Category word-of-mouth marketing

Brands and Retailers Need to Integrate Social Media into the Offline Shopping Experience

Photo credit: Annie Mole on Flickr.Many brands and retailers are using social media to advertise and build relationships with customers online.

However, if these businesses fail to integrate social media into the shopping experience at brick-and-mortar stores, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.

A Majority of U.S. Consumers Have a Smartphone

According to comScore, “198.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (79.1 percent mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in January.”

To put this into perspective, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 322.9 million people lived in the U.S. at the end of January of 2016. That means approximately 61.5% of the U.S. population owned a smartphone.

What this also means is that there is a good chance that many of your customers and prospects not only own a smartphone, but are using it to make purchase decisions.

In his book, titled “Mobile Influence: The New Power of the Consumer,” Chuck Martin, author and CEO of the Mobile Future Institute, points out that there are six influence points in the mobile shopping life cycle. These include: The Setup: The Pre-Buy, The Move: In Transit, The Push: On Location, The Play: Selection Process, The Wrap: Point of Purchase, and The Takeaway: Post-Purchase.

At each stage in the mobile shopping life cycle, brands and retailers are given the opportunity to convince a consumer to buy their product or service. In his book, Chuck Martin devotes a chapter to each of these points of influence.

As he points out, there are many tools in a marketer’s toolbox to help influence a sale by leveraging the power of the mobile phone.

This includes, but is not limited to, the use of social networking sites to connect with consumers as they research, buy, and share the love of a brand online.

Given that many online interactions can now happen when the consumer is physically located in a brick-and-mortar store, it only makes sense that brands and retailers should look for additional ways to interact with customers as they are making purchase decisions and influencing the purchase decisions of other consumers who they interact with online.

Consumers Are Using Social Networking Sites

As mentioned, a majority of U.S. consumers own a smartphone.

Furthermore, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 2014 75% of smartphone owners used their phones to access social networking sites.

And, this is just the percentage of people who used social media on a smartphone.

When you consider the fact that even people who don’t use social networking sites on a smartphone could be connected to someone who does, I would venture a guess that nearly everyone who uses social media could potentially be influenced by an interaction that a consumer has with a brand while the consumer is in a brick-and-mortar store.

Final Thoughts

The number of people who use social networking sites continues to increase, as does the number who own smartphones.

While many brands and retailers currently use social media to advertise and build relationships with customers and prospects online, if they don’t integrate social media into the offline shopping experience at brick-and-mortar stores they could be missing out on a huge opportunity to reach and engage with customers at each of the influence points in the mobile shopping life cycle that Chuck Martin describes in his book.

Photo credit: Annie Mole on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using #Hashtags to Connect to Consumers on Social Networking Sites

Photo credit: Alan Levine on Flickr.In the United States, there are a lot of consumers who use social networking sites, many of whom access them on a mobile device. And, these numbers continue to increase as time goes on.

Knowing how to connect to these consumers is a very important skill for all marketers to have.

While there are many tactics that marketers can use, having a basic understanding of hashtags is a must. Knowing how to effectively use hashtags can be an important way to reach consumers on social media.

A Brief History of the Hashtag

A 2014 post on the Adweek SocialTimes blog gives a brief history of the hashtag.

As the post points out, while Twitter popularized the hashtag, it didn’t invent it.

“Once more commonly referred to as the pound sign, online use of the hashtag began on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the late 1990s, where it was used to categorise items into groups,” writes Shea Bennett. “In August 2007, designer Chris Messina asked his followers how they felt about using the pound sign to group conversations on the micro-blogging platform, and thus became the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter.”

“After that, Twitter never looked back, and the hashtag was eventually adopted by Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and seemingly every other major digital platform,” the article continues. “Today, hashtags are everywhere and an important part of every modern marketing strategy.”

What Hashtags Can Do for Business

In almost every social networking site, hashtags help users find content by linking posts with the same hashtag. In other words, users can search for similar content by clicking on the hashtag to get access to other posts that use that hashtag.

With this functionality in mind, it is important to research what hashtags your customers and prospects will find.

This includes finding out what hashtags your customers, prospects, and influencers are using to talk about your brand, your products or services, your competitors’ products or services, or anything else that relates to your products or services or the industry that you are in.

In Twitter, hashtags often show up in the trending topics if they are used by enough users. If the topic is relevant to the brand, you should consider using the hashtag. However, keep in mind that this tactic can backfire if your posts seem too self-promotional, off topic, or if joining the conversation is just generally in bad taste. (Note: There are also similar ways that trending hashtags will show up in other social networking sites, as well. The same things need to be considered on these social networking sites, too.)

Hashtags can also show up in a search engine results page (SERP) on Google or any of the other search engines. Furthermore, there are tools that can be used to find the most used hashtags on various social networking sites. This is another way that hashtags help increase the reach of your content.

If you create a hashtag with the intention of getting users to engage with your brand or share your content, be aware that just because you want users to use the hashtag, doesn’t guarantee that they will.

