(Originally posted in Spin Sucks)
For this year’s back-to-school season, TOMS launched a contest aimed at increasing visual engagement on Pinterest.
#TOMS Give Back-to-School encouraged people to create a pinboard and pin their favorite outfits using only items found on the TOMS website.
While primarily known for shoes, TOMS wanted people to see they could wear the brand from head to toe.
To compete for the $500 TOMS gift certificate, pinners created a special board for the contest and tagged every pin with “#TOMS Give Back-to-School.”
TOMS scored huge brand awareness and sales during the contest as pinners posted beautiful pictures that spread across their personal networks.
The TOMS campaign shows the expanding influence of visual social media sites, and in the coming years, more brands will take part in this growing trend.
Why Visual Social Media Takes the Cake
Pinterest has more than 70 million users, which may not seem like a lot compared to the billions at Facebook, but, unlike users of other social media sites, Pinterest users become more active over time, not less.
This makes sense when you think about the draw of pictures.
The Internet is overloaded with text, with every company in the world creating text-heavy blog posts.
With so much to read, people are looking for simpler media to consume.
Pictures are processed more quickly and remembered longer. They can also tell your brand’s story more effectively than 1,000-word blog posts.
(Hence: A picture is worth more than 1,000 words.)
When it comes to social media, posts with images get 39 percent more engagement than other posts.
And, in some inexplicable way, it’s been proven that users will not only remember your picture, but they’ll also associate your brand with similar pictures in a different context.
That’s reach you could never get with words alone.
Customers also love images because they’re editable. Everyone wants to express himself, and when users can share a brand’s content but also make it their own, it’s a win-win.
The beauty of visual strategy is that consumers can’t help but be drawn to the visual feast.
How Brands Can Get Visual
So, how do you make like TOMS and take advantage of the benefits of visual?
Like all other content, visual sites such as Instagram and Pinterest require some strategic thinking and a well-executed plan.
One of the worst things brands can do is throw up mediocre images, hoping to draw attention.
Here are some important steps for brands to take when crafting a visual social media strategy.
Define your brand visually. Don’t just think about your products. What colors, patterns, and images represent who you are as a brand? Make sure the images you use tell a story of either the brand or the user.
Think broadly about your visuals. Not every pin or Instagram photo has to be (or should be) focused on your brand. Capital One and American Express both maintain pinboards for brides, world travelers, and bucket-list creators. These images are inherently shareable, regardless of a user’s affiliation with the companies, which makes it easier for the brands to spread organically.
Use segmentation to your advantage. Segment your audience by demographics, interests, and values. Each of these categories can provide insight into the types of visuals your audience prefers and where it likes to see them. For example, users who are into “beauty” might also follow certain celebrities that you can incorporate into your campaign. Users who are “green” might appreciate holistic health advice or eco-friendly gift ideas. Use segmentation to branch out and go broad, as mentioned above.
Pay attention to top content for your audience. Through content tracking, you can also discover what kind of content your audience is sharing and publishing most, then create visuals around that content. Infographics are a great option here, putting information into an easy-to-understand yet still visually appealing format.
Know your grassroots influencers. Also called brand ambassadors, these are the people who are naturally spreading the word about your brand. Target these influencers by creating more of the content and visuals they love, but also by engaging with them personally. These people are the ones who will convince less enthusiastic users to love your brand, so make sure you love them.
The rise of Pinterest and Instagram is undeniable, and more brands are beginning to realize the power of images in marketing.
Winning brands will be the ones that create the best and most compelling visual social media strategies that engage all kinds of users.
(Originally posted in Business2Community)
Backpacks in banner ads. School supplies in search ads. Fall clothes in Facebook News Feeds.
Chances are, you’ve seen a few of these in the past couple of weeks. With back-to-school campaigns in full swing, your marketing team has already spent lots of time figuring out how to best target your customers with relevant ads, but your efforts shouldn’t stop there.
As campaigns roll out, it’s important to understand how to follow brand conversations, use analytics, and tweak campaigns appropriately to ensure your messaging continues to hit the mark.
The Power of Retargeting
Social Media works best for retargeting. Image courtesy of VerticalResponse.
For most websites, only 2 percent of traffic converts on the first visit. That’s where retargeting comes in. By monitoring your marketing campaign in real time, you can adjust it as necessary for maximum impact and target interested consumers where they’re already engaging.
Social media is the best route to take for retargeting success. Social lets you follow brand conversations in real time, which helps reveal any campaign adjustments you need to make.
For instance, you might change the segment you target (boys instead of girls, teens instead of parents) or which platforms you utilize (Facebook instead of Pinterest) based on insights you pull during the campaign.
Here’s how to use social to be more strategic in your retargeting efforts:
Take advantage of tools. Use the right tools to help you discover your brand’s influencers and fans, track popular content, and segment your audience. Whether you use social conversation tracking tools or choose to monitor it manually, make it a priority to dig deeper into the discovery of your brand influencers. These are the people who have the most influence over what people say and think about your brand. Then, work to foster ongoing relationships with these people.
