3 Social Media Lessons You Can Learn From a Box of Beauty Samples

3 Social Media Lessons You Can Learn From a Box of Beauty Samples

(Originally posted in Memeburn)

What do Birchbox and Adidas have in common? One is a rugged sports icon, and the other is a wildly successful “stuff in a box” beauty subscription service, but both companies have impressive histories.

Birchbox raised US$72-million in funding in just four years and grew its subscriber base to more than 400 000, while Adidas has pulled in an excess of €10-billion for the past four years straight.

But that isn’t all. These brands boast impressive social media followings, and it’s not because they’re incredibly active (though they are); it’s that they understand the power of becoming ingrained in their audience’s lives rather than being just another company.

Birchbox boasts impressive Social Media Marketing techniques.

Whether you’re an established brand or an up-and-comer, you can learn from these social icons. Here are three powerful lessons from Birchbox and Adidas that can help you build a genuine relationship with your customers:

1. Target the right people with audience segmentation

The first step in developing a solid brand identity is to identify unique traits and characteristics of your target personas. Adidas nails this tactic by focusing on its rugged young male market and spending US$25-50 million per year sponsoring FIFA and the FIFA World Cup.

Audience segmentation is critical for connecting with your followers, and fortunately, social media analytics streamline this process. You can discover what makes your customers different from one another and what interests them, and then use those insights to identify topics that will capture their attention.

2. Aim for conversations, not conversions

Once you’ve identified and segmented your target audience, you can focus on the meat of your social media presence: becoming a part of that audience’s conversations.

Just take a look at Birchbox’s Twitter feed. Its tweets ask customers for their opinions, express enthusiasm over a fashion or makeup trend, or simply work to build a positive, happy vibe. Customers can smell a direct sale on social media from a mile away, so your content must be interesting and engaging on its own.

Because each social platform has something different to offer, you should customize your content for each platform. For example, Instagram is good for visual stimulation and teens, Facebook is getting much more popular with parents, and Twitter highlights current news and trends. Realise that your brand might fit into different social sites at different times, and find your perfect niche.

If you’re at a loss for how to start a conversation, look to your calendar and top trending lists. Identify topics that are relevant to your various audience segments and jump on them. Then, consider what’s going to happen in the future so you can start planning content around those events, such as graduation, back-to-school shopping, seasonal sports, and popular concerts.

3. Use the right tools to maintain authenticity

Successful social media marketing requires a steady commitment over a long period of time. Just look at Birchbox’s 50,000 tweets since 2010 and Adidas’ twice-daily Facebook updates.

But producing a high quantity of high-quality engagements requires backup. Here are three tools that can help you encourage authentic conversations:

  • Monitoring tools, such as Hootsuite, can help you follow the conversations going on throughout all of your social networks to identify the most relevant content themes to your audience.
  • Hashtag reporting tools, such as Keyhole, show the most popular trending hashtags, which can give you an idea of what people are currently discussing online.
  • Content creation tools, such as Easel.ly, allow you to create visually appealing infographics with limited design experience. Graphics are a great way to convey information on topics that excite your audience, and they work well across several social sites.

Far too often, marketers try to replicate the social success of companies like Adidas and Birchbox by launching their platforms and plugging their old promotions into their Hootsuite scheduler. But that’s not how effective brands build a dedicated following.

Direct marketing simply doesn’t work in the world of social media. You’ve got to focus on the conversations, not the conversions, and become a genuine, useful, and personable force in your customers’ lives.

What’s your brand doing to make real connections with your audience?

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, June 9

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, June 9

Women are taking over the social universe (and perhaps the stadium stands!) during the World Cup, according to our social analysis for the opening week of June 9.  What’s been a constant ‘Rugged Male’-dominated audience for @FIFAWorldCup the last couple of months, has now switched genders, with the women coming out ahead based on social engagement.  Were World Cup Marketers in tune with the fact that females would enjoy futball as much as their male counterparts?

World Cup Official Sponsor Coke seems to be in the know.  After several misses over the last few months in regards to which Personas they were attracting on social media, they’ve now hit a bulls-eye, with 25% of their social engagement coming from ‘Rugged Females’ (matching @FIFAWorldCup ‘Most Engaged Persona’ this week).

