Since the rise of social media, companies have undoubtedly changed their strategies of gaining and retaining customers through online resources. Why would they not? Facebook offers free profiles, pages, and groups which provide access to over 500 million users. Yellow pages, newspapers, magazines, and other traditional print listings and advertisements are expensive and time-consuming, putting them on a plummeting decline for good reason. Meanwhile, social media allows for the casual connection between consumer and company, opening the doors for direct and instantaneous interaction. It is personal, captive, and credible.
This is why 70% of local businesses are using Facebook for their marketing campaign, a 20% increase over the past year, surpassing Google as the most widely used marketing method (MerchantCircle, 2011). The statistics do not stop there: 50% of active Facebook users log onto the network every day, have an average of 130 friends, create 90 pieces of content per month, and are connected on average to 80 community pages, groups, and events. More than 250 million people connect to Facebook from external websites on average per month and 2.5 million websites are integrated with it (Facebook, 2011). 28% of 18 to 24 year olds check Facebook on their smart phones before getting out of bed and 30% of all Facebook users are in the 35+ demographic (DigitalBuzzBlog, 2011).
These statistics reflect information obtained in February 2011. By March, let alone next year, they will change, increase, and continue to defy traditional marketing strategy gravity. Clearly, the numbers prove the popularity and widespread demographic of Facebook. For businesses, this is a free marketing tool that has the potential to reach millions. This explains why many companies do not view social media as a choice, rather, a must.
With such an array of resources and freedom of expression through social media, businesses much choose what purpose social media will play in their company’s growth; in other words, how will this outlet act as an asset to them? Five specific uses are frequently listed online, including 1) Branding; 2) e-Commerce; 3) Research; 4) Customer Retention; and 5) Lead Generation (Turner, J. 2010). Only three of these uses – branding, e-Commerce, and customer retention – are customer driven, meaning that they aim to release information to the customer while the other methods aim to obtain information from the customer. Each use is applicable to business growth, attainable on Facebook, and requires a great amount of attention to work and become profitable.
This paper will explore these five methods of using social media by examining the success of companies who have chosen their “why” well. Product and/or service play a large role in determining the method, but each company’s distinct character influences the method to an even greater degree.
2009 Digital Readiness Report
In the 2009 Digital Readiness Report, it was found that organizations are now putting social media as a very high priority, utilizing it more than search engine optimization and web content management (Schwartzman, E., Smith, T., Spetner, D., & McDonald, B., 2009, p. 6). While it is clear they are keen on current trends, this could be a potential long-term problem should social media eventually fizzle. As stated in the report, “an organization can exercise greater control over the user-experience on its own website than it can on a social network” (p. 6). This is especially considering that their website is seen as more credible than other social media means (blogs, social networking sites, etc.) (p. 7). However, larger companies are managing their sites’ content more actively than small or medium-sized companies (p. 7).
Interestingly, but not necessarily surprisingly, Public Relations “leads marketing in the management of all social media communications channels…marketing leads PR in managing only email marketing and SEO” (p. 8). Employers transfer this into future opportunities, too, naming media relations, social networking, and blogging, podcasting, or RSS higher than email marketing, SEO, or web content management, as areas of knowledge their potential job candidates should have. This makes social media almost as important as traditional media relations skills for PR job-seekers to understand (p. 9). In fact, 26% of the organizations are interested in hiring a social media specialist (p. 9).
Most interestingly, it is concluded that organizations are absolutely serious about having an up-and-running social media campaign, in most cases more than traditional media relations (p. 12). “Rather than focus on attracting or pulling visitors to their website by publishing high quality content…organizations appear to be more interested with pushing out messages to their ‘friends’ through social media…” (p. 12).
How vs. Why
Businesses can promote their products through sales and coupons, can speak freely and casually about their involvement in events and other non-product or service related content, or can simply make small talk. Combinations of any or all of the above can allow for a strategic marketing campaign if done well. The problem is this: if you do not know why you are posting what you are posting, it is certain that you will not get the most out of the campaign. It sounds simple, but it is easy to get wrapped up in the immediacy and impromptu ways that define social media.
