Before social media, public relations was ironically not so great at actually relating to the public. It was almost one-sided. Brands had a corporate spokesperson pushing the company line, as they say, and maybe a newsletter and that was it. Of course, those who didn’t agree with the brand could always protest or pen the occasional strongly worded letter to voice their opinions, but who has time for that today?
Last month, Wireside attended an AMA luncheon at the University of Richmond where Natalia Dykyj, Director of Product Management, Cision, gave a brief presentation on how PR and marketing have changed from the “old-school” way of doing things through the influence of social media marketing. In this post, I’ve outlined a few of Natalia’s key points, supplemented with some real-world examples of marketing success stories.
Today, the consumer wears the pants in the relationship and the brand can very easily, and often does, end up in the proverbial doghouse. The power of social media (and an angry mob, albeit a virtual one) can greatly impact a brand’s choice – and fast. A very recent example of this comes to mind. Apple recently released a music streaming service so new users can stream music for the first three months of their trial period for free. This seemed like a great idea, until music artists realized they wouldn’t be paid for their music to be streamed for the trial period. Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to the company voicing her opinion on this, saying that it is unfair to not pay artists for their work and that maybe Apple shouldn’t get access to her next album. Uh-oh. Less than a day later, Apple changed its policy, agreeing to pay artists during the trial period, and wrote Taylor a mea culpa letter begging for her forgiveness. Of course this particular situation involves a celebrity and one of the most well known brands on the planet, but wouldn’t it be nice if all customer service issues were resolved this way? To be fair, similar interactions can and do happen on a smaller scale.
Marketing: Who’s Doing it Right?
“Brands are lucky if audiences engage them in conversation,” Natalia said.
And she’s right. If, as a brand, no one is engaging with you in some way, you probably need to change your marketing strategy. So who is doing marketing right? Natalia’s first example was Target. Target, she said, has not one, but two official Twitter feeds. The official feed is purely for messaging purposes. This is where the company updates followers on what’s going on with Target, essentially pushing out its desired message to followers. The second feed, however, is conversation-based. This feed is where consumers can voice opinions and ask questions, and Target will talk back. This is a great way to interact with brand followers, involve them and make them feel like they matter; that they have a voice. It’s this kind of open brand participation that helps make loyal brand ambassadors.
Target’s Twitter success had me thinking: What brands have utilized two of the other biggest social media platforms of today, Facebook and Instagram, in a way that set them up for marketing success? Inspiration came from my own personal Facebook and Instagram feeds: Humans of New York and Kayla Itsines.
Humans of New York
Humans of New York is a more unconventional brand in that it began as a photographer telling stories. The photographer, Brandon Stanton, roams through New York City daily, stopping random people of all ages and asking them questions about their lives. He then posts a simple snapshot of the person with a quote from the conversation and posts it to Facebook. He has since expanded to Instagram and Twitter, and has even published a book. By utilizing its Facebook audience (with over 13 million likes), Humans of New York has not only gained exposure for itself, but has also done good deeds for the community.
In February 2015, Brandon photographed a 13-year-old boy on the street, asking him who inspired him the most. The boy said that person was his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a small middle school in Brownsville, a lower income area of New York. The reactions and sharing of the photo went viral, so Brandon started a fundraiser to help the school take its 8th grade class on a field trip to Harvard to inspire the students to set high goals for themselves. In two weeks, $1.4 million was raised for the school. With the use of Facebook, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, a photographer was able to gain worldwide attention for his brand and help others while doing it.
In recent years, Instagram has taken the world by storm. The platform’s growing popularity means brands must find an effective strategy for promoting their product or service. 23-year-old Australian personal trainer/health and fitness expert Kayla Itsines has gained an immense following on Instagram, utilizing the platform in several ways. Not only does she share personal pictures, she also posts before and after pictures of weight loss/fitness success stories of fans that have used her fitness guides on her page. These pictures show real world results, serving as inspiration to others while also showing appreciation of her fans. Kayla’s 3.2 million Instagram followers show that she is able to capture and grow her audience with the motivational nature and variety of her posts. I find myself skimming Kayla’s Instagram page daily, and I’m not even into fitness!
Do you have a social media marketing success story you’d like to share? Which social media platform has your brand had the most success with? How do you use it as an effective marketing tool?