FIFA-Infographic_June9

Week Highlights: Women Rule the World (Cup)!

Coke’s engagement shot up during the opening games of World Cup as expected for all Official Sponsors.  Great news  for them!  But even better news is that it appears they caught the eyes of the same ‘Rugged Females’ whose eyes were glued to the matches.   It was obvious that Coke not only pushed their digital campaign last week, but did it in a way that resonated with these passionate women.   Was it luck?  Perhaps.  What’s clear is that, as Coke has stated, they’re “taking a Marketing leap and trying something innovative” through their digital campaigns.

In fact, Coke created 2 in-house teams prior to the World Cup, designed to bring their real-time digital campaigns to life.   World Cup 2014 stands as Coke’s largest collaborative approach to real-time digital to date- and that’s no small feat!

Kudos to them for deciding to take this jump during one of social media and digital’s most popular events worldwide.  To stay ahead of the game, Coke needs to rely less on ‘experimental approaches’, and more on FIFA audience analysis and segmentation to really discover what type of content is most valuable to soccer-enthusiasts.

Of Interest: Pepsi Falls Flat on Social, but Scores Big as a ‘Sponsor’

Pepsi didn’t fare as well as Coke in regards to engagement during the first few matches.  Although they pulled a hair of engagement from the most engaged FIFA personality (Rugged), both Sophisticated Males and Females were almost even in the rankings.  Which means Pepsi is missing the boat with the actively engaged and super passionate World Cup audience of Rugged Males and Females.

On a more positive note, non-sponsor Pepsi apparently scored the highest awareness as a World Cup ‘sponsor’ among US consumers- meaning that although they didn’t pay the high bucks to sponsor the actual tournament, there are still several consumers who believe they’re an official sponsor.  Pepsi has a real chance to use this ‘notoriety’ to their advantage, and pull more engagement on social through the coming weeks.

3 Differences Between NHL and NBA Audiences: A Game of Marketing Strategy

3 Differences Between NHL and NBA Audiences: A Game of Marketing Strategy

(Originally posted in Business2Community)

Much like hockey, marketing is a fast-moving game of strategy.

If you don’t know much about hockey, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the Wayne Gretzky expression “Skate where the puck’s going.”

Much like hockey, marketing is a fast-moving game of strategy. The winning team must have a well-researched plan of action but also be ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

What will you do when the puck skims toward your feet as you face the net? Ideally, you’ll act decisively and expertly thread the puck where the goalie has the smallest chance of blocking it. But in both marketing and hockey, this is only achievable when you know your target inside and out.

Brands looking to reach the young male demographic might think they can approach the Stanley Cup market the way they would approach the Super Bowl or the World Cup and be successful. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The differences between the NHL, NFL, NBA, and FIFA soccer audiences are subtle, but by paying close attention to them, you can create a much more successful marketing campaign. The most effective brands will reach the Stanley Cup audience through its unique interests and preferred media outlets — not by using a blanket approach based on generalizations.

Unique Finds for Stanley Cup Finals Fans

Although the Stanley Cup ranks last in ad spending among the big five sporting events of the year, it still accounts for more than $100 million. And while this represents only one-tenth of the spend for the NBA Playoffs and the Super Bowl, it’s a great opportunity to capture a group of uncommonly avid fans by speaking to this target market’s unique customer personas. Here are three important characteristics of the Stanley Cup Finals fans that marketers can use to inform their unique marketing approach:

1. They’re a Homogeneous Group

According to our data, the NHL’s lead persona engaging on Twitter is wholesome single males, 25 to 34 years old.

Using this information, content creators can craft marketing materials that speak to this brand personality’s desire for simple, emotional engagement rather than the Super Bowl’s tradition of funny, sarcastic commercials.

For example, the ads that engage NBA fans with ambiguity, clever snarkiness, and double entendres won’t resonate with the wholesome persona. The best strategy for this persona is to tug at the heartstrings with emotional videos of NHL season wins or losses or inflame their passion with the best punches thrown or chanting fans.