The ever-changing and constantly updating means of social media communication often leave business owners asking “how?” Understandably, knowing how is crucial to making your campaign work. (If you do not know how to create a Facebook application or generate content on your blog, you will not have a campaign.) More and more businesses are hiring employees specifically to run their social media campaigns, and it is a worthy cause if plausible.
Once the “how” is managed, all efforts must be put into the “why” before they start posting. By figuring out what the business wants to get out of the campaign, it will be much easier to focus in on a strategy and more importantly, make it work. It is imperative to have a goal because the return on investment must be tracked. There is a lot of hype about how companies can track ROI; understandably so (Dumenco, S., 2010; Orangecaster.com, 2009). If employees are paid to generate content and reach out to potential buyers or clients, then knowing if it is worth it is crucial, as it is in any campaign.
To find the “why”, businesses must consider which of those five uses, branding, e-Commerce; research, customer retention, or lead generation, they want to focus on and stick to. It is possible that a combination of these tactics may strengthen a social media strategy by creating triangulation; but the goal and main purpose must first be established so that the rest of the content will easily fall into place.
By examining the specific use of each of these tactics, light is shed upon the importance of choosing the correct “why” and how to maximize the benefits of an online, social media presence.
124 years in business, supplied in over 200 countries, 92,800 worldwide employees, 48 consecutive years with increased dividends, and 1.6 billion servings per day, are statistics that say just a little bit about how well The Coca Cola Company has run its business (The Coca Cola Company, 2010). Since its mediocre start in 1886 in Atlanta (The Coca Cola Company, 2006), The Coca Cola Company has grown into a household name, representing more than just a soda – it is truly an American icon.
In fact, Coca Cola has been name number one for years on the worldwide top 100 brands scoreboards of BusinessWeek, Interbrand, Chicago Tribune – edging out IBM, Microsoft, GE, McDonalds, and even Google (note that they are one of the only non-techie brands) (Businessweek, 2010; Interbrand, 2010; Chicago Tribune, 2010). How do they continue decade after decade to put up the numbers? One of the reasons is because they have always had a solid marketing plan.
In 1904, Coca Cola hired Music Hall performer Hilda Clark to appear in their advertisements, noting the power of association – in this case, fame. In 1916, Coca Cola introduces its infamous contour bottle to the public to distinguish itself from competitors. By their 50th anniversary, they introduced the six-pack, had been displayed on billboards, had been to the Olympics, and had sold their product in vending machines. (The soda didn’t make it to space until 1985.)
From there, the newly dubbed ‘Coke’, been on a trail to the top with slogans such as, “Have a Coke”, “Just for the taste of it”, “Always cool”, and of course, “Always Coca Cola”. Their simple and classic white and red colors and lighthearted taglines put them on a worldwide platform of branding success. Coca Cola is now everywhere, for everyone.
Clearly, if this innovative company does anything right, it’s branding. They reflect the campaign that they have run since day one of business, a simple and happy message, throughout their social media. Their Facebook page is a perfect example of how Coca Cola so simply, yet meticulously, carries their message of joy; spreading smiles and sharing laughter to millions daily. (Coca Cola had 22,977,491 fans on March 12, 2011 and 23,011,419 on March 13; gaining and growing their fan base and audience by just a few clicks of the mouse.)
The first branding point worth mentioning is their profile picture choice. Coca Cola only uses photos of their bottle or can – that classic red on stark white leaves nothing to the imagination. They have created such a recognizable image that they do not have to incorporate bells and whistles through a dramatic design.
The rest of their photos display images of their worldwide capitalism (image 1), unique history (image 2), and of course, smiling faces (image 3). The rest of their 12,223 and counting photos are those that have been posted by their millions of fans. A hamburger, a Coca Cola 16-wheeler, a baby, cartoons – all mostly in the frame with some form of the soda. This open forum style creates an eclectic showroom of an international Cola fanbase. But with freedom comes risk. Inappropriate and non-pertinent photos intersperse the anthology of images.
