Social Data Earns an A+ for Back-to-School Marketing

(Originally posted in LonelyBrand)

4 Ways Social Media Data Can Boost Your Back-to-School Marketing Campaigns

In 2013, analysts projected consumers would spend $72.5 billion on back-to-school gear. But before the number of chino sales gets you too excited, there’s another important trend you need to take into account: Consumers are spending less and shopping smarter.

In that same year, consumers planned to spend 8 percent less on school supplies, and 32 percent of parents said they would comparison shop online before making purchase decisions.

So companies looking to get a piece of this year’s back-to-school pie have to deploy every resource they have.

Fortunately, marketing teams have access to unprecedented amounts of data that can inform their back-to-school marketing campaigns. It’s simply a matter of using that data creatively.

Use Social Media to Boost Back-to-School Marketing

One of the biggest challenges for marketers during the back-to-school season is connecting with youth through authentic, meaningful interactions. That’s where mobile and social marketing have become integral to narrowly focused campaigns.

Engaging with brands that use hashtags and other social conversation tactics is a form of expression for teens. And when they latch on to a brand as a form of individualism, high levels of engagement can follow.

Here are four ways you can use social media data to fuel your back-to-school marketing campaigns:

1. Use Online and Offline Location-Based Marketing Tactics

The most effective social media marketing managers understand the digital and physical locations of their target market.

While the digital platform with the highest concentration of your audience will give you amazing detail about demographics, usage, and shopping habits, the majority of customers will enter a physical location to complete their purchase.

To provide a seamless online-to-offline experience, utilize data about your audience’s behaviors to advise campaign-related decisions. Employ geotargeting data to identify shopping and movement habits, and develop location-based coupons to entice customers to enter your brick-and-mortar store.

2. Channel Analytics to Determine the ‘What’ and ‘Where’

Once you’re monitoring the right audience, you need to make sure you’re using the right words in the right places. Identify trending hashtags and topics on all social sites, then plan your content from there.

Take H&M. There’s an overlap between the audience that interacts with it on Twitter and the hashtags used. H&M’s audience is drawn to giveaways and contests. By incorporating these in its back-to-school campaigns, H&M can further engage with consumers.

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Use this insight to determine where your target market spends the majority of its time and shares the most content, and move your campaign to that platform.

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It might mean you need to move your promotions from Facebook to Instagram. Wherever the majority of outbound links are headed, you should follow.

3. Excite Audiences With Visuals

While text-based social sites are still popular, visuals are a critical part of solid content strategies. Images and videos get more click-throughs and shares from younger audiences, which almost automatically expands your reach. Share experiences, humor, culture, or news — anything that helps your brand naturally fit into real conversations.

4. Shift the Focus Away From You

Teens are influential in the buying process, and because they’re accustomed to products, services, and media that cater to them, they’ve lost the ability to care about you, your products, or your services. To get youths’ attention, keep them at the center of your efforts.

Simple tweaks can make a big difference in shifting the focus of your promotions to the audience. Offer contests positioning them as the stars of an ad or YouTube video. Ask for input regarding something influential in their lives. Attach your brand to a celebrity or event that’s meaningful to them. Use what you know to provide relevant and interesting promotions, and you’ll take their attention — and their dollars — away from other brands.

Too often, marketers run back-to-school campaigns that don’t speak to the right audience, or they try to engage with them in the wrong places. But with all the data available from social media analytics, you have no excuse. Offer something valuable, and keep it simple. If people see a clear benefit, they’ll share it. If it’s a simple message, it’ll be more engaging. Use real-time, honest insights to craft the perfect message every time.

Are Social Data Nerds Threatening Old Media?

Tap into Twitter's research potential to identify targeted media placements for your audience.
Tap into Twitter’s research potential to identify targeted media placements for your audience. Photo courtesy of EdTechReview

(Originally posted in iMedia Connection)

Today’s fragmented media landscape means it’s becoming harder and harder for brands to reach a critical mass. Consumers are now divided across millions of different channels and hundreds of devices, which means the brands that are still trying to reach everyone with blanket media placements are in serious trouble.