2. They’re Under-engaged Swing Voters

The NHL’s second most engaged persona is the young, daring male who falls into a precious under-engaged marketing demographic. These under-engaged males act as “swing voters” who have no problem shifting between brands and preferences. They’ve dipped their toes in the engagement pool more than a few times, but they’re not do-or-die brand advocates, making them prime targets for truly exceptional marketing campaigns.

This under-engaged persona is slightly younger than the NHL’s lead persona, and it responds to trendy, up-to-date imagery and copy — especially when it’s placed in media outlets with high concentrations of similar personas.

Here’s where NBA personas might lead you astray: Wholesome fans’ chief blog is Mother Jones, but Mother Jones doesn’t even make the top 50 websites or publishers for most unique among NBA fans.

So why spend money on Bleacher Report — which is heavily saturated with NBA and NHL fans — when you could get a better return on investment with NHL-heavy Mother Jones? Go for the most unique blog for NHL fans (ranked No. 11), and speak directly to the fans who matter with a lower price tag.

3. They Listen to Unique Influencers

NHL has another big advantage over the NBA or NFL demographic: accessibility. Because hockey isn’t as mainstream as American football or basketball, there are many more unique and accessible influencers and blogs than there are for the NFL or NBA.

Here’s where it becomes crucial to depart from your customer research for other young male sport demographics: NBA personas are reversed from the NHL. Their most engaged fans are daring young men, and their under-engaged personas are wholesome young men.

If you want to cut through the NBA noise to get to your most engaged NHL fans, try influencers who have both a high concentration of your target persona and a low concentration of your competing personas.

In this case, the NHL’s top non-reporter unique influencer that’s low on the list for the NBA is Tina Stull. For the NBA, it’s Tony Dungy. The difference between the wholesome and daring personas is small but powerful.

Make the most of every unique audience that’s valuable to your brand. Don’t reuse your sports personas because of a few overlapping details, or you’ll risk alienating different engagers on those subtle distinguishing characteristics.

Prepare your marketing strategy with audience insights through research, compelling content, and strategic media placements so when that golden opportunity comes along, you have the confidence to react decisively and know where to catch that puck. Get it right, and those fans will defend your brand with the same kind of bare-knuckled enthusiasm they show their teams.

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

In our last ‘Who’s the Audience?’ post, we highlighted two brands, Adidas and Nike, that were hitting the @FIFAWorldCup ‘Rugged Male’ audience head on with their campaigns.

For the week of May 25, we looked at two beer brands- official beer sponsor Budweiser, and competitor Miller Lite, a brand that’s so far kept quiet during the World Cup buzz. Interestingly, both brands pulled much more engagement from ‘Reliable Females’ than from the ‘Rugged Male’ Persona that has dominated @FIFAWorldCup’s Twitter feed.

Infographic: Who's the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

Week Highlights: ‘Rise As One’ Times Two

For Budweiser, which launched their “Rise As One” World Cup campaign in late February (and probably thought about the details years in advance), there’s a very good reason for the big shift in engagement. After monitoring engagement with their campaign hashtag ‘Rise As One’ on Twitter, one of those ‘surprises’ that Marketers should keep an eye on during any social campaign began to surface. You can see from the highly shared tweet below where we’re headed:

San Antonio Stars share same 'Rise As One' hashtag as Budweiser's World Cup campaign.

It seems that the WNBA San Antonio Stars team has a similar ‘Rise As One’ tagline for their 2014 Season campaign. Since they played a game Wednesday May 28, engagement with that specific hashtag shot up on Twitter. Apparently, a lot of ‘Reliable Females’ enjoy the WNBA.

Why is this relevant? It’s something to pay attention to when pulling analytics about your audience during a campaign. Obviously, pulling information from the wrong audience can skew segmentation results. Had Budweiser optimized their running campaign to speak to ‘Reliable Females’, they probably wouldn’t have seen any improvement in engagement.

The point is: paying attention to ANY new trends or events on social and adjusting your campaign accordingly will help ensure your campaign is a success. Is Budweiser even aware that their main World Cup campaign hashtag is shared with another sporting event? That’s unclear. What is clear is that this mistake could fall in line with their notorious 2013 hashtag fail:

Budweiser's hashtag fail of 2013.

Of Interest: Which Light Beer Will Bite?