Arises the importance of filters and privacy settings. Without venturing into the “how”, it is important that this feature be addressed. Any business using Facebook must relentlessly monitor their page so that spam does not inhabit the wall. Facebook provides an array of settings so that anyone can tailor the security to their needs. One way to do this is to set up an alert, via email, each time a fan posts on the wall. The problem? Coca Cola has got more than a handful of fans; and with thousands of comments per post, there is quite a lot of monitoring to be done. No matter the size of the business, the most unprofessional and detrimental action, or lack there of, that can be made is inconsistent posting and monitoring of the page. For Facebook junkies and the casual user alike, an accidental slip tarnishes a solid reputation immediately. The good news is that this happens to everyone; just be sure to rectify the situation appropriately and quickly.
What businesses can control is their own posting. In branding, this can be tricky. Speak about the business without speaking about the business is tough, but yields unforgettable results, as any great advertisement does. Coca Cola has a not-so-secret weapon in their campaigns which they use in everything they do: emotion.
In 2007, a group of researchers from Germany and Switzerland set out to study the early cortical responses to emotional words during reading (Kissler, J., Herbert, C., Peyk, P., Junghofer, M., 2007). The significance being that if enhanced processing occurs when reading emotional words, as opposed to neutral words, a physiological impact will result. To determine this, electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes were attached to subjects who were instructed to read 10 runs of words presented in two blocks (fast, 333 ms per word, and slow, 1,000 ms per word). Each sequence contained 180 words, 60 of which were high-arousal and 60 of which were neutral. And what they found is that arousal levels for ‘pleasant’ and unpleasant’ words were significantly higher than arousal levels for neutral words (Kissler, J., et al., 2007). It sounds like common sense but in actuality, this is phenomenal. The simple act of reading an emotional word prompts a physical response.
With this in mind, consider Coca Cola’s word choice: harmony, thirsty, inspired, dream, opportunity, sharing, etc. They are advertising happiness, not just soda. They do not need to post coupons and discounts and sales (probably because they do not have them), if anything they might post a special; instead Coca Cola uses Facebook for its viral quality, infecting fans one by one with nostalgia and smiles.
So how do they do it? To popularize your business without offers, discounts, or sales, one must refer to the most important quality a good brand has: emotion. Coca Cola stirs emotion by relating their product with the feeling of happiness. Everyone knows what Coca Cola tastes like, knows what it costs, knows where to buy it; and informative approach would not go far for their Facebook page. Instead, they evoke an emotion that encourages feedback and interaction.
To do this, Coca Cola creates concise, catchy, and thoughtful posts:
“Laughing exercises your muscles. Buy some Coke, grab some friends, and have a group work out.”
“Happiness sneaks up on you in the darndest of places.”
“Drink. Savor. Smile. Repeat.”
These posts reflect the pages Coca Cola has created on their page which link to pages they have created on their website. For example, they provide a “Smiliezer” page, which refers the fan to a link they have created outside Facebook (smileizer.mycoke.com/global.jsp). Roll the mouse over bubbles to hear the sound of people laughing. Want to create a bubble? There is a mic on the page to click and record one’s own name and laughter. Talk about innovative branding.
In addition, they intrigue and practically beg their fans to respond to their posts. Thousands of fans comment on their open-ended questions that Coca Cola posts so frequently:
“Coca-Cola Question: Straw or no straw?”
“Drinking a Coke makes me happiest A) at a sporting event B) at an amusement park C) with a meal D) Watching a Movie or E) ______________________”
“What’s your best memory of drinking a Coke?”
On these three posts alone, 19,741 fans “liked” them and 18,504 fans “commented” (remember the monitoring issues mentioned earlier). When Coca Cola asks a question, fans listen and answer. Coca Cola also prompts this by doing a number of things to keep it colloquial. They rarely go by ‘Coca Cola’, instead using their friendly nickname, ‘Coke’. By incorporating a the quality of a human voice, Coca Cola no longer acts as a company, rather, a friend.
The interaction generated by Coca Cola’s near daily wall posts entertains and intrigues their fans, encouraging them to come back for more.
One way Coca Cola keeps their posts fresh and inviting is by including photos, links, and videos:
“Every day can be Valentine’s Day.”