Furthermore, as several brands have found out, creating the wrong hashtag can backfire by encouraging people to share negative things about your brand. Therefore you need to proceed with caution.

Finally, it is important to realize that hashtags can also be used to convey a message to users even if they don’t use them for their ability to search for other content (e.g., #fail, #lol, #tgif, etc.) This is particularly important on social networking sites like Twitter, where brevity is often encouraged or even required. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to check out the YouTube video featuring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake that parodies this concept.)

A Few Ways to Integrate Hashtags Into Your Other Marketing Campaigns

As already mentioned, hashtags help encourage customers to share their thoughts about your brand on social networking sites.

If done correctly, hashtags can help customers connect with the brand and other customers, thus building a community around the brand.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.By including a predetermined hashtag on your packaging, it can encourage customers to use it when they share the love of your products on social media.

Including hashtags on your advertising in other media (e.g., television ads, print ads, webpages, etc.) can help increase the reach of these campaigns and continue the conversation about the brand.

You can also run a contest on various social networking sites and offer a prize to users who share a specific type of content and use your predetermined hashtag.

Finally, if you are organizing an event or gathering where customers and prospects would benefit from hearing what other attendees are saying about the event or topic being covered, create a hashtag that allows them to connect and share with each other on various social networking sites. This content can then be displayed on a video screen so that people who do don’t use the specific social networking site can also see what other attendees are saying.

Last year, Ceci Dadisman, Consultant and President of Cardinal + Company, wrote an article on ArtsHacker.com that gives further examples of how to use hashtags for audience engagement. You might want to check it out.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags have become a part of the way that consumers communicate with each other on social networking sites. Using them can also be a way for customers and prospects to communicate with your business.

Given the fact that smartphones have given customers the ability to access social networking sites wherever they are, social media and the proper use of hashtags should be something that all marketers are aware of and trained on.

If used incorrectly, hashtags can backfire and encourage people to share negative comments about your brand. Therefore, it is important to monitor what people are saying on social networking sites and, if appropriate, respond accordingly.

When used correctly, hashtags can help increase the reach of your messages, create a community, and give customers a place to share the love of your products or services.

 

Photo credits: Alan Levine and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Video credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using Search Engine Optimization for Online Reputation Management

Photo credit: Danny Sullivan on Flickr.As I post this, we are only a few hours from the start of a new year.

Although the new year brings with it hope of a new beginning, the past is not that easy to escape.

This is truer than ever before given the fact that people can find out about your past transgressions with only a few clicks of a mouse using Google or any of the other search engines.

This means that everyone from potential employers to potential mates can search the Internet to find out more about you.

This is why your online reputation is so important, as it can have an effect on all areas of your life.

The best way make sure that people find positive things about you when they do an online search is to make sure that you live a moral and ethical life and never make any mistakes.

It also helps to make sure that you don’t post things on social media sites that could eventually come back to haunt you in the future.

However, for people who do make mistakes or use bad judgement when posting on social media sites, there is good news.

In fact, there are some basic things that can be done to help make it more difficult for people to find those skeletons in your closet when they do an online search to find more information about you.

The Internet Changed Everything

In their book “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust,” Chris Brogan and Julien Smith tell the story of a smalltime British con artist named Alan Conway who duped people into believing that he was the famous film director, Stanley Kubrick, in the early 1990s.

This was before the Internet gave people the power to search for almost anything and fact check a person’s story in minutes.

According to the authors of the book, “Conway was able to get away with anything—under Kubrick’s name, he cosigned a loan for a gay club in Soho, for example—and was long gone by the time his victims knew what was going on. Worse, no one wanted to testify against him, because they would expose themselves as having been duped by a con man. They would be ridiculed, they reasoned, so all declined.”

“Conway continued his Stanley Kubrick impersonation for many years,” the authors of the book continue. “Eventually, he dropped it and later joined Alcoholics Anonymous; yet even there he told everyone another whole set of tall tales, involving businesses in the Cayman Islands and an otherwise exciting life, recounted in a diary found after his death in 1998.”

“But by then the world was being transformed,” writes Brogan and Smith. “The Internet was expanding in full force, and Google had just been founded, changing the way we would all interact, and who we would trust, forever.”

Social Media Changed the Rules Again

While the Internet gave people the power to fact check a person’s story in a relatively short amount of time, it was social media that truly gave everyone a voice.

While this has created a way for people to expose con artists for their misdeeds, it also opened a whole new can of worms.

By its very nature, social media gave people the power to spread information quickly.

And, as anyone who has played the telephone game knows, when things spread via word of mouth, information is most likely going to get changed along the way.

What this means is that rumors are likely to spread even after the story is proven to be false.

In his book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” Jon Ronson gives examples of people whose lives were destroyed by the social media mob, often after making a relatively small error in judgement.

Although their actions were usually pretty stupid, they often did not deserve the public shaming that they received.

