Industry: Retail, Publishing
Contacts: David Black for The Beat Goes On, Sophie Blom for The New Quarterly, Jessica Burman for Cocoon Apothecary
It’s the hot topic that anyone who has anything to do with marketing talks about; What is the next big thing? I believe that the future of social media is right in our faces – it’s social.
Why should you take me seriously? I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to the successful, I’ve had a hand in the practical, and I’m very likely to be part of your target demographic – an early-30-something frequent social media user with cash to burn. I know what I like, and if you’re talking at me instead of to me, I have already skipped over you and right on to your competitor.
Technology will come, and either evolve or disintegrate, but the future relies on how we engage with whatever part of the business social media is used for, for all of the supporting tools.
This blog – Social Media for Business Performance – examines the many facets of social media for business: Employee Involvement, Customer Engagement, Product Development, Supply Chain Management, and the big one, Marketing. I’ve fulfilled my role writing case studies on each of these topics, and the recurring theme that each and every business I’ve spoken to is that they succeed when they actively engage with the humans operating the profiles/usernames/handles, every step of the way.
But you don’t have to just take my word on it.
David Black, Social Media Manager for The Beat Goes On, says that he’s surprised how often customers of the used CD & DVD store’s various locations have never heard of The Beat Goes on, despite its heavy online presence, and 20+ years of existence. “The end goal of any of our social media efforts is to build customer loyalty, and drive customers to our website and to our stores. The methods of doing so are a mix of posting noteworthy product, as well as relevant news and articles in the hope of creating a dialogue between us and our customers.” He points out that gauging the success of any advertising can be tricky, and despite the number of in-store customers who aren’t plugged in to The Beat Goes On’s social media engagement, “I can say that we’ve significantly grown our number of Facebook likes through giveaways and paid promotion through Facebook Ads. Our followers tend to respond well to posts showcasing rare items that turn up in the stores, and are particularly susceptible to most any kind of nostalgia. This makes sense, as our business is in buying and selling physical media which is in itself becoming a nostalgic pursuit for some.”
What does this say of the future? “The best part of utilizing social media is that we are able to tap into a resource for demographic info and feedback from our customer base to get a better understanding of what they expect from us and what they’d like to see from us in the future.”
Literary magazine The New Quarterly’s consensus sounds a lot like Black’s. Managing Editor Sophie Blom says that the magazine’s social media content strives to interact with writers, other magazines, and publishers, rather than posting stagnant, self-oriented musings, “We’ll talk about and post events and contests that will be of interest to our followers; even if we don’t see any immediate benefit to The New Quarterly, we’re increasing our value to our audience as well as gaining a reputation among our peers – which hopefully they will reciprocate when we’re publicizing our own events.”
Cocoon Apothecary’s social media strategy is to promote not only their artisanal, environmentally- and socially-responsible skin care line, but to educate and entertain their audience as an authority figure on topics that are important to the people running the company. Founder, Jessica Burman, explains, “I want to look like a person, not a brand. I want people to know who I am, recognize my voice and feel a connection. This converts to sales because I gain a loyal, trusting audience that believes in my products because they believe in me. People respond to genuine posts where they may learn something new or be inspired. We now have to compete with bloggers with millions of followers who create product lines and are instant successes. A good example of this is Michelle Phan, a young beauty blogger who recently launched a cosmetic company. Every celebrity seems to have a product behind them now as well – Kate Hudson has athletic wear, Jessica Alba has a subscription box of household goods. It’s very difficult to compete with this so CEOs of companies have to become celebrities on their own.”
Hear what we’re saying? The movement should continue to flock towards humanizing social media.
Why can I source the social part of media if it’s a thing of the future? That’s because we’re still talking about it, blogging about it, making a bid to raise the importance of the personal experience. If personable action was a universally-accepted way for businesses to use social media, the articles, blog posts, and interviews would be about the next great way to interact with the audience, instead of what they are now; a constant Pros list on why the investment for social media managers and real, live people are necessary to succeed with social media.
You’re hearing me, I know you are. But I also know that you’re still clamoring for knowledge of the next big THING in social media. I asked around about that too, just for you!
Black says, “Facebook will likely continue to be the biggest platform for social media for the foreseeable future. Since it is currently trying to curb the influx of advertising from ‘Pages’, it will become harder for businesses to reach their followers without constantly paying into Facebook’s advertising program. The solution that Facebook is likely hoping to see is that businesses will put more creative effort into their pages so that they are more relevant and appealing to the millions of Facebook users who are being inundated by the pages of the things they supposedly like.
“As for what might spring up tomorrow – I have no idea. The success of Twitter, Snapchat and Vine demonstrate that social media platforms are attempting to find niches that are smaller, bite-sized, and low commitment.” Black muses that the success of these platforms is directly related to the Millennials who make them popular, and predicts, “companies are going to have to find a way to reach them as they get older and start earning real money. Facebook probably won’t be the place to reach that demographic, as it has gotten more bloated and cumbersome as it has grown in users. I have no doubt though, that some student out there is working on something that will become part of everyone’s daily routine.”
Blom’s prediction for social media overall: “For the next big thing for business, I’d agree that this “beacon technology” will open a lot of venues for marketing.” And in the not-so-far-future, she says, “In terms of social media at the moment, Instagram is a great way to break the barrier and connect with your audience on a more human level. This is particularly important for us [The New Quarterly] since publishing companies and literary magazines can have a stuffy reputation and a nebulous flow of operations. Social media lets us present a behind-the-scenes look at publishing a Canadian literary magazine, and we can show our readers all the things we love about what we do.”
In short, the next big THING is the ability to identify the behaviours that draw users to a particular platform and, should it be a THING that your business can put to use, adapting that strategy to that of your own.
Lessons for Others
When I began this Social Media for Business Performance journey, I watched an interview conducted by University of Waterloo professor Peter Carr with the social media savvy Ted Rubin, (video clip below), and Rubin made a comment that was my Ah-HA! moment; “I think that if people don’t understand the value of relationships period – in the real world – they’re not going to understand it digitally.” This expression resonates with me because I have bared witness to this truth over and over again, by individuals, which is who Rubin was speaking of specifically, and in business.
Social media on the whole is saturated with business, advertising, marketing experiments. In order to be vibrant, treat social media like you would any face-to-face interaction. Do you ignore a customer who wanders into your shop, or do you look them in the eye and make it clear you’re pleased to see them? Put in the time and effort to learn how your target demographic are using social media, and use it to extend the in-person experience and further cultivate the community you have worked so diligently to create in the first place, in whatever form it began. There are people behind the profiles, make sure you’re one of them.
Submitted By: Catherine Muss, SMBP student, University of Waterloo
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