“How does a Grammy-winning band write a new song? Hmm. That’s a tough one. Hint: You can find out when you help Maroon 5 write a song in just 24 hours on March 22nd. http://CokeURL.com/7w8u”
“Fill in the blank: I want the Happiness Truck to come to my town because ___________.”
These additional forms of communication stimulate fans in other ways, keeping them intrigued and coming back for more.
So, what is the point? After sifting through and analyzing these simple and somewhat menial posts, the question arises: why? Coca Cola’s “why” is image. And why would it not be? As previously discussed, this is what they have been doing since Day One. Social media, namely Facebook, works perfectly for Coca Cola because of its friendly and interactive nature. Facebook is an open forum, a virtual face-to-face get-together, for Coca Cola and its people. They are able to live up to their name on a practically zero-dollar budget by bringing smiles to millions of people across the world. Facebook is an unbelievable opportunity for Coca Cola to shine, doing what they have always done best; branding.
In 1994, Netscape’s Navigator browser debuted on the WorldWideWeb, introducing a protocol and encryption that would forever change the way the internet was used: a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) (instantshift.com, 2011). This layer of protection (also known today as a Transport Layer Security, or TLS) provided a way for transmitting private documents securely over the web by encrypting the data (webopedia.com, 2011). The internet now had the capability for e-mail, faxing, and instant messaging; hence the era of online shopping begins.
Amazon.com opened its online doors in 1995, the same year that eBay started its international auction. A revolution in transaction had begun. By 2002, eBay acquired Paypal; and by 2003, Amazon.com posted a yearly profit of $35.3 million US dollars, growing exponentially to $588.5 in 2004 (instantshift.com, 2011; askville.com, 2009). United States e-commerce sales had reached $204 billion by 2008, partially attributed to Amazon.com’s estimated daily turnover of over $2.5 trillion US dollars.
Being a forward-thinking, profit-making company, Amazon.com jumped on Facebook in March 2008. Their first post? “What’s Your Favorite Ballpark Food? Baseball season is starting up and Amazon’s Al Dente food blog is asking for your opinion…” One person “liked” this post. Their next five posts continued to comment on similarly non-relevant, non-intriguing topics; all with one “like” by the same Facebook profile. Finally, a pertinent Amazon link appears on April 8, 2008; but still the same monotonous posts appear all the way through September 2, 2008 when finally Amazon picks up a lousy six “likes” and four comments. Hey Amazon, anyone thinking that this might not be for you?
Coca Cola can post one-liners, links, and ideas. Amazon cannot. Why? Coca Cola knew that they should continue their branding on a social forum; Amazon had no idea how to do utilize, let alone capitalize, on social media. Finally, in 2010, it strikes them: sell the product. Their post, “Save on Green Solutions to make every day Earth Day on Amazon.com,” was followed by a link which directs the Facebook user to a page on their website which sold Earth Day related gear. A mere, yet substantially larger number of 31 people “liked” it, and 27 people commented.
Finally, an a-ha moment thrusts Amazon into an awakening. From the date of that post, April 12, 2010, onwards, it is hard to find another branding-type post by Amazon. They all began to target what they had always done best: e-commerce.
“You could win $10,000 with your next Amazon Wish List purchase, courtesy of MasterCard. Go to http://amzn.to/PricelessWishes to read the Official Rules.” (July 9, 2010: 50 likes, 21 comments.)
“Deal of the Day: Nautilus T514 Treadmill – $699.00 while supplies last amazon.com/goldbox” (August 7, 2010: 13 likes, 29 comments.)
“The first season of AMC’s The Walking Dead is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Do you like horror or would AMC’s Mad Men be more your style?” (March 8, 2011: 400 likes, 74 comments.)
Amazon exhibits an evolution in complexity of their posts as they build on their e-commerce, advertising style. On July 9, 2010, Amazon simply spreads the news about an e-contest they ran with MasterCard. Similarly, on August 7, 2010, they advertise a specific promotion but this time they provide a detailed description of the product and photo of it (not shown above). This targets and prompts specific users to interact with the post publicly.