Rumor has it that Coors Light might be the ambush beer brand to watch for World Cup 2014, rather than Miller Lite. Although Miller Lite is pulling some soccer themed engagement, there’s not enough to dig in for segmentation purposes just yet. We’ll keep an eye on both beer brands starting next week. And if either are in fact planning an ambush campaign, here’s some great advice on how Marketers can stay within the rules of that game.

5 Ways to Take a Passionate Social Stand (To Benefit Your Brand)

5 Ways to Take a Passionate Social Stand (To Benefit Your Brand)

(Originally posted in OMI)

How much money would it take for you to post a comment about healthcare or the most recent presidential election on your company’s social media profiles?

The mere thought might make the hair on your neck stand up, but what if $3 billion was on the line?

It just might be.

Because fear of a media circus makes most brands back down, here’s some news you might have hoped to avoid hearing: your company needs to take a stand on controversial social issues to stay relevant to your target market.

Your company needs to take a stand on social issues.

If you do it right like Starbucks’ stand on same-sex marriage, you might be in the running to rack up a profit similar to its two-year revenue gains of 27 percent – a cool $3 billion.

Why Your Brand Should Be a Social Beacon 

The Internet is a well-known hotbed for enraged commentary, and you’re probably thinking just how much is at stake by associating your brand with a polarizing social issue. Simple gaffs often are skewed out of proportion, leading most brands to post innocuous tweets for fear of an epic public fail. But if you look closely, most of these monumental fails were completely inappropriate and piggybacked on tragedies like the Colorado movie theater shooting or Hurricane Sandy.

The truth is that your brand’s stance on controversial issues is important. Consumers make all kinds of inferences when discerning the personality of their favorite brands. When they can’t pin down that personality, especially on core emotional issues, they assume the worst: that your leadership is government-grade bureaucratic nonsense hamstrung by timid PR people and uncaring executives.

Don’t make consumers guess your personality. Instead, determine what your company’s stance is, and don’t look back.

Related Class: Branding 101: Defining Who You Are

How to Determine Your Message

The secret to taking a stand that benefits your brand is to invest thought and planning into your position and follow through wholeheartedly. Here’s what you need to know to take a stand on social media that will end with a flourish, not a fail:

  • Make sure your view conforms to your corporate culture.

If your corporate culture is built on your values, most of your employees will likely agree with you, and it won’t be a surprise to the media when you speak out.

Chick-fil-A is a well-known supporter of traditional biblical values. When its CEO came out strongly against same-sex marriage, it wasn’t shocking. Contrast this announcement with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s surprising stance against Planned Parenthood, which caused its contributions to plummet by 22 percent.

  • Consult first- and second-level segmentation reports.

It’s vital that you have a clear understanding of your brand fans’ values and attitudes toward issues, but you should also consider other closely engaged users in case they hold opposing views. Very large, established consumer brands, such as Coca-Cola or Cheerios, can often have a mishmash of far-right and far-left media and celebrities. In this situation, choosing one side over the other may irrevocably damage your brand.

  • Don’t be creative with marketing data hunches.

Although brilliant marketing is often about conforming data to your hunches, this isn’t one of those times. The emotions that drive social issues tend to obscure points of view. That premise should be your only experimental factor, so you need to move forward with a facts-only analysis.

  • Start slow.

Taking a stand on hot topics such as gay marriage, abortion, or healthcare requires confident leadership over time. When you choose an issue, warm up the media with small, slow tweaks that lead the way, such as Cheerios’ commercial from May 2013 that included a multiracial family, which led up to its 2014 Super Bowl commercial featuring the same family.

  • Don’t look back.

When you’ve asked your ardent fans to defend your point of view on social media platforms, you can’t go back on your stance without making them feel betrayed. Brands that reverse their opinion or back down, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s wobbly stance on funding Planned Parenthood, will enrage and embarrass loyalists and fuel the fervor of loudmouths on both sides of the issue.

Staying tight-lipped on controversial issues that are central to your brand’s fans is more than a missed opportunity; it’s a perplexing behavior that can make you seem cowardly.

Don’t be a chicken, but don’t be foolish, either. Use these tips to take a stance that will result in the passion, engagement, and loyalty of your die-hard fans.