But for marketers who are willing to dig in and get to know individual segments of their audience, the digital media landscape presents wonderful opportunities to make meaningful connections in less crowded environments. You probably already use Twitter as a vehicle for your brand messages, but you might not know how to tap into this social giant’s research potential to identify targeted media placements for your audience.

Use public Twitter data for an analytic edge

Twitter is a rich source of free, up-to-date public information about your target consumers. This data can uncover narrowly targeted media placements that are more effective and less expensive.

Just use these three tactics to help you sort through the data:

Segment to find No. 2
The first and most important step to using Twitter for research is to segment your data. Even if you can’t get fancy with algorithms and text analysis, segment for basic demographics like gender, age, location, and frequency of engagement.

When you’ve identified the most valuable segments, set aside your most engaged segment and look at your second most engaged segment. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but moving beyond the expected will allow you to identify media outlets that aren’t receiving as much attention from advertisers.

Ignore overrepresented media in favor of segment saturation
Dig into your analytics tool, and determine which media is overrepresented by the personas you want to reach. Popular sites such as The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and ESPN will be overwhelmed with advertisements and probably out of your price range.

Instead, compare the ratios of your followers to a media source to the rest of Twitter’s user base. Taking this extra step will help you find the media outlets with a higher saturation of your target audience (not just Twitter’s total audience), which could unearth less popular blogs with a high concentration of your followers.

For example, if you were looking at media placements for the FIFA World Cup, hopefully you didn’t get stuck on sports blogs. Your audience visits other places online, such as @FiveThirtyEight, or Nate Silver’s blog. His account doesn’t even hit the top 25 for @FIFAWorldCup in popularity, but for uniqueness, he’s at No. 8. His blog is a nice outlet advertisers could use to extend their reach.

Identify what else is popular
Next, look at the other off-topic media outlets your target audience engages with. Identify the most popular media by counting the links your target personas share on Twitter. Which URLs and media outlets do your top engagers link to when they’re not talking about you? This data can reveal media options you might not have considered.

How to ensure the right fit

Identifying possible media placements is only half the battle. When you’ve put together a list of possible media outlets, there are three questions you need to ask before moving forward.

Are you trying to extend your reach or defend your most loyal advocates?
Determine your goals for this promotion. If you’re trying to defend your loyal advocates, you’ll want to stick with media outlets that are comfortable for your audience. If you’re trying to extend your reach, the personas you use become a little more flexible, and so do your media options. Customize your promotions and content accordingly.

Are you trying to win over your competitors’ engagers?
Another value of persona-driven targeting is that you can sometimes win over competitors’ engagers. If your competitors are behind the times, you can find their market and target them as you would your own.

In this case, go for their No. 2 segment again, which might be more likely to swing over to your brand without a fight. Just look at what Apple has done to Microsoft Windows. Apple started with its core audience of heavy graphic design users but quickly moved to users who weren’t emotionally attached to Windows. Apple targeted them and increased its market share by more than 300 percent in just five years.

Can you match the tone of the targeted media?
Even after performing an analysis and finding unique and popular media for your targeted personas, you have to be able to match the tone of the publication for your efforts to be successful. If the tone of the publication doesn’t match your brand truths, it’s not a good match.

For instance, if your brand is straightforward and honest, you can’t bend it to be snarky and sarcastic for the sake of a media placement like The Onion.

When you know your audience, there’s no need to fear media fragmentation. With the right approach, you can put Twitter to work for you and identify a highly targeted media placement. You’ll stand out by appearing in a less crowded environment, and you’ll make an instant connection by associating your brand with media your target audience already loves.

3 Ways Teen Fashion Retailers Can Dress Up Back-To-School Campaigns

(Originally posted in Convince&Convert)

Let’s be honest. For being the second-largest retail opportunity of the year, back-to-school shopping is about as exciting as a trip to the DMV.