Finally, on March 8, 2011, Amazon does something great. The inform their audience by letting them know that a product is available in two different, technological forms; this approach of sharing information rather than strictly selling the product, entices fans to comment and interact. Then Amazon adds a question of preference, opening the floor for discussion of identity while simultaneously getting information about their customers. Now that the fan has virtually interacted with the product, they are one mental step closer to purchasing it, which, Amazon readily provides a link for them to do so.
But, Amazon is not on Facebook to make friends and strike up conversation (they have a mere 631,149 fans in comparison to Coca Cola’s millions); they are online to sell. In addition to providing a link to their website for nearly every post on their wall, Amazon took the additional step of setting up an AmazonDeals tab. Basically, they have provided another page on their profile that hosts an ongoing feed of “Lightning Deals” and “Deal of the Days”, popping up every 2 – 24 hours.
For those specifically looking for the best deal on Amazon, this Facebook-exclusive access provides a means to shop instantaneously while hanging out in the social forum.
Amazon is one of many e-commerce Facebook sites, and they have not even tapped into all of the available means. 1-800-Flowers.com has an extensive shopping application on their Facebook page.
On 1-800-Flowers.com’s wall, the typical and standard informational posts are listed daily, accumulating likes and comments hourly. Again, like Amazon, these numbers are nowhere near the high-ranking fandom of Coca Cola’s page. However, 1-800-Flowers.com is aware that this is not their purpose. They want to capture buyers in a social forum. Provided on their Facebook is a page called “Shop”. By clicking the tab, the fan is redirected to a page similar to their own domain.
Fans can search, select, and purchase products directly from this page.
This service brings up an important question: why would businesses make the effort of setting up Facebook storefronts, investing time and money, when they already have a full-service website to do it for them? There are a few reasons.
First, as previously discussed, if a business is not on Facebook, they appear to be social-media-ignorant, behind in technology, and unaware. What these online companies have done is taken social media to the next level of advertising. As seen with Amazon, branding is not the only way to capture their audience, in fact, it is the least effective way. They couple their branding with their purpose of online shopping. They are true to their intentions, and this transparency is admirable to their fans.
Second, businesses are able to reach a new audience through social media. Because of its viral nature, friends discuss purchases with friends, share online shopping tips, post deals to their walls, etc., and the word is spread for the business by its Facebook consumers. While many people are already aware of the presence of companies like Amazon and 1-800-Flowers, the added exposure never hurts.
Third, friends listen to friends. Online product review is immensely popular because online buyers believe what other buyers say about products. What was the purchasing experience? How is the product quality? What was the customer service like? Full websites such as Consumersearch.com, Epinions.com, CNET.com, and Mediapost.com are dedicated to just this. But even more appealing than a stranger’s opinion is your friend’s word.
Fourth, e-commerce provides a direct means to tracking social media ROI; a plain and simple justification for any company in determining their social media presence and worth.
Businesses large and small can use all forms of e-commerce, too. While 1-800-Flowers has the means to create an additional purchasing page on Facebook, other small-business owners can post special deals, coupons, and Groupon-like offers directly on their wall. In a study by MerchantCircle.com which surveyed a portion of their 1.3 million members, small business owners are “accelerating their use of social media at the expense of traditional media such as newspapers, the Yellow Pages and radio,” (Swartz, J., 2011). This includes the use of Facebook, Twitter, and e-commerce software, increasing their sales in the $1,000’s per moth.
E-commerce provides businesses of all sizes with the means to tap into new audiences, gain credibility through reviews, and most importantly, sell their services and products. Because of the range of use, businesses should first determine if they can implement e-commerce effectively and with purpose. If there is an avenue, e-commerce can have a great influence over a business’s overall sales, contributing to their growth and success as an established business.
A strategic budgeting plan is everything to a profitable business. For marketers, a keen knowledge of trends and economic status is crucial to delegating funds to the right markets. With the ongoing economic struggle in the US, marketing has undoubtedly had to investigate new realms of reaching elastic markets; which, directly relates to the pursuit of and investment in social media marketing – it is cheap.
But social media is one avenue of where business are targeting customers. The next question is who are businesses going after?
