At this year’s Ad Age Digital Conference, a handful of expert speakers shared how you can use social media to get customers to talk about your brand—and put their money where their mouths are.
Here are four tips from the pros.
Stand up for—and with—the little guy.
Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker has become famous for his heroic exploits, which include shoveling streets during a 2010 blizzard and rescuing a neighbor from a burning building. At any given moment, the busy mayor (who is widely assumed to be a Senate contender) can be found on Twitter replying openly to city residents’ reports on missing cars and broken streetlights. What draws the politician to the public arena of social media when other elected officials might shrink away?
"Hacking the Senate,” Booker said yesterday at the conference. “Federal government doesn’t move at the pace of people and technology.” Mayor Booker said social platforms like Twitter and #waywire, the video sharing start-up he co-founded with former Gilt City president Nathan Richardson, enable everyday people to highlight the issues that matter to their community, and actually be heard by those in power.
He also explained that social media tools can be crucial for managing PR since direct, immediate access to the public can, when used effectively, tamp down on rumors or problems.
Go where you are needed.
With more than 340 stores, it’s unsurprising that Whole Foods has more than 20 Twitter accounts. According to Natanya Anderson, the company’s director of social media, Whole Foods’s “local social” marketing presence evolved organically to reflect the range of products offered by region. (That means lots of pickle talk at @WholeFoodsNYC and an outlet for dairy lovers at @WFMCheese.) However, Anderson cautioned brands against creating accounts just because they can.
“You can’t go local social because it’s right for your business alone,” she said. “It must be good for your customers, too.” Before asking an audience to become part of yet another community, Anderson tells businesses to consider how much of a local presence they have in the first place, if they have enough unique content to share regularly, if the overarching brand is willing to have local ambassadors speak on the company’s behalf, and what that commitment will look like.
Harmonize and customize.
“Mobile photography is the biggest thing on the Internet today,” said Tobias Peggs, CEO of photo editing start-up Aviary. The company has partnered with more than 3,700 companies including Twitter to offer customized filters and photo stickers for regular use and specialized campaigns. Advertising is a burgeoning frontier.
According to Peggs, photography and social advertising go hand in hand for two reasons: widespread photo sharing among the public, and the emergence of seamless ads from brands. Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter continue to experiment with ways to create unobstructed ad experiences for users, but Pegg says promoted tweets and sponsored posts are on the right track. For the CEO, the ballooning field of photo sharing makes social advertising more fluid, since content is generated by users themselves. (Think branded filters created by Aviary that event-goers use and share on their social networks.)
Pass the torch.
Like other conference speakers, Lerer Ventures partner Eric Hippeau noted that the beauty of social content is its storytelling capability. $90 billion is still being spent in broadcast advertising, he said, because the medium of television is better suited to that task—though social content presents the same opportunity. Some inertia in the transition from traditional marketing to social advertising is expected (and, perhaps, wise), Hippeau said, but he believes that users outpace marketers by a long stretch.
The VC’s solution? “Suspend your disbelief,” Hippeau said, citing BuzzFeed as an example of a company known for its young hires and daring advertising model. “Forget some of the stuff you know and have learned over the years, and trust younger people.” He suggested assigning younger team members the task of producing content for their brand’s market to see if hard work from both ends of the age spectrum equals innovative results.