Meet your audience where they are. Brand conversations can tell you what’s resonating within specific demographics. Are teens latching on to your campaign, or do parents seem more interested? Adjust your campaign to target each group differently. Then, look at their interests (favorite websites, blogs, celebrities, etc.), and find ways to take your campaign there. For example, Teen Vogue recently declared the second Saturday in August as Back-to-School Saturday (#BTSS) to cater to its teen/tween audience. About 50 brands participated in offering promotions and product launches, promoted primarily through social media, a mobile insider app, and a dedicated website. Those brands were smart to latch on to Teen Vogue’s influence with teens, tweens, and 20-somethings.
Stay platform-agile. In the old days, marketers received insights about their audience months after putting in a request (by which time many insights were no longer relevant). Now, you should be taking advantage of the opportunity you have to follow conversations around your brand in real time. Analyze social chatter moment to moment, and switch platforms based on your insights. Keep in mind that enthusiasm for Facebook is declining among teens, but if you’re going after Mom and Dad, it might be the best place to be. Of course, these trends change quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of the latest social crazes.
Be mobile-minded. Mobile has redefined today’s retargeting. Not only does it allow you to reach your target anytime, anywhere, but it also lets you retarget banner, app, and browser ads based on consumers’ past activity. When they search for your products but don’t purchase, you can make sure the product they were considering follows them to future browsing sessions. Twitter is especially hot for retargeting right now because brands can share desktop cookies with Twitter to target users with Promoted Tweets.
Measure, tweak, repeat. If one of your retargeting choices isn’t performing as expected, make a quick change and measure again. For example, if parents aren’t responding to your back-to-school campaign, maybe it’s time to go straight to the source and target teens. If most of your audience is engaging from Pinterest, get aggressive with your pinning.
By continuing this cycle of research, planning, strategic implementation, execution, and more monitoring/research, you’ll cultivate a living, breathing campaign that remains relevant and laser-focused on your target audience — whether they’re teens trying to impress their friends or backpack-seeking moms and dads trying to tackle back-to-school fashion.
Aeropostale is trying on something new for this year’s college back-to-school. And according to an internal marketing study we conducted at Mattr, I think they’ll clobber both American Eagle and H&M – two retailers serving different segments of the teen fashion market.
Back-to-school season is here, and brands are pulling out all the stops to attract the attention of college shoppers. Combined spending for the back-to-school and college market is estimated to hit $75 billion in 2014, with more than half of that being spent on clothes, dorm furniture, electronics, and school supplies for college students.
These shoppers aren’t one big homogenous group. To be successful, you need to court and convert your unique audience–and like those college kids, you can do it on a ramen budget.
Here are three approaches brands like Target and Aeropostale use. And since these approaches all leverage social data, you still have time to put some strategies into place for this season’s back-to-school.
1. Identify (and woo) your college student brand persona.
If you’re like many brands, you might only target college shoppers based on age or location. But the college market is unique and varied, and many brands are missing out on catering to their audience’s interests, values, and personality traits.To engage your target customers, you need to segment.
Within the college market, there are people whose personalities and values compel them to click on discounts. But others within the same age range and lifestyle bracket are so repelled by discount messaging that trying it would damage your brand.
Just look at teen fashion retailers Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle. They overwhelmingly fall into the “rugged” and “daring” personas — personalities that love edgy messaging and are turned off by discounted, commoditized goods. Their suggestive, forward advertising appeals to that daring personality and can cause a bit of controversy.
On the other hand, teen fashion discounters or “fast fashion” brands like H&M speak to an entirely different segment of the college market and inspire their customers with different messaging.
2. Target the right influencers for your unique personas.
When you aim blanket messaging at the college market, you have to pay for generic, expensive media influencers. But what if you could make the most of your advertising budget and resonate with your audience at the same time?
You can. By identifying unique, over-indexed influencers and media personalities, you can spend less but reach a higher concentration of your audience. Here’s that ramen budget win.
For teen fashion retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, the “daring” spenders are all focused on pop culture entertainment interests associated with a younger demographic.
Reliable “fast fashion” H&M engagers, however, scream Honda Accord budget practicality with bloggers and other discount consumer goods and retailers.
Using research gleaned online or from your data-gathering store location, you can view the overlap between your brand, your customers, and other brands based on interest. You can then identify less popular influencers who are more likely to resonate with your audience.
3. Be ready to shift gears.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. According to our analysis of the people talking on social to brands like Abercrombie and Aeropostale, teens are becoming more price sensitive. So they still respond to edgy advertisements, but are more than willing to pay less than the American Eagle price.
So here’s what Aeropostale has done. Because of the trend to price sensitivity among their teen consumers, they launched an aggressive shift by moving down market. With sub-brands like “Live Love Dream” and prices closer to H&M and Forever21, they’re positioned to capture the American Eagle teen. They know that their target market will click on edgy content, but will also click on the Buy button when they see the H&M – like prices.
The lesson for hungry college market brands? Be willing to shake things up with targeted tactics and promotions that will speak to your specific segment of college students.
Most brands think of the college crowd as a single category, and their back-to-school marketing suffers for it. Gain an edge in the college market without blowing your budget by looking to form deeper, more nuanced connections and inspiring your audience to make purchases that align with their values.
(Originally posted in LonelyBrand)
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.
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.
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.
(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:
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.
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.
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.
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.