In 2008, a study on the marketing goals of US businesses determined that “58.2% of US marketers considered acquiring new customers…their most important marketing objective” (emarketer, 2009). In 2009, B2B companies focused 62.2% of their strategy on acquiring new customers. What about customer retention? Only 20.6% of businesses were focused on retention and branding was left to the wayside at 12.4% (emarketer, 2009).
Has Vilfredo Pareto’s law gone extinct? If 20% of the customers account for 80% of the sales volume, customer retention seems to have merit. Despite that recent study’s findings, it appears as though a trend of focusing on relationship management and relationship marketing has increased over the past decade, at least overseas (Njenga, K. 2010). But what about in the US? That core group of customers, “who are loyal…who continue to do business with you whether or not your offer the best, lowest price or fastest delivery of your product/service” (Foster, S. 2010), is key to business survival, let alone growth, during an economic downturn.
The internet, and more specifically social media, allow businesses to run a low-cost campaign focused strictly on relationship management. Innovative and fast-paced, the shift to consumer-based relationships online has some companies stumbling to catch up. If they can keep up with the changing consumer behavior, driven by technology and media evolution (Walters, J., 2009), businesses have a chance to not only revive their relationship management focus, but also capitalize on it.
This is especially important for the businesses that rely heavily on retention rates. In 2008, the auto industry had an average of 48% retention (Mercedes-Benz was at 67% in 2010) (Box, T., 2010). Another tough market for retention is health and fitness – gyms. According to TechnoGym, a leading international wellness company, “only 50% of sports and fitness facilities achieve a customer retention rate of 60% or more” (technogym, 2011). For health clubs, retention is key because the 85% of the population who are not members of a health club are inelastic. Holding onto that 15% can make or break any gym; and if they can hold on to them, they will drive in new traffic via testimonials and referrals. This applies to gyms small and large because it comes down to customer services when discussing customer retention.
GoodLife Fitness has 275 clubs across Canada, over 750,000 members (that is 1 in every 45 Canadians), and is the winner for six consecutive years of Canada’s 50 Best Managed companies (GoodLife, 2011). Clearly, they are doing something right. Their Facebook page shows insight into why.
GoodLife Fitness hopped on Facebook on April 28, 2010. Since that time, they have posted an article, event, comment, link, photo, or piece of advice nearly every day. More impressive than that is the amount that their members post on their wall. Of recent posts, members have written, “are there any Goodlife’s in Quebec City?? Please say yes, just found out I’m moving there in a month for 5 weeks and I CANNOOOTT [sic] miss my everyday trip to the gym”, “I workout at the Goodlife @ Strandherd Crossing in Barrhaven, Ottowa. I am always welcomed by a smiling face behind the counter when I arrive…”, “Tried the Goodlife here in Timmins last night for the first time and feel in love proboly [sic] within 2 minutes of being there…”.
To top it off, GoodLife Fitness responded to each and every one of those wall posts plus many more; it is not uncommon for them, as the majority of customer posts have some response from GoodLife listed as a comment within 24 hours of the original post. The content ranges from a simple “thank you”, to a more extensive back and forth conversation to resolve a question or problem. In fact, it is the response to complaints that GoodLife capitalizes on.
Instead of deleting negative comments, or worse, ignoring them, GoodLife publicly and quickly addresses questions about their facilities, equipment, hours, staff, and more. Most impressively, they usually get to a point of resolution. In the case of Sarah Wilson’s parking issue, the stream of comments even ended with Sarah “liking” the conversation.
What this does for GoodLife Fitness is enhance and strengthen their credibility and dependability as a business, and as peoples’ people. Online reviews, whether they been authentic, fake, or sabotage, are believable and extremely influential to the consumer market. Usually, online reviews are found in open review forums (like those mentioned in the discussion on Amazon.com and e-Commerce). However, if reviews are stated on Facebook, they are automatically tossed into an ongoing live “News Feed” monitored by each one of the commenter’s friends; and in addition to that feed, the comment is also strewn across the feeds of all of the host’s wall (in this case, GoodLife’s 15,800+ fans). That is a lot of eyes absorbing one comment, true or false.