And, as Jon Ronson points out, their story tends to live on.

This is because Google and the other search engines help make it easily accessible for all to see long after the social media storm ends.

The Moral Bias Behind Your Search Results

In his Ted Talk, Andreas Ekström points out some of the biases that are found in the results we get when we search the web using any of the search engines.

In particular, he explains how they can be manipulated to destroy a person’s reputation using some of the same basic principles that businesses use when optimizing their web pages to be found on search engines.

In the talk he explains how people used search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to create a racist campaign designed to insult Michelle Obama in 2009.

He also gave another example of how social activists used the same tactics to insult a terrorist as a way to peacefully protest against terrorism and to prevent the terrorist rhetoric from spreading.

Ekström points out that Google manually cleaned the search results in 2009, thus ending the racist campaign against Michelle Obama. However, they didn’t do the same thing when people used the same tactics to destroy the reputation of a terrorist.

While Ekström does understand and seemly agrees with Google’s decision, he uses these examples to show the power that Google has in the shaping of public opinion.

Using SEO to Restore Your Online Reputation

The example just discussed points out that the people who control the search engines have the power to influence search results. However, so do everyday users.

For people whose reputation was destroyed, the good news is that you can use SEO tactics to help fix your online reputation, thus making it easier for people to find the good things about you when they do an Internet search.

However, as Jon Ronson points out in his book, it can take a lot of time and effort to influence what shows up in a Google search engine results page (SERP.)

For people who don’t have the technical know-how or the time to do it, there are people out there who will help you. However, their services aren’t cheap.

And, because Google is always trying to get the most current information in its search results, using SEO for online reputation management is an ongoing process. Again, this translates into more time, effort and/or money.

Final Thoughts

While the new year brings with it the opportunity to start again, the past often influences our future.

Although we can’t control what people say about us online, we can help influence what others find out about us by using some of the basic principles of SEO to rebuild our online reputation.

The good news is that anyone can do it.

And, really it all starts with making sure that there is a lot of good things said about you on the Internet to help drown out the bad.

However, as anyone who has studied SEO knows, it takes a lot of effort to influence what shows up on a SERP.

What this means is that you are going to have to skillfully post things on the web to improve what shows up in a SERP or hire someone who knows how to do it.

It can be done.

However, like most things in life, it is going to take a lot of time, effort and/or money.

Photo credit: Danny Sullivan on Flickr.

Video credit: TED on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Reward Customers for Good Behavior to Generate Positive Word of Mouth

Photo credit: leyla.a on Flickr.The world would be a better place if we all treated each other a little nicer.

Maybe if good manners were assigned a monetary value, more people would be on their best behavior.

This is exactly what a few restaurants and coffee shops have done.

In the process, they have received positive coverage from bloggers and other online media outlets.

In the age of where news stories can be found on search engines for years and people can spread the message via social media and online review sites, this kind of coverage can definitely make a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Here is a list of some of restaurants and coffee shops that I have heard about lately that have used this tactic to get people talking about their businesses.

Rewarding Parents When Their Kids Are on Their Best Behavior

Back in 2013, a Washington eatery got mentioned on TODAY.com for giving Laura King and her family a $4 discount on their bill to cover a bowl of ice cream that the owners gave the family because their children were so well behaved.

As the article points out, “Rob Scott — who owns Sogno di Vino, the restaurant King visited — said he routinely offers complimentary desserts to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt.”

“An image of the receipt quickly went viral after one of King’s friends posted it online,” the article continues.

While not all the mentions that the restaurant received were positive, the discount got people to talk about the restaurant on social media sites, which led to some great coverage in the national news media. Furthermore, articles about the post still show up on a Google search engine results page (SERP) over two years after the post went viral.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

As an article on The Huffington Post points out, several restaurants have tried to encourage better dining etiquette by offering a discount to customers when they put their smartphones away while they are at the dinner table.

Other restaurants have even gone so far as to ban the use of cell phones in their restaurants all together. As the Huffington Post article mentions, this policy has sometimes been met with outrage.

Whether people agree with this type of policy or not, it has generated some attention. Furthermore, it has gotten people to talk about whether or not cell phones should be used as much as they are at the dinner table.

Photo credit: Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that this policy does prevent customers from taking photos of their food and sharing them on social media sites.

This, too, can be a great way to get people talking about the restaurant and possibly get them to visit the establishment in the future.

Hummus Diplomacy

In October of this year, NPR featured a story about an Israeli restaurant in Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, that is giving a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who eat together.

As reported in the NPR article, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated, “Are you afraid of Arabs? Are you afraid of Jews? By us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel!”

According to NPR, “His post was shared more than 1,900 times, and news of the deal has made headlines around the world.”

At the time the article was written, the offer had only been redeemed by 10 tables. However, business has increased by 20 percent. The article mentions that a substantial part of the boost was from local and foreign journalists.

Please and Good Morning Saves You Money

Offering customers a discount for good manners can also generate good will and positive mentions online.