Its bland predictability is a shame because there are nearly $300 per household at stake. Think of the millions of backpacks, sneakers, and No. 2 pencils smart retailers will sell before the first day of school.

Teen fashion brands are major stakeholders in the back-to-school frenzy. Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, and Aéropostale were all written off as dying brands, but they have one significant resource that gives them an edge: a much higher persona cardinality. This allows them to focus their creative, media, and influencer spending on one persona type rather than a blanket audience.

For big players and up-and-coming brands alike, it doesn’t matter how creative your advertising is. If you don’t take the time to tailor your message to the right consumer, it will get lost in the noise. To get on this year’s lucrative back-to-school shopping list, you need to tap into the power of flawlessly targeted social media campaigns and customer-specific messaging.

Here are three simple steps to ensure you’re reaching your target customer in the right way:

1. Hit the Right Tone With Your Content

There are two main customer personas vying for teen fashion revenue: bargain-hunting moms who prefer Walmart and Target and fashion-conscious teens who prefer Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle.

Walmart and Target’s social audience consists of mostly 25- to 34-year-old women with either wholesome or reliable brand personalities — people who click on simply worded, tangible content. These personalities respond to money words such as “discount” or “sale.”

Teen fashion engagers represent a completely different group. They have a rugged or daring brand personality and are known as the cynics of the brand personality spectrum. They’re turned off by hyperbole and fluff, and they don’t care for money words. An update that dotes “40 percent off!” won’t excite them, so save it.

Here’s a great example of an American Eagle tweet that missed the mark when it tried to use money words to entice teen fashion engagers:

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You can almost hear the employee at American Eagle say, “But this is for Walmart people!”

When you’re after the rugged or daring teen fashion types, stay away from the simplistic, unambiguous content that wholesome types love, and focus on stylish, edgy content.

2. Choose a Targeted Platform, and Make It Visual

While most brand-sourced posts will benefit from a more visual platform such as Instagram or Vine, you still need to make this decision based on your target market research.

If you look at the teen fashion market, recent statistics might suggest that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform. But you can see below that the teen fashion crowd engages the most on other social sites, including Vine and Instagram.

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However, Facebook does rank in the top two for Walmart’s 25- to 34-year-old group of wholesome or reliable women, and some surprising platforms — such as Bonanza — might be worth looking into.

Making an educated decision about where to focus your time and energy is absolutely crucial for capturing your audience’s attention. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, will want to target younger consumers by concentrating on their influencer network and posting on mobile-friendly visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. On the other hand, brands targeting moms will have more success with Facebook and Pinterest.

3. Use Twitter to Identify Hard-Working Influencers

Twitter is the champion of all social platforms for analytics. It’s a great tool for vetting your would-be influencer and endorser network and making sure your content is tuned into the right brand personality.

For example, teen fashion influencers are heavy Twitter users with tweet histories going back thousands of engagements. These influencers are over-indexed — that is, uniquely popular among this persona — and completely different from the influencers of Walmart’s and Target’s markets.

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In stark contrast to the teen fashion influencers, the following image of Walmart and Target influencers are clearly mommy bloggers who appeal to 25- to 34-year-old wholesome and reliable females.

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Choosing the best influencer or endorser for your brand will help your back-to-school promotions work harder and your marketing budget go further.

It’s not about competing with other brands to get on the back-to-school shopping list. It’s about sharing a unique and specific message with a unique and specific audience that will scrawl your name at the top of that shopping list. Establish trust and build loyalty by targeting your social media strategy to a clearly defined customer persona, and you can’t go wrong.

Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

(Originally posted in DailySEOBlog)

The Jeep brand is great at storytelling to influence their audience.

If there’s one secret to effective marketing, it’s that customers are drawn to powerful stories.

