Facebook is a valuable social network for today’s connected consumers to follow their favorite brands, receive real-time updates on sales, and access behind-the-scenes information on new products. In fact, a vast majority (82%) of consumers believe a company Facebook page is an effective place to interact with a brand, according to a research study from Lab42, a market research firm.
This holiday season, Facebook will be a key channel for retailers and brands to connect with their audience, and encourage them to spread buzz on new developments, according to Brad Klaus, CEO of Extole.
“The holiday season is an ideal time for retailers to tap into the power of customer advocates,” Klaus said. “In doing so, these consumers will share information about a brand and generate more buzz.”
During a recent interview with Retail TouchPoints, Klaus discussed how merchants can use social media to tap into their loyal customers and boost word of mouth this holiday season. Klaus also shared detailed insights regarding how organizations can leverage the Facebook Open Graph to increase campaign amplification.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What role will social media play this holiday season to help retailers increase brand awareness and drive transactions?
Klaus: Social media will be a critical component of holiday marketing campaigns and strategies for retailers this year. In fact, thinking of innovative ways to stay top of mind and engage customers and fans via social media marketing initiatives is imperative for success.
However, the biggest difference retailers will see this holiday season is consumer influence and advocacy. Consumers will play a critical role in spreading word of mouth (WOM) at scale and driving their friends and peers through the purchasing funnel.
RTP: What is the key to leveraging social media effectively for marketing campaigns?
Klaus: Consumers have more power than ever before, so keeping them, and their wants and needs, in mind during the social marketing campaign planning and execution process is key. Brands no longer can simply push their marketing messages out to consumers. Instead, they must develop creative programs that will encourage their customer advocates to share the brand message with their social graphs. In essence, this tactic basically is turning loyal, engaged customers into social marketers on a brand or retailer’s behalf.
RTP: How do you define “customer advocates”?
Klaus: At Extole, we define customer advocates as passionate, loyal customers who are willing to share information about a brand. This information can be a recommendation, review, offer or purchase. It also could be “Liking” a brand, product or service. Now with the Facebook Open Graph, brands can extend these shared stories beyond the “Like” to create more contextually relevant interactions in their messaging. For example, “I ate this dish,” “I love these loafers,” “I want this set of golf clubs,” or “I watched this movie.”
RTP: What impact does this group of consumers have on overall purchase rates and overall brand loyalty?
Tapping into customer advocates to increase sharing allows retailers to truly harness the power of WOM. By nature, consumers trust their friends and peers more than they trust brand advertising. Seeing a WOM recommendation or story from a friend means it is more genuine because it is coming from a trusted source. Social context also has an impact. If my friend has good taste and shares a message that he loves his new sweater, I am more likely to remember the message and think about buying that sweater or something else from the brand myself. In fact, Nielsen research shows that recall of messages increases by 55% with social context. By tapping into the power of customer advocates, brands are generating genuine, trusted and contextually relevant stories about their brands and tapping into the social connections of their advocates.
RTP: How do you advise retailers leverage customer advocates to increase buzz around holiday campaigns and sales?
Klaus: Social promotions, contest, sweepstakes and coupons that can be shared with friends are great ways to generate holiday buzz. For example, we worked with a leading women’s retailer last year to power a Facebook sweepstakes as part of an integrated, cross-channel holiday campaign. The Facebook sweepstakes was a daily instant win and if fans didn’t win, they could share the sweepstakes with their friends. If their friends won, they won as well. On the first day of the sweepstakes, the brand gained more than 25,000 new fans on the social network!
Recently we ran a similar sweepstakes for a children’s retailer on the Open Graph. For every person who entered the sweepstakes after seeing a promotional message from the brand, at least three more people participated based on earned media recommendations. What is even more impactful is that the brand promotions only hit their fans and customer list. The earned media stories and sponsored stories hit an audience of nearly 4.8 million friends on Facebook, an audience 13 times larger than those who saw the standard brand promotions.
RTP: Are there any key obstacles retailers face while striving to stand out on Facebook this holiday season?
Klaus: There are so many brands out there trying to be social. With so much social noise out there, it can be difficult to grab and hold consumer interest. For example, there is an exponential number of stories in the Facebook News Feed, Ticker and Timeline. Only a small percentage of a brand’s followers see their posts.
RTP: So how can brands stand out?
Klaus: One way to stand out is to leverage the Facebook Open Graph and the real estate on the Consumer Timeline. This section of the social network homepage now is incredibly valuable to marketers because that is where the majority of consumer interaction takes place. With the Open Graph, consumer stories about a brand now are broadcasted front and center on Consumer Timelines, as well as in the News Feeds and Tickers of their friends. In addition, brands can create a persistent connection with consumers’ Timelines by creating an aggregation or “Brand Billboard,” which tells the ongoing story of that relationship.
While the Brand Timeline and posts are important tools for consumer engagement, brands need to develop strategies to claim real estate on the Consumer Timeline. A program to foster consumer stories through the Open Graph is a critical element of these strategies.
RTP: Can you provide any social marketing best practices that can help retailers succeed this holiday season?
Klaus: Above all, it is incredibly important to know your audience. Marketing is no longer about throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks. Campaigns and messages must be relevant, targeted, timely and smart. Put yourself in your consumers’ shoes and ask yourself: “Would this matter to me, and why should I participate?”
Additionally, retailers must keep messaging clear and concise. They must consider what they’re asking consumers to do, then make sure a compelling reward structure is in place that would appeal to consumers and their friends.
Lastly, retailers shouldn’t neglect their corporate web site and existing email lists when promoting holiday social marketing initiatives. These are your most prized owned assets and can drive exponentially more participation in social marketing programs.
Brad Klaus is Founder and CEO of Extole. Klaus has experience in online and social marketing, and has founded several technology and online marketing companies. As the founder and CEO of Extole, Klaus is building upon his online marketing experience to help brands tap into the marketing opportunity in the social channel.