For example, a small coffee shop in Australia has a sign in front of the shop that says that the coffee is $5. If you say “please,” the coffee is $4.50 and it’s only $4 if you say, “Good morning, a coffee please.”

According to an article on the Daily Mail, the owners of the coffee shop don’t enforce the policy. However, they said it brings a smile to many of their customers’ faces and many customers go out of their way to be courteous.

Even if it isn’t enforced, the sign has created enough attention to be covered by online media outlets.

It is interesting to note that this idea was copied, with similar results, by a French café.

Free Meal to the Lonely on Thanksgiving

Okay, this one isn’t really about getting customers to change their actions.

In fact, it is actually the restaurant that is going out of its way to be courteous to its customers.

The buzz started when a customer posted a photo of a sign that was hung on the door of George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan that stated that anyone who would be home alone on Thanksgiving could come to the restaurant and get a free meal on November 26, 2015.

Not only did the story go viral on social media, it was covered by many of the traditional media outlets, as well.

And, while the restaurant will probably be giving out more meals than it originally planned, the free publicity that it received is priceless.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, the world would be a better place if people chose to be nicer to each other.

Businesses often have an opportunity to remind customers of this.

As shown in this post, incentivizing good behavior is not always met with open arms. In fact, sometimes, it is met with outrage.

However, when done correctly, little things that remind us that we need to coexist peacefully and show respect for others can get people talking about the business online. Sometimes, this will lead to further coverage in more traditional media outlets.

Furthermore, social sharing is only part of story. When customers search for information about the restaurant on Google or any of the other search engines, a positive story like this is likely to appear on a SERP well into the future. That might be enough to get potential customers to visit the restaurant long after the deal ends.

And, if nothing else, the business might start a conversation that can make the world a better place.

Photo credits: leyla.a and Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Decrease in Social Sharing, Mobile Websites, and Dark Social

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.Content marketing is a great way to generate leads for your business.

Smart businesses know this and have invested a lot of money into creating great content and optimizing it for search so that customers and prospects find their business when it is most important… when the customers and prospects need them.

But search engine optimization is only part of the equation. When it comes to content marketing, getting people to help share your message via social media is also important.

In fact, social sharing is one of four key social media metrics that Avinash Kaushik suggests businesses track. He refers to the social sharing metric as Amplification Rate. (The other three important social media metrics that he suggests that businesses track are: Conversation Rate, Applause Rate, and Economic Value.)

According to a post that Kaushik wrote in 2011, Amplification Rate is measured by tracking the number of times users share a piece of content per post.

In General, Amplification Rate Is Decreasing

In a recent post on the BuzzSumo blog, Steve Rayson points out that although some popular sites have increased the amount of content that they produce, the level of engagement with those posts has been trending downward.

In fact, after analyzing the shares and links of 1 million posts for a research project that BuzzSumo did in conjunction with Moz, they found that 75% of randomly selected posts received 39 shares or less. Furthermore, 50% of these randomly selected posts received 8 shares or less.

In the post, Rayson explains that while content supply has increased at an exponential rate, the fact that demand for content has remained relatively flat partially explains this decrease in content sharing. (Rayson cites Mark Schaeffer in the post. Schaeffer calls this “content shock.”)

In his post, Rayson also identifies three other factors that are compounding the content shock problem.

These three factors, or mistakes that content creators make, include: Lack of research, lack of amplification, and lack of monitoring.

I suggest reading the BuzzSumo post for further details.

Mobile Social Sharing Buttons

Recently, I have noticed that many businesses are not including social sharing buttons on their mobile websites and blogs. Is this by design or something that they have just overlooked? (In WordPress sites, a common social sharing plugin might be the issue, as I have noticed that many blog sites with the “floating” share buttons on their desktop version of their blog don’t have the social share buttons on their mobile sites.)

I wonder if this is another partial explanation for the overall downward trend in the rate of social sharing, given the fact that so many people are consuming content on mobile devices these days.

After doing a quick search on Google, I wasn’t able to find any hard numbers to verify my observation.

However, I was able to find an article on Marketing Land from 2013 that said that consumers were “nearly twice as likely to click and share content on social networks through mobile devices as opposed to desktop.”

This data might be outdated, as these numbers can change extremely quickly based on many different factors.

In fact, according to a post on their blog in May of 2015, Moovweb reported that “Only 0.2% of users ever click on a mobile sharing button. Mobile users click sharing buttons 35% less often that they do on the desktop.”

These numbers also need to be taken with a grain of salt because they based on a subsection of Moovweb customer data. (While Moovweb powers over 250 mobile experiences, these numbers might not reflect the state of social sharing on mobile websites, in general.)

That said, they may have uncovered some valuable insights that businesses can use.

According to the Moovweb blog post, “Just because sharing buttons have been popular on the desktop web does not mean they can be ported over with the same experience on the mobile web. And while 0.2% of mobile users clicking on a social sharing button is a minuscule figure, it does reflect the way social media usage on mobile has evolved: away from the web and toward apps.”