It makes sense. Compared to traditional sales tactics, storytelling is downright seductive. Where “selling” pushes the product on the consumer, storytelling pulls the consumer in with culture and a sense of belonging. Instead of spouting facts and features, storytelling provokes a positive emotional connection. And finally, where traditional selling pressures the customer to act, storytelling builds a need within the customer that the brand can fulfill.

As marketers find new ways to make these connections with buyers, creativity and storytelling become increasingly important. But it’s not enough for a brand to simply develop a personality; it has to translate into a story that truly resonates with customers.

If your brand wants to crack open the long-term benefits of building a fan base with storytelling, here are four steps you need to follow:

1. Research What Personally Influences Your Market

Your brand story is based on the unique personality of your brand and all the facets that have shaped it: its history, influences, and values, as well as the people behind it.

But even with an established brand story, the way you tell your target market this story depends on who those people are. To ensure the right message reaches the right people, you need to determine what personally influences your audience’s emotions.

First, you have to identify and target the right audience with segmentation. Pay attention to things like gender and demographics, as well as deeper segmentation, such as personality traits and your audience’s interests.

To see this strategy in action, just look at Red Bull. This brand has done a great job of telling a brand story that resonates with a certain segment of young males, including content focused on adventure sports, car racing, video games, and music.

Red Bull breaks out of its comfort zone with its content — just like its target customers strive to break out of their own comfort zones — and Red Bull’s branding and content reflects this message.

Jeep is another brand that successfully communicates its story with rugged, “part of the club” brand storytelling. This aligns with the values of freedom and adventure that are extremely relatable to its audience. Jeep has continued to connect to its audience throughout its long history of weathering the market, even as it introduces more luxury features to the brand with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2. Utilize Strategic SEO

Once you have a clear view of your brand story, you need to tell it strategically through digital marketing with content and SEO.

Content marketing creates a deeper connection with your audience by relating to them one-on-one or solving a persistent problem they face. This gets them so invested in your story that they can’t wait to share it with their own networks.

You need to reinforce this story with a backbone of strategic SEO, using keywords that relate to your product features and your brand story. Choose words that work as specific product descriptions and emphasize how your consumers want to feel.

For Jeep, imagine a customer searching “adventurous car to take on awesome road trips,” or “4-wheel drive, soft top, black.”
Keywords that speak to your company values and what your product can deliver will make SEO work for your search results and brand story.

3. Tell Your Story on the Right Platform

You may tell the right story to the right audience, but if it’s communicated on the wrong platform, your efforts are wasted. Tell your story on a platform that will resonate with your unique target audience.

Traditional platforms: While many trends are moving toward digital and live events, traditional marketing methods such as print and TV ads, billboards, letters, and direct mail remain important.

For example, Jeep still sends welcome letters to new Jeep owners with Jeep-branded leather keychains. It’s a traditional, simple touch that’s highly effective and continues to fuel its brand story of inclusiveness.

The brand also does an amazing job of telling emotional, inspirational brand stories, as evidenced by its latest Jeep Grand Cherokee campaign. This is a particularly powerful approach for high-volume viewing events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Digital advertising: Because it offers the largest number of platform options, digital advertising is a no-brainer. However, the sheer amount of engagement tends to create a lot of noise, making it more difficult to stand out.

Mix in your brand story throughout the digital landscape, starting with your company website and the social sites best suited for your brand story. Decide which platforms to focus on by researching each platform based on its merits and targeting the ones on which your customers are spending the most time.

Live events and promotions: Depending on the characteristics of your target customer and the brand story you’re telling, your brand might benefit from live events and promotions. Red Bull does this perfectly with campaigns that exemplify bravery and action, such as its Red Bull Stratos campaign. Ask yourself how your brand could create and promote similar events on a smaller scale to share your brand story.

4. Listen to the Playback

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to contribute to a brand’s story. With so much conversation, it’s important for a brand to listen to its consumers’ version of the story and react accordingly. This is especially relevant on social media, where consumers are offering their own content and opinions about brands.

