Peter Koeppel’s 6-Part Series on Trend Spotting: Part 4, Social Media

by Peter Koeppel on Nov 3, 2016 1:51:39 PM D2C Convention, Digital Marketing, Brand Marketing, Social Media

At the 2016 ERA D2C convention in Las Vegas last September, I presented a session entitled Trend Spotting: Benchmarking the Present and Predicting the Future of Marketing. My intention was a simple one: to synthesize the latest statistics, forecasts, and best practices in marketing from over 100 different sources to save my audience time and to provide insight that will help you today and in the future. In the fourth of this six-part series we take a look at social media. Given the presentation was confined to an hour, I have had to limit my focus, but hopefully the learnings gleaned will prove helpful to the reader.

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At the 2016 ERA D2C convention in Las Vegas last September, I presented a session entitled Trend Spotting: Benchmarking the Present and Predicting the Future of Marketing. My intention was a simple one: to synthesize the latest statistics, forecasts, and best practices in marketing from over 100 different sources to save my audience time and to provide insight that will help you today and in the future. In the fourth of this six-part series we take a look at social media. Given the presentation was confined to an hour, I have had to limit my focus, but hopefully the learnings gleaned will prove helpful to the reader.

Engagement Party

To begin with, it helps to identify who the big players are in social media. If you look at the list below, you can see Facebook and YouTube dwarf all of the other competitors, although for certain younger demographics apps like Instagram and Snapchat have become a vital part of their daily social interaction.

Ranking Platform Active Subscribers
1 Facebook 1.59 billion
2 YouTube 1.0 billion
3 Google+ 418 million
4 Instagram 400 million
4 LinkedIn 400 million
6 Twitter 320 million
7 Reddit 231 million
8 Tumblr 200 million
9 Snapchat 150 million
10 Pinterest 100 million


We could spend hours on this topic, but let me just share a few best practices.

I think the first thing that it is important to remember is that each of us have a persona and part of that persona consists of brands – the car we drive, the clothes we wear, even which credit card we carry. People want to play an active role and engage with the brands they are passionate about because these brands are an extension of their identity. In order for them to remain loyal to your brand then, they have to feel good about it because in a way they are putting their own ego on the line. With social media they are exhibiting their loyalty in a way that is public and that carries a certain measure of risk.

Ditch the Pitch

This interrelationship between marketer and consumer is why social media engagement is so critical and also why how you engage is particularly significant. Many social media pundits caution marketers to observe the 80/20 rule and not make their engagement self-serving. In simple terms, people don’t want to be pitched to death. So what does it mean? It means 80% of your content should consist of relevant, shareable posts. Things such as:

  • Tips and tricks or shortcuts
  • Creating a feedback loop by responding to the posts of your community
  • Non-promotional company information. Examples might include profiling your employees, their passions and lifestyles, giving your brand a human face
  • Job openings
  • Other unique aspects about your culture such as the product development process, support for charities, and events

Beyond these sorts of posts, that means only about 20% or 2 out of every 10 posts should be promotional in nature. That’s a challenge for direct marketers whose first instinct may be to zero in on the call-to-action.

In the example below, Whole Foods is offering gluten free recipes on Pinterest. While the grocery retailer would obviously like its audience to buy the ingredients to make these dishes from one of their stores, the nature of the posts is informational. They help to establish Whole Foods as an authority for those who must grapple with this dietary limitation. This kind of helpful advice helps nurture brand affinity and is in alignment with their brand which emphasizes healthy eating.

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Another social media best practice is to use relevant hashtags to make it easy for your brand evangelists to find you and your content and to share it. Finally, engage with people on an emotional level through storytelling, humor, testimonials – anything that helps to reinforce their zeal for your brand.

A second example of a marketer who clearly works to find a balance is ERA member Beachbody. Most every one of us knows somebody who has done one of their extreme workouts such as P90x or Insanity. These folks are often excited about their results and can manifest itself in the form of a special affinity with the company, even leading them to be part of the company’s multilevel marketing model as product distributors. Take a look at the examples from their Facebook feed below. On the left you have a recipe – again, we’ll call that a tip. In the middle, an article addresses common fitness myths – this is neutral information designed to create engagement without being self-serving. On the right they are highlighting an individual’s transformation using their products. Imagine how good the woman in the pictures feels knowing that over 500 strangers took the time to give her personal encouragement. This kind of interaction creates community and community engenders brand loyalty.

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Yet another example of the effective use of social media as a platform for consumer engagement is the way in which digital camera manufacturer GoPro uses Twitter. GoPro highlights their consumers through daily Photo of the Day and Video of the Day tweets and the company consistently re-tweets content from consumers they get a shout out from. Again, this type of interaction creates a call and response that helps cement relationships between brands and their public, and it helps solidify community and loyalty.

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Word On the Street

To really understand how important social media engagement is, it’s vital to understand that according to BrightLocal, some 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Think about that for a moment: It means that nearly 9 out of 10 consumers will trust a total stranger’s review as much as they would a face-to-face recommendation from a friend. Furthermore, the same source reports that only 12% of consumers surveyed said they do not read online reviews. That means that reputation management isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Reviews and how marketers respond to them – in cases both good and bad – are a form of social proof that can reinforce good feelings about a marketer or have the opposite effect.

Take online furniture retailer Joybird as an illustration of good best practices in this regard. Below you see they have received a terrific five-star review – every marketer’s dream. But Joybird doesn’t just take it for granted. Here they have taken care to thank the consumer, John, who took time out to give them a glowing review.

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Then here is the flip side to a stellar review – a one-star rating from someone who is clearly frustrated with the time it has taken to build their custom Joybird order. While some companies might run for cover or simply ignore the post in the hopes that consumers will too, in this case, the Business Manager at Joybird has taken the time to publicly address the problem and further, she attempts to ameliorate it. What do you suppose it says to prospective buyers about how they treat their customers and to what degree they care? It takes an impersonal situation and makes it personal.

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In conclusion, social media needs to be managed on a daily, even minute-to-minute basis by employees who are dedicated to the cause. What was once a kind of afterthought has been transformed into a public square where every marketer’s laundry is hung out and on display. I hope these tips have been helpful. Next week in part 5 of this blog series, we’ll examine the impact of mass retail as a channel and how it relates to direct marketing.

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Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, an influential direct response media firm focused on direct response television (DRTV), online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. He can be reached at 972-732-6110 or online at pkoeppel@koeppeldirect.com or twitter.com/DRTVBUYER

View the other posts from Peter's 6-part series on Trend Spotting:

Part 1: Offline channels
Part 2: Online channels
Part 3: Mobile channels

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