“Most mobile users access social networks via an app, so they are often not logged in to the corresponding social networks on the mobile web,” the blog post continues. “Pinterest, for example, gets 75% of its traffic from apps.”

Moovweb believes that the fact that users need to be logged in in order to share content is the reason for the low percentage of sharing on the mobile web. This creates extra steps that mobile users might not be willing to take.

“For starters you have to thumb type your username and password,” the author of the post writes. “If you’ve been saving your password in-app or in-browser, you might have forgotten it. Resetting a lost password is a huge hassle on mobile.”

Note: I have encountered social sharing buttons on mobile websites that require a user to log in to the mobile web and others that ask if I want to open the correct app, thus bypassing the need to type in a username and password again. This helps fix the problem that Moovweb identified. However, I am not sure if this option is available on every mobile device.

Sharing on Dark Social

To complicate things even further, there is the issue of users sharing links to content via email, SMS, instant messaging or some other way of electronic communication that does not fit neatly into what we usually classify as social media.

In an article for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal classifies these types of referral sources as “dark social” because they are difficult to measure exactly which sources are driving users to a website.

At the time the article was written, Madrigal stated that dark social was nearly always the top referral source for The Atlantic.

This reflects the ever-changing way that people use social media and other electronic communication methods. And, again, mobile devices are helping drive this trend.

A recent post on the NeimanLab site helps illustrate the prevalence of “dark social” sharing.

As Joshua Benton explains in the post, when asked how often SMS and chat apps are used for sharing posts on BuzzFeed’s site, Stacy-Marie Ishmael stated that SMS was the most used way readers share BuzzFeed’s content, followed by Twitter, email, and Facebook. That means that two of the four most common ways that readers share BuzzFeed’s content on Android and iOS are not on standard social media sites. (It appears that this is only based on traffic received from mobile devices, but it is not clear based on the information provided in the article.)

If the way BuzzFeed’s readers share content is representative of the way all Internet users share content, businesses might need to find alternative ways to track what sources are driving traffic to their websites.

Note: Some of what might be classified as dark social sharing might, in fact, be a form of bookmarking posts so that users can read it later. For example, they might email an article that they find on their smartphone to themselves in order to read it later on a desktop computer.

Final Thoughts

There are many factors that play a role in whether content gets shared or not.

However, sometimes the problem is not the fact that users are not sharing the content, but that they are sharing it in ways that we can’t currently accurately track and measure.

Therefore, identifying the key issues that inhibit social sharing is not always easy to identify and might be even more difficult to fix.

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Green Is Good for Business

In his book, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It,” Al Gore makes a strong case for addressing the issue of (human-caused) global warming before it is too late.

It should be noted that there are skeptics out there who say that the science that Gore uses to support his argument is biased.

That said, you need to look at the motives of all of the people involved before making the final decision as to what you believe to be true.

In a blog post, titled “Global warming consensus: Agreement among scientists confirmed, again,” Erik Conway explains that market research has shown that many people think that government should take action on controversial issues similar to this one only after the science is settled. Therefore, it is in the best interest of those entities that are adding to the problem to challenge the science to make it look like there isn’t a consensus about the whether or not human-caused global warming is a reality, in order to prevent action.

There is a lot of evidence out there to support the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality. In addition to Gore’s book, a documentary hosted by Tom Brokaw, titled “Global Warming: What You Need to Know,” and a website that was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide some of this evidence.

What Do Your Customers Believe?

Although I do believe that there is definitely some validity to the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality, what I think is not really the point.

In fact, when you are making business decisions that relate to how your company handles this issue, what you think is also irrelevant.

When looking at human-caused global warming from a business perspective, the people who really matter the most are your customers and potential customers.

As Al Ries and Jack Trout point out in their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” what you tell consumers doesn’t really matter.  What really matters is what they believe about your product or service and your company or brand. This is what is going to influence whether or not they make a purchase.

If the people who could potentially buy your products and services believe that human-caused global warming is real and your company is heavily contributing to the problem, then there is a good chance that they will eventually take their business elsewhere, if they haven’t already.

Our Children Are the Future

Our children and their children are the ones who are going to be living here on Earth 50 to 100 years from now. Therefore, it is not surprising that whether or not a product or service is eco-friendly has become more important to young consumers.

A study that was mentioned in an Adweek article on October 24, 2012 highlights the fact that, in 2012, a greater percentage of young consumers thought that factors like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” were important to them when buying products than young consumers did just five years earlier.

Think About the Future Before It’s Too Late

Although it is not always possible, the long-term health of the company should be considered when making decisions in an effort to reach short-term goals.

With that in mind, what happens if the scientists who are predicting that human-caused global warming is a problem are actually correct?

What if in the year 2100 we experience effects of human-caused global warming that makes life unbearable for many consumers?

Who are they going to blame?

If your company didn’t do anything to prevent the problem when it had the chance, will consumers be forgiving?

