbeat, positive or humorous posts as reinforcements to brand loyalty. The top ten themes were: Music, Tech, humor, instructional videos, extraordinary or weird topics, movie and TV, sports, product reviews, art, and travel.
Your brand will increase its loyalty strength by keeping to the positive side of the content ledger. Want some examples of brands that are doing well in reinforcing brand appeal in social media? How many of these have you seen?
Followers of Denny's know that their posts are irreverent and silly, as if there were no corporate marketers keeping an eye on a room full of giggling teenagers. It really does create an association between the delight of seeing what they might post next and the brand.
…Like pancake shoes:
Creative, surprising, high quality Saturday Night Live-type spoofs have done well for Oreo, like this video of "The Spilling," just in time for Halloween:
Netflix wins a prize for latching onto a popular phrase that uses their brand name. Instead of fighting it, they went with the flow and created a memorable image that taps into a concept that is completely relevant at the moment. We bet they are prepared for the next one, or to forget this image at the moment it becomes word out.
Netflix and chill? No, really. pic.twitter.com/ezcZ7V0peN— Netflix US (@netflix) July 22, 2015
GrubHub came up with this brilliantly interactive graphic as a way to get people to stare at an image that stands a good chance of eliciting the use of their service. It ties into our tendency to resolve ambiguity (is it a painting or not?) and our quirky habit of taking pictures of our food before we eat it.
GoPro adds value to their brand by soliciting user-generated content. Imagine seeing your photo or video on the official GoPro Instagram feed. What a great feeling that ties a customer into the brand! It also shows their product in action, tempting the viewer to consider it further.
Companies don't always embrace firm positions on social issues, for the mere fact that they don't want to alienate anyone who might be a buyer. Always products breaks the mold with their YouTube campaign in favor of supporting a more positive social status for young girls. Granted this is a fairly safe bet, their audience being almost entirely female, but they do generate a place for loyalty to attach. In the race to garner brand loyalty from their audience, we'd have to say that Always got there first.
So don't be afraid of social media advertising. Embracing the medium can boost creativity, make you identify and pursue your identity, humanize your brand and forge deeper relationships with customers that are increasingly the lifeblood of any company.
rem Eren Erdo mu and Mesut Çiçek / The Impact of Social Media Marketing on Brand Loyalty
© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the 8th International Strategic Management Conference Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.