The most powerful part of storytelling happens after you’ve crafted your message, identified your audience, and released your story, so monitor conversations and respond to keep your story relevant.

Every brand has a powerful story behind it. It’s just a matter of untangling that story for the right audience and releasing it on the right platforms. When you take the time to appreciate storytelling and its impact on your customers, you open the floor for your brand fans to latch on to your story and start sharing it themselves.

How World Cup Sponsors Fared Against their Non-Sponsor Rivals

(Originally posted in Digiday, by Curtis Silver)

One might be forgiven for assuming that the biggest game for advertisers to spend money on is the Super Bowl. But the FIFA World Cup puts that single-game contest to shame. Estimates put the ad spending this year at over $1.5 billion globally, with a good chunk of this coming via sponsorships. FIFA’s major sponsors pay upwards of $50 million a year to have their logos splashed in front of viewers.

And non-sponsors are strongly discouraged from attempting to hijack World Cup buzz for their own marketing ambush. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Still, according to Mattr, a brand analytics firm, some of the major brands who paid to play during the World Cup are finding that they had some competition from similar brands that didn’t pay for sponsorships. When it came to pure engagement though, FIFA sponsors Adidas, Budweiser, Coke and Hyundai clearly beat out their rivals.

Tracking Via Brand-Promoted Hashtags

Nike and Adidas had the most Twitter engagement from FIFA followers during the World Cup.

Only non-official sponsor Nike was able to really sneak into FIFA’s reach, with 16 percent of its engagement coming from FIFA’s following. Adidas, a sponsor, paid to get a chunk of those FIFA followers. Nike did not but still grabbed more of them than Adidas did.

So what about the brands that weren’t looking to compete with the big boys and focused mostly on guerrilla marketing? According to Brandwatch, which was also tracking the World Cup, a few brands took a bite out of the social media marketshare.

“When it comes to non-sponsor brands, Snickers really chomped at the chance to commandeer the conversation when Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Chiellini,” a Brandwatch spokesperson said. “Since the start of the World Cup on June 12, Snickers has been mentioned on Twitter in posts that talk about Suarez or World Cup over 6,500 times.”

Additionally, brands like Waffle House — with its confusing “Ban Belgium Waffles” (shouldn’t it have been “Belgian”?) campaign leading up to the U.S. team’s game against that country in the knockout round — also garnered a few shares on social media and amusing media coverage. This campaign cost the company only man hours, a true win when it comes to social marketing.

The most interesting outsider, however, was Beats. It was banned from World Cup sidelines last month because Sony is an official sponsor. This, as could have been predicted, backfired when Beats became a more popular topic on social media than FIFA or Sony would have liked. According to Brandwatch, tracking hashtags between June 17 and June 26 (June 17th when the news about Beats being banned broke), Beats trumped Sony in overall impressions.

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But while non-sponsored focused primarily on taking advantage of real-time opportunities and trending social media topics, the truth is the winners were the sponsors. Yet, as Mattr pointed out to me, it wasn’t just about engagement, it was also about reaching and marketing to the right “persona.”

“Overall, Adidas and Nike seem to be really ahead of the others. They were the only brands to match the most engaged persona of @FIFAWorldCup, that of a rugged persona,” said one Mattr analyst. Mattr defines “rugged” in this instance as “outdoorsy, masculine, western, tough” and “turned off by sophistication, rules, emotion.”

The analyst continued: “There’s a lot other brands could learn from this for future World Cup marketing. For example, people identified as ‘daring’ were not engaging nearly as much as other personas. Somewhat surprising given the description of daring people.”

“Daring” here refers to people who are “trendy, exciting, spirited, cool, young … up to date.” It might also describe any brand that ignores the growing popularity of the the World Cup in the United States (where over 50 percent of FIFA’s engagement came from). No doubt many brands, large and small, are already preparing their campaigns for 2018.