What if these problems happen sooner?

Final Thoughts

Human-caused global warming is an issue that is often talked about on national news programs. However, the problem hasn’t reached a point where action is being demanded… yet.

That doesn’t mean that your business should ignore the issue.

As John Lindsay once said, “In politics, the perception is the reality.”

In their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” Ries and Trout point out that the same is true in advertising, business, and in life.

Therefore, even if you think that human-caused global warming is absolute nonsense, it still is a good idea to take steps to make your business green.

Making sure that your business has a minimal negative impact on the global and local environment not only helps keep existing customers happy, it can also be used as a selling point when trying to gain new customers.

Furthermore, as many thought leaders have pointed out, making your business green can actually increase the bottom line in other ways (e.g., lowering operating expenses, leading to new products or business partnerships, helping secure government contracts, etc.)

In the end, having a green business is good business and good for business.

Photo credits: Paladin Zhang and John LeGear on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Oreo Knows the Only Winning Move Is Not to Play the Game

After being challenged to a game of tic-tac-toe by Kit Kat, Oreo wisely declined in a way that would make fictional characters Dr. Stephen Falken and David Lightman proud.

As I explained in a recent post, movies often contain lessons mixed in with the car chases and beautiful people living extraordinary lives.

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you probably remember that in the 1983 movie “WarGames,” David Lightman, a young computer hacker played by Matthew Broderick, unwittingly accessed WOPR, a United States military supercomputer that was designed by Dr. Stephen Falken to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. In the process, Lightman unknowingly almost starts World War III.

At the climax of the movie, Dr. Falken and Lightman try to teach WOPR that nobody wins in a war. The first lesson begins with multiple games of tic-tac-toe before moving on to war simulations.

In the end, the computer ends the war simulations and writes, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

Well said. Lesson learned. (Click here to watch that scene on YouTube.)

Competing for Laura Ellen’s Love

If you follow social media marketing news at all, you know that Oreo earned praise for the tweet they sent out after the power went out at the Superdome during this year’s Super Bowl. They also had success with this real-time marketing strategy during the airing of the 85th Academy Awards.

Other brands are taking note and are trying to replicate Oreo’s success.

Therefore, it is not surprising that when Laura Ellen, a Twitter user from Manchester, UK, tweeted that she was following both Kit Kat and Oreo on Twitter, Kit Kat jumped at the chance to challenge Oreo to a friendly game of tic-tac-toe in an effort to fight for Ms. Ellen’s affections.

As a post on Mashable.com points out, this scored huge points with Ms. Ellen. And, judging from the number of retweets and favorites, with the clever use of Kit Kats for Xs and (potentially) Oreos for Os, Kit Kat also scored points with the general public.

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

When faced with the option of playing Kit Kat in a public game of tic-tac-toe, Oreo decided to decline with style and grace. In my opinion, that was a brilliant move.

As Lauren Indvik points out in the article on Mashable.com, there are possible negative consequences of being the loser in a game that could get old real fast.

Furthermore, as the folks at ADVERVE point out, just because brands are rivals doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun at the same time. As they ask, “Is it so unreasonable to think that there are Kit Kat lovers in the Oreo camp, or vice-versa?”

By declining to play the game by complimenting the taste of Kit Kats, Oreo found a way to create a win-win situation. Kit Kat gets a compliment, and Oreo gets some free advertising from Kit Kat, not to mention all the free publicity it received by the media covering the ad campaign.

As an added bonus, I would be willing to bet that this ad campaign made many people think of the movie WarGames. Knowing that this is a movie that is beloved by tech geeks around the world, this was a perfect move for Oreo to make in a social media ad campaign. Was it intended? Only the digital agencies involved could tell you that for sure.

Final Thoughts

With some things in life, nobody ever wins. In those cases, the best solution is not to play the game.

In the 1980’s movie WarGames, we learned that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

The same could often be said in head-to-head competition in the marketplace.

In the case of the Kit Kat tic-tac-toe challenge, Oreo proved wise enough to demonstrate that there is room enough for both brands in the marketplace, and that there is no need to show its skill in a game that often ends in a stalemate.

By declining the game in the way that they did, they created a win-win scenario for both brands.

Photo credit: Torben Bjørn Hansen on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Good or Bad, Customer Feedback Is a Gift

Some products or services fail because they fix a problem that too few people need fixed.

Others fail even though there is a demand for a product or service to fix a problem, it’s just that the company didn’t create the right product or service to fix it.

I think from the title of the post, you can see where I am going with this.

But, before I get into it further, let’s get a short history lesson from 3M.

The History of Scotch Brand Tape

According to the book, “Symbols of America: A Lavish Celebration of America’s Best Loved Trademarks and the Products They Symbolize, Their History, Folklore, and Enduring Mystique,” (affiliate link) by Hal Morgan, “Pure serendipity led the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, more commonly known as 3M, to the name Scotch Brand for its tapes. In 1925 the fad for two-toned automobiles created a demand for masking tape coated with a thin strip of adhesive on each edge. When the tape failed to stick properly, a disgruntled auto-body painter told his 3M salesman to take the tape back to his “Scotch” bosses and tell them to put the adhesive all over the surface of the tape. The slur stuck, the company took the painter’s advice, and 3M has been marketing tapes under that name with the familiar tartan trim ever since.”

