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Customers should lead brand social strategy: ad:tech exec

November 8, 2012


NEW YORK - A Citi executive at the ad:tech 2012 conference said that all consumers have passions. Therefore, marketers should tap those consumers who have a passion for the brand to drive change in social media strategy from a product focus to an experience focus.

During the “Social Marketing Crash Course: Innovative Ways to Listen, Engage and Add Value for Your Brand” session, executives discussed how social media should be a channel to enhance the brand experience. A product-centric message could deter customers from engaging and listening to what a brand has to say, which is ultimately the goal of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

“The best marketers are using social media as a channel to enhance their customer experience,” said Frank Eliason, senior vice president of social media at Citigroup, New York.

“Stop worrying about your brand and start worrying about your customer,” he said.

Listen up

There are two ways that marketers can shift their social strategy from product-centric to customer experience-centric.

“The best marketers right now are working on that customer experience because that is ultimately your message,” Mr. Eliason said.

Marketers must learn to listen.

Indeed, there are two types of people who marketers should listen to: employees and customers.

Brands’ own employees are often the largest pool of brand advocates. However, marketers often firewall their employees from posting about the brand on social networks.

Consumers could develop more trust in a brand on social media if employees were the source of the message rather than an anonymous brand representative. Then, they will be more likely to listen to the brand message.

“I want employees to express feelings about the brand,” Mr. Eliason said.

“There is power in the people, and there is a power in your employees,” he said. “Use that to drive change in your company.”

Marketers should also be listening to their customers on social media networks. In fact, it is the largest source for brand feedback.

If marketers post material on social networks that is important to their customers, their customers will be more likely to look at the content and come back to see updates.

“When you start to change the customer relationship with the company, they begin marketing for you,” Mr. Eliason said.

“We have to change the culture in which we do this,” he said. “Create experiences that get customers to want to talk about your brand.”

Talk to me

Another executive discussed how brands can begin to transition their overall social media strategy to a customer-centric one.

First, marketers must make a “love” and “hate” list, per Mari Luangrath, founder of Foiled Cupcakes, a delivery-only cupcake service based in Chicago.

The company began by marketing its services only via social media. This strategy was successful for the brand since first-year sales were higher than expected.

The “love” and “hate” lists help marketers identify which consumers will ultimately buy from the brand.

For instance, Foiled Cupcakes “loved” customers who wanted to purchase more than one dozen cupcakes, but “hated” consumers who wanted to purchase one cupcake for approximately $3. The brand was looking to market to consumers who wanted a significant amount of cupcakes delivered to their home or office.

Then, the company created an experience that attracted its “love” customers.

One way that Foiled Cupcakes did this was to create lists on Twitter of businesses who might order cupcakes for delivery.

Foiled Cupcakes created lists with ubiquitous names so that those being followed did not know its intentions.

The company was able to follow the tweets of local consumers and start a conversation with them. Some responses did not mention the company, but were meant to trigger that communication.

“We used Twitter in order to make the customer know that we have their back,” Ms. Luangrath said.

“Social media is not about pushing the product, but developing a relationship with the people who you are trying to earn business from,” she said.

Another executive deemed social media as the single largest source of unsolicited consumer opinions.

Consumers are telling marketers exactly what they want them to do next, per Wayne St. Amand, vice president of marketing at Crimson Hexagon, Boston.

“You must be sensitive to that information to have it impact your business,” Mr. St. Amand said.

Final Take

Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York