Technically, GoodLife fitness could alert a staff member to search the name in their database, locate the member, call or e-mail them, and address the question privately. Instead, they choose to capitalize on the open forum and resolve the problem instantaneously in real-time. Now, the entire fanbase has an answer to a question and will most likely tip their hat to GoodLife for their friendliness and professionalism. Done in good taste and with a timely reaction, open forum discussions can heighten in intimacy a customer feels with their brand and company. Intimacy leads to loyalty, and loyalty keeps customers coming back for more.
In addition to their triumph of personal interaction, GoodLife also creates credibility by including a “Success Stories” page on their profile. Testimonials for any industry are captivating and motivating for consumers and prospects alike. They work two-fold. In GoodLife’s case, they attract both members and non-members by highlighting and praising the success of one of their own, drawing attention and personalizing their members while also persuading non-members by providing true, quality success stories. It reinforces the decision that the member has made, making them feel like they have made the right choice in health club by joining one that can help others achieve goals. In another way, GoodLife has also given that specific member a moment of heroism. That person now has the power to discuss with others their story, perpetuating the testimonial and inspirational journey.
Seen above, Mary’s story of triumph over disease, weight-loss, and energy-gain would strike a chord with any survivor, mother, woman, etc. GoodLife humanizes their brand while simultaneously enhancing their credibility. By putting a face to the business, the brand becomes more approachable and credible because it is as if the customer is actually interacting with a person, not a money-taking business. Testimonials create this sense for companies.
Customer retention focus saves businesses advertising money, gains the trust and loyalty of the customers, and adds to a businesses’ bottom line. A good customer retention focus, a true relationship marketing campaign, can actually help a business gain new customers too, through the power of referral. Facebook provides businesses with a forum to establish credibility and relationships, humanize their brand, and initiate referrals. For a business that relies on retention, Facebook is the perfect low-cost addition to a marketing campaign.
Research & Lead Generation
Facebook, as seen from a branding, e-commerce, and customer retention perspective, can be a great tool for engaging with the consumer. For some businesses though, there are other uses which companies can benefit from in terms of internal growth. Market research provides current consumer insight and lead generation provides businesses with prospective consumer interest. While Facebook is not a conventional, or in some cases the best, method of conducting research or gaining leads, it is an avenue worth noting if only for its exponentially growing consumer reach and overall potential.
Almost as quickly as social media took off, independent social media tracking companies and online sites developed to help businesses make sense out of the conglomerate of posts, tweets, and reviews. Google Alerts (sends alerts via email when pages based on your keywords are indexed), Whos Talking (searches through both blogs and other social media sites for keywords), Social Mention (searches through social media sites and provides statistics on the strength, sentiment, passion, and reach of your keyword), are amongst an ongoing list of these keyword-seeking social media search engines (bizthoughts.org, 2011). While these engines can provide great insight to what people are saying about your business out the in webosphere, the amount of information can be daunting.
In certain cases, Facebook and other social media sites themselves can provide market information just as valuable or more so than the accumulation and analyzing of hundreds if not thousands of pieces of keywords. If you are not solely interested in tallying up keywords, Facebook allows you to capture snippets of feelings and emotions by the nature of its very being. One of the most popular methods of studying the feelings of consumers is through survey.
Facebook applications, in particular their Poll application, are an easy and free to use. Red Bull, Dunkin Donuts, ABC Family, and other large companies have all used polls to casually research their market through Facebook Poll.
Red Bull has asked a mix of questions, adding a twist of humor to each one. Their marketing is primarily humor based, yet they have a great amount of celebrity athlete endorsements. In this case, Red Bull seeks the, “favorite use of Red Bull Energy Shot,” but because it is not an open-ended question and they have provided the answers, Red Bull will be able to draw some conclusions from the percentage breakdown of those who chose “adding more friends” and the first two options. The “swimming” option might have relation to a recent commercial, endorsement, or advertisement that was relevant to swimming, in which case there could be an interesting spike in data if the response was well-taken. Or, Red Bull’s previous research may have noted that their energy shots are popular with swimmers, validating it as a separate response option.