Just to verify the validity of the story, I double-checked with Wikipedia.

While some of the details are slightly different, the key element of the story remains. That is, a customer was not happy with the product and let the company know about it instead of just changing suppliers without an explanation.

By taking the time to let 3M know how the product was not meeting his needs and offering a solution, the customer gave 3M the information needed to improve the product.

And, by actually listening to the needs of the customer, 3M not only made a product that satisfied the needs of one customer, it helped meet the needs of many of its customer and, in the process, launched one of the most successful brands of tape in history.

Customer Complaints Are Gifts

If the example that I just gave hasn’t convinced you of the value of listening to the feedback that customers give you, I don’t know what will.

But, for those of you who do need some additional convincing, I’d suggest reading a recent blog post by Adam Toporek on customersthatstick.com, titled “What Are Customers Complaints? They’re Gifts.”

In the post, Toporek outlines some of the concepts that are introduced in a book by Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller, titled, “A Complaint Is a Gift: Recovering Customer Loyalty When Things Go Wrong.” (affiliate link)

The blog post suggests that businesses need to change the way that they think about customer complaints. Instead of thinking of them as an annoyance or an indication of failure, businesses need to think of customer complaints as a way to identify customers’ needs that have not yet been met and as opportunities to turn dissatisfied customers into satisfied ones, and possibly create brand advocates in the process.

As Toporek points out, “The most important point about complaints is that they are an opportunity. Complaints are gifts because they are not silence. Silent attrition, when customers leave but never say a word to the company, is a huge issue in many businesses. According to Andrea J. Ayers of Convergys, companies, as an average across industries, lose 12% to silent attrition. In the credit card industry, the number is 43%!”

Customer complaints are gifts, indeed!

Customer Feedback on the Internet

As the 3M example shows, customers have been giving companies advice about how to make a better product for many years. In fact, they may have been doing so since the beginning of time for all I know.

However, in the past, it was very easy for the message to get lost before the right person at the company received it.

Just think about what would have happened if the customer who had complained about 3M’s tape told a person who did not care enough to relay the message to a person who could do something about it. If that had happened, 3M would have left a lot of money on the table and might not have become the company it is today.

Luckily, it is now much easier for the customer to get his or her suggestion into the hands of the right person by posting a complaint on the Internet. Or, to state it a different way, it is now easier for the decision makers in a company to get access to the suggestion.

Also, keep in mind, not all feedback is bad. If a company is doing a great job of meeting the needs of its customers, there is a chance that they will let others know about that, too.

Positive feedback in the form of reviews on review sites is one of the best types of advertising that a company can get. This is even more important given the fact that review sites tend to rank well on search engine results pages.

This is another reason to pay attention to the feedback that your company receives, good or bad.

Final Thoughts

No matter how much a company likes its own product or service, customers will only buy it if it fills a need better than the competition’s product or service.

Therefore, the feedback that a business receives from its customers might be more valuable than one might think.

When the feedback is good it acts as an advertisement for the company.

On the other hand, customer feedback can also tell a company that they have not yet met their customers’ needs.

This gives them the opportunity to make changes to the product or service that might benefit many of their customers, and in the process, increase sales.

It is for this reason I can confidently say that, whether good or bad, customer feedback is definitely a gift.

Photo credit: globochem3x1minus1 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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They Only Cost a Tweet! #tweetshop

The Kellogg Company Introduces Special K Crisps to the UK

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond,” (affiliate link) Paco Underhill points out that, “Close to 90 percent of all new grocery products fail, but it isn’t because people didn’t like them—it’s because people never tried them. In my opinion, a new product introduction that doesn’t include a well-funded, fully supported (with marketing) effort to give shoppers samples is not a serious attempt.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising that when introducing its new Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK at the end of last month, the Kellogg Company created a unique marketing campaign that not only gave customers a chance to try the product, but they also incorporated social media into the effort in a way that guaranteed that customers would spread the word about how awesome Special K Cracker Crisps are to their friends online.

Kellogg’s Tweet Shop

The idea was simple: They created a trendy pop-up shop in London’s Soho district that invited customers to get packages of Special K Cracker Crisps in exchange for a tweet that included the hashtag #tweetshop.

As an Ad Age article points out, this is not the first time that a brand has offered free products in exchange for a post on a social networking site. However, the article points out that it might be the first example of real-life interaction using a pay-with-a-tweet-concept.

In the Ad Age article, Dan Glover, creative director of Mischief PR, the agency behind the campaign, is quoted as saying, “We believe that physical and social are one and the same. When we had the idea it felt very simple, and we did a lot of checking to be sure it was a world first. We jumped on that and made it happen – it was eight weeks from idea to execution.”

