Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube not only empower organisations to engage in real time authentic conversations with consumers and clients, but also serves as an outlet to drive sales through special offers, brand insights and other interesting content.
Internationally, many well-known global brands such as Starbucks, Virgin, and Levi's have been using social media for some time. And in South Africa Gullan&Gullan have been managing social media activities for the more progressive local clients such as Vespa, VO5 Extreme, Motions Hair Care and are soon to launch a social media programme for the Institute of Directors for South Africa. Here are some international and local case studies to assist you in getting an insight about how social media can increase your bottom line. 1. Hotel deals exclusive on the social media space
Joie De Vivre operates 33 luxury hotels in California and is using a variety of social media platforms to drive sales and marketing for its properties. Central to the hotel group's strategy is disseminating deals and coupons to followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter. Every Tuesday, Joie De Vivre Tweets an exclusive deal to its nearly 10 000 followers. Followers have only hours to book the steeply discounted room rate. The company also operates similar deals for its 5 000-plus Facebook fans on Fridays.
The results - in less than a year, Joie De Vivre booked over 1 000 rooms through these types of deals-rooms that otherwise would have stayed empty. The company has also started a partnership with a coupons site to offer coupons for their restaurants. And the company has partnered with Foursquare to offer deals for check-ins at its various restaurants.
The company's marketing VP Ann Nadeau has stated that due to the economy the hotel industry's marketing budgets have shrunk, and social media efforts have proved to be a great way to both drive sales and build loyalty with smaller marketing budgets. 2. Levi's is well liked in the social space and has the sales to prove it
Levi's Jeans was one of the first brands to use Facebook as a tool for sales and marketing and has launched a number of compelling campaigns. The first brand to use Facebook's new Like functionality, Levi's allows Facebook users to like products on Levi's online store and its Facebook page (which has nearly 500,000 likes) and share their favourite items with their friends. Within the first week, Levi's got more than 4 000 likes.
Levi's recently enlisted a "Levi's Guy," on Twitter. Gareth, a 23-year-old graduate has over 6 000 followers and is responsible for responding to and engaging in conversations about the Levi's brand on Twitter. The company is currently in the process of trying to find a Levi's Girl, which will serve as a female foil to Gareth.
Levi's director of digital marketing, Megan O'Connor, confirmed that the engagement with both Twitter and Facebook is about creating and informing brand ambassadors that is driving sales and word of mouth. 3. Vespa lovers make movies and learn to ride
Vespa South Africa launched an online competition that enticed fans to make a movie about Vespa and upload them to YouTube. The campaign generated massive interest and nearly a hundred world-class two-minute movies being submitted. What's more the campaign was also successful in generating viral interest amongst friends and families as they were asked to view and vote for the videos.
Vespa also launched a Facebook ads campaign that geo-targets people in Joburg and Cape Town and invites them to learn to ride for free. The number of people who joined the brand's Facebook page tripled in four weeks and the number of test drives increased by 206%, confirmed MD Andy Reid.How do you manage your social media marketing?
Should you attempt to do it in-house? Should your communications agency drive it. Your PR agency? Your digital agency? Or your 16-year old daughter?
Sure if you're on Facebook and you have a Linked-In account there's no doubt that you - or someone at your office - can manage it...up to a point.
The reason I say this is that the most important aspect to any social media initiative - and one that is too often overlooked - is a strategy. Without a clear plan with clear objectives and measurables your efforts will only ever be top level.
Secondly, the content is different to traditional marketing communications. Production values are not as refined. The point of view has moved from corporate to sociable. It all happens in real time and depending on your strategy, social media content may also require ongoing production of cost effective video and audio.
Lastly, the challenge with digital strategies is maintaining your brand values. Being brand-centric and true to your brand means providing the right space, information and experiences - aligned with both your brand values and your target communities. Important tips to remember when planning a social media programme
1. Be clear about your objectives
2. Be clear about your measurables
3. Select the right suppliers and partners who understand your brand, can generate fresh content and are comfortable in the social media environment
4. Strive to include a mobile component remembering that Facebook has over 100 million mobile users
5. Remain brand-centric while letting go and enabling the community to take a life of its own
6. Be actively involved and respond in real time, all the time.
When selecting an agency to lead your social marketing program, be sure they have a good understanding of the methods, technology and best practices for social media, and that they are devoted brand ambassadors with an in-depth understanding of your overall objectives. Best is an agency that integrates PR, above and below the line, media planning and online marketing as they will be well-looped with all brand activities and empowered to act with authenticity and immediacy.
Social media programs do not command the same pricing as larger advertising programs, and if planned and implemented smartly they can generate massive returns.