Dunkin’ Donuts uses their Poll in this case in a straightforward manner. Clearly, they are looking to see what their market prefers to drink as the weather warms up. The data the receive could contribute to where they put not only their advertising dollars, but also what they expand on, eliminate, or produce in their stores. While the question itself is somewhat black and white, Dunkin’ is smart enough to keep it colloquial. They know that they are asking for a favor of their fans by asking them to participate in their poll; but more importantly, they know that Facebook is a social network, one of unscripted and impromptu exchanges. To get survey data, they keep in mind the context under which they are asking for the information.
ABC Family also uses Facebook Poll to elicit market information. They, however, opt for a different approach than either Red Bull or Dunkin’ Donuts. Instead of asking their fans about their product directly, they ask a specific question about a specific show; in this case, Mean Girls. This works in a few ways for ABC Family. By asking such a specific question in that social tone, it truly acts as an interaction between the fan and ABC Family, rather than just a survey question. The amount of the response will give a clear figure of how many of their fans watch, appreciate, or know of the show to a relatively in-depth degree. Also, they’ll be able to pull the demographic from who answered the question, giving insight into who knows about the show.
Polls are just one way that business can conduct informal research about their fans and market. If done well, a business can attain a large response (as in ABC Family’s case, where nearly one-fourth of their fans participated). Most importantly, the information obtained can actually be useful in gaining a glimpse into the consumer’s preferences, opinions, and mindset.
Put simply, companies need new business to grow. Facebook, for all of the reasons and points mentioned above, can be an amazing tool for generating new leads and new business. Facebook, as a social forum used to engage customers, works well; but it can also gain the attention of new, potential customers, too. Facebook advertisements are an obvious choice for targeting potential clients. However, Facebook ads only drive potentials to the businesses Facebook page, not their own website. The most proactive way to use Facebook, in any form, not just lead generation, is to use it to drive traffic to your website. Driving traffic means boosting Google rankings, increasing awareness about the product or service, and putting the potential customer directly within the realm of the business – not just Facebook.
Lead generation is a complicated and difficult task. Facebook is just one more tool that companies can use to increase lead generation. However, it is not the primary reason that companies should use it, rather, it should be coupled with one of the previously mentioned points: branding, customer retention, or e-commerce. That goes for research as well. What must be remembered is what Facebook is: a social media site. Lead generation is not strong enough on its own to host and maintain a site, a business first needs current friends, business partners, etc. to successfully launch a fan page. They must first be social with their current group, as social media is somewhat intimate (compared to traditional advertising methods). That being said, if a business can capitalize on one of these methods and integrate lead generation techniques such as traffic driving links, videos, photos, and the like, they will have the most success because it will be more authentic and sincere to their product or service.
There are many ways and combinations of methods that businesses can use Facebook. Choosing the right method will have a major impact on the success and ROI of the page. Social media is free, relatively easy, and even fun; but it is important to constantly refer to the business’ goal with it. While it may not cost anything to host the page, it does cost time and analytical thinking, and all good businesses know that time is money. So, why should businesses use Facebook? Because it is powerful. How should businesses use Facebook? That is for the company to determine based on their intentions and characteristics.
In preparation for the future, businesses should consider mobile marketing and group buying. After witnessing the exponential growth of Facebook and the prevalence of mobile devices, it is clear that mobile marketing is the way of the future. Looking at Facebook alone, over 250 million people visit the site monthly on their cell phones, those people who check it on their phones use Facebook twice as often, and over 200 million operators are working to promote Facebook mobile products (Facebook.com, 2011). Social media itself is important, but how consumers are accessing it is just as important. Looking to the future, mobile marketing is a frontrunner for potential.
Group buying is also making headway. Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, and Woot.com are just a few of many growing group buying websites. Businesses offer price cuts and deals for a period of 24 to 48 hours of time on the group buying site, and once a certain number of people tap in on the deal, they all receive the discount. Businesses can generate new business this way, or initiate their own internal group buying system. It is social, catchy, and fun to experience.
Facebook has made a major impact on how people communicate. No matter the method or goal, businesses owe the innovation and success of Facebook, as well as other social media, serious consideration for their sustenance and growth.
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