Not only was this a creative way to get customers to sample a new product, but it also created a lot of buzz in the media, as well.

And, the pay-with-a-tweet concept ensured that people would be spreading the word online.

As Sarah Case, brand manager for Special K, explains, “The value of positive endorsements on social-media sites is beyond compare, so we’re excited to be the first company to literally use social currency instead of financial currency to launch this new product in our bespoke Special K shop.”

Word of Mouth—What Customers Were Tweeting

On Friday, September 28th, I searched for the hashtag #tweetshop. (This, by the way, was the last day that pop-up store was in operation.)

As would be expected, many of the tweets included photos that were posted on other social networking sites.

Some of the tweets included the hashtag #spons.

According to theEword, a search marketing agency located in Manchester, England, “Within the Kellogg’s pop up store, people are given a menu of Tweets to try out, all including #tweetshop #spons. While #tweetshop allows Kellogg’s to monitor the success of its social media campaign, the #spons hashtag ensures that it adheres to regulations put in place by the Advertising Standards Agency, which requires sponsored tweets to be clearly indicated.”

Here are some of examples of the tweets. (Thanks to the Twitter Blackbird Pie WordPress plugin, you can actually click on the links in the tweets to see the photos that customers tweeted.)

So cool! I'm at the first tweet shop in the world! #tweetshop #london
@pamche
Pamela Chehade
Kellogg's #TweetShop #popupshop on Meard Street. Actually pretty good crisps. (@ the tweet shop) [pic]: http://t.co/TjF7GYMJ
@Thesegoto11
Steven Ray
I've just had new Special K crisps and they're delicious! #tweetshop #spons
@AndyJoeyTaylor
Andrew Joseph Taylor
Just having cracker crisps in the special K tweet shop! It is rather good! #tweetshop
@Heph
Simon Hepher

Increasing Brand Engagement

The official UK Press Office for the Kellogg Company (@KelloggsUK) also asked Twitterers who were not at the Tweet Shop to tweet using the hashtag #tweetshop for a chance to win some free Special K Cracker Crisps.

By engaging the audience in this way, the Kellogg Company helped increase the awareness of the new product and hopefully got some additional people to purchase them.

Who wants to win3 new flavours of Special K Cracker Crisps? Please tweet #tweetshop with a message why you should win! http://t.co/5BC0AxsL
@KelloggsUK
Kellogg's UK

Conclusion

As Paco Underhill pointed out in his book, getting people to try a new product is of the utmost importance.

Getting consumers to sample a product and creating a buzz at the same time is a big win.

That’s exactly what the Kellogg Company did when they introduced their Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK in September.

By using a trendy pop-up store in London’s Soho district, the Kellogg Company found a way to get the product into consumers’ hands and, at the same time, get them excited about it.

From the consumers’ perspective, they got some tasty snacks—and it only cost them a tweet.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Every Interaction With a Consumer Is Marketing

Others have said it before, but I will say it again. Marketing is not handled by just the people in a company’s marketing department. Marketing is everyone’s responsibility.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was at the post office.

I arrived only 15 minutes before the post office closed with enough items to ship that it required two trips to the customer service counter.

The lady who was in front of me during my first trip to the customer service counter was clearly angry. However, she wasn’t angry at the people working behind the counter.

She was actually angry at the company that she had purchased an item from.

I didn’t hear all of the conversation that she had with the postal worker, but what I did hear her say was that she was having a hard time trying to return the item, and that only after she talked to someone in the company’s marketing department did they give her permission to send the item back.

My guess is that the person in the marketing department who gave her the permission to send the item back was worried about the brand’s reputation and the effect that this transaction could have if she let others know about the bad customer service that she had received from other parts of the company.

In the age of social media, every time a person has a bad experience with a company creates an opportunity for a public relations disaster.

At a minimum, if an angry customer lets others in his or her network know about the bad customer service that he or she received, there is a chance that the people hearing about the incident will think twice before using that company the next time they are looking for a similar product or service.

If enough people have bad experiences and let others know about it on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or any other site where people can voice their opinions online, there is no doubt that it is going to be noticed in the future when potential customers are doing product research online.

And, if the person receiving the bad customer service is a celebrity, it can really create a headache for the brand’s marketing and public relations teams. Just ask United.

Today, word of mouth has a greater significance thanks to social networking sites, review sites, and search engines like Google or Bing. Therefore, providing great customer service is more important than ever.

As the tagline of my blog states, “Every interaction with a consumer IS marketing.”

On a side note, because I got to the post office so late, I just got my second set of boxes to the counter as they were closing. The postal worker stayed a little late on a Friday night in order to get my boxes delivered on time without any grumbling or complaining at all. For that, I thank them.

This, by the way, is the upside of word of mouth. That is, when you provide great customer service, many of your customers will let their friends and family know about that, too.

Photo credit: truds09 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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