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by Tara West on 16th June 2011
There is a lot of talk about how effective it can be when brands engage with their consumers and have dialogue with them on an individual basis as part of their marketing. Of course this is very effective when done correctly, and making a consumer feel special is always a winner, just as Interflora did with their engagement on Twitter with people who had a bad day.
Activities like this certainly make waves and result in a lot of press coverage, but there is something which is arguably growing to be more powerful than one-to-one communication between brand and consumers.
It’s not just individual consumer brands need to influence and engage with online anymore, it’s communication with groups of consumers. This might be Facebook groups, online communities and forums, or a community that read and engage with a blog.
If we think about this, the influence of consumers in groups is nothing new. Family is an example of a group. Think about the washing powder you use, or the washing up liquid, or the brand of tea bags. The chances are you chose them because that’s what you had at home, that’s what your mum or family used, so you subconsciously see it as having approval.
The increase in social use of the internet is the reason we have seen this same kind of consumer behaviour extend online. Being social online means that this has gone much further than the family group, and consumers now have a whole portfolio of groups they feel part of on the internet. The faster these social platforms (which facilitate these groups) grow, the easier it becomes for consumers to see what brands their online social groups are also consuming.
This post looks at how brands have adapted to the power of the group and made their online presence group friendly.
One classic example of the way social networks have encouraged brands to be more sociable with online groups is the Facebook ‘Like’ button. Make sure your site integrates the facility to ‘Like’, ‘Digg’, and most recently ‘+1’ your webpages, just like you can see at the bottom of this post!
Ecommerce sites can really utilise this to get some exposure to their deeper product pages by having options to ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ etc the product:
This works especially well for not-for-profit brands and charities, for example Virgin Money Giving which enables you to set up pages that allow friends to sponsor you for a charity event. You can then give the user the option to ‘Tweet’ or post to their Facebook wall that they have just sponsored someone and encourage others to do the same.
Targeting groups that might have a more subtle group presence is also important, it’s not just about Facebook groups but other online communities such as forums. This could be done by sending offers, vouchers or exclusive information to online forums or to the writers of blogs which have a community readership.
Target individuals within a group by providing them with offerings that the whole group can benefit from. If you communicate with the leading members of an online group, it is usually these people that are more influential and which others in the group will listen to. These are the people to make feel really special with samples of your product, exclusive information or invitations to brand events.
Use social platforms to publicise the content on your site. Some well known examples are Digg or Reddit. Then consumers can comment and vote your content higher and it will get more exposure as a result. For this to work, you need to have content on your site that is quality and useful to consumers.
Encouraging reviews from consumers is an excellent way to get eventual group approval, as one positive review can go a long way to influence others. Make it as easy as possible for consumers to do this by having a simple facility on your site for them to review products and services, or place a link to your Google Places profile on every page asking them to review it on there.
Have a platform on social sites such as Facebook so that users can join a group and engage with you. Then go a step further and encourage interaction between your followers and their friends which relates to your brand. For example Blockbuster recently set up a poll on Facebook asking fans to vote for which summer blockbuster they are most excited about being released. When a fan votes, it is posted to their profile and friends news feeds, as well as giving you the fan the option to send the poll to their friends.
Ikea achieved this kind of group interaction excellently with their social media campaign for a store opening in 2009. where they posted photos from their catalogue on their Facebook wall, and every time a fan tagged themselves in a product as an item, they got to win the product for free.
This then posted to their friends Facebook news feeds and got others participating. Word spread very quickly about the store launch because of the power of online groups.
The entire concept of online retail is becoming increasingly social. Levis created a store based around people ‘liking’ products, so that consumers could go to their own Levis shop and view items their own friends had ‘liked’. This is an example of how far bigger brands are going to make their ecommerce experience social. If you don’t have the resources for this you could try Fcommerce where brands can buy and sell through Facebook.
The power of the group in online brand management is something which brand need to embrace rather than fight. If utilised effectively it can really help brands differentiate and build competitive advantage in their marketing.
Tara West has digital account management expertise and a degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications, giving her an excellent understanding of technical SEO expertise.