Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category.

How can social data help drive brand loyalty?

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Social media customer loyaltyWhile a consumer drives down their road, what triggers their decision to go to Tesco as opposed to Sainsbury’s? As they switch on their laptop to shop online, is it Ocado.com or Waitrose.com they visit?

While the flat economy keeps consumer consumption weak, retailers are looking to pull levers other than just price to build brand loyalty.

Short term vs. long term customer loyalty

Price differentiation is clearly unsustainable and confusing for consumers in many cases. Whilst price matching might be good for the consumer in the short term, it negatively impacts the bottom line and does not lead to increased loyalty in the long term.

In a recent study by loyalty360 it was revealed that 84% of respondent retailers use some form of loyalty strategy, but surprisingly less than half (48.8%) believe their initiatives are working.

Therefore, what can drive loyalty in the longer term?

Having a single view of the customer is increasingly challenged by consumer uptake of multichannel. A consumer expects to be able to research a product or service using one channel, order it via another, and potentially take delivery via a third, with the expectation that the retailer is aware of each and every activity and delivering a consistently seamless service.

Consumers also expect the same authentic brand experience whether they are communicating via a brand’s website, social network, or speaking face-to-face with a representative.

How can social data be used?

So how can brands use social data to drive loyalty? How can it help make every moment memorable for the customer, while still affordable for the retailer? Beyond responding to customer service queries in twitter and other social networks where else can social build customer loyalty?

One way is by using social data to anticipate future customer behaviour. For instance, by seeing what is trending and delivering a better marketing message accordingly. This could take the form of tweaking a website in real-time, with the intention of more prominently displaying items customers are discussing online and showing a propensity to purchase. In this way the brand is clearly identifying with its customers in real time and using that data to make it easier for them to find the things they like.

Another example is if a customer has a goal to lose weight, their supermarket could use the data they have collected through a traditional loyalty programme (in relation to the customer’s food purchases), and make that data available to them to calculate their calorific intake. This data powering an app could then be used by the customer to manage their diet, making them more likely to continue shopping with that supermarket in particular because it is collecting their data and using it to benefit them.

These are just a few ways in which social can play a big role in driving and maintaining customer loyalty, and ways which give the customer benefits beyond discounts for being loyal.

Image credit: Karen V Bryan

Does social work for every brand?

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Deutsch: Discofeeling

Deutsch: Discofeeling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Femfresh came a cropper back in June, some argued that it was a brand that was intrinsically ill-suited for social. After all, how many people would want to be seen to like a feminine hygiene product on Facebook?

Euan Semple skirts this issue when he talks about some brands getting ‘into social’. He likened them, at a Digital Surrey event last week, to a dad dancing at a disco. “You’re proud of him for giving it a go,” he said. “But you wish he’d sit down.”

We work a lot with financial services brands which operate in a tightly regulated environment. This makes it tough to respond naturally and in anything like as real-time as the fluid and admirable O2, for example.

So should we assume then that social is only for brands which are already naturally engaging, aspirational and great at dancing?

If getting involved is a challenge, FS brands could hire the social equivalent of a body double and see how that works. Bodyform recently chose that route, achieving great viewing figures and industry acclaim for its video rejoinder to a comment on its Facebook page.

But surely, this is missing the point.

Some of those dancing dad brands aren’t there just because everyone else is on the dancefloor. Some are learning to engage in a new and changing world. Their customers, employees and partners are changing the way they communicate. Brands have no choice but to deal with the change. So they need to get in amongst it to understand it. And look for the opportunities to make a real connection with the people that are important to them.

Just being in it, isn’t enough. Bodyform was a great campaign tactic but it missed a trick by not being authentic. Femfresh got their fingers burned and missed a trick by not connecting with and understanding their detractors. These could have been valuable opportunities to learn about engaging in a world transformed by social. These brands do have interested communities active online had they been handled differently.

I don’t think Euan Semple was suggesting that some brands shouldn’t ‘do social’. His position rather was that we have amazing tools at our disposal now that can help us connect like never before.

Not every brand needs to be on Facebook. But every brand needs to understand the impact of social.

Because the opportunity of social is not really about scoring an extra point for awareness on your brand recognition tracker.

The real impact is far more strategic. It’s about building real relationships with the people that matter to your business, so that you can do better business with them.

Pets and social media: it’s more than just cute cat pictures

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There are a lot of cute cat pictures in social media, and a lot of cute cat videos. People, it would appear, like looking at cute cats in social media; and their owners like sharing these photos. So what happens when you get a group of cat owners together - you might expect cat overload as they compete to share the cutest photos of the cutest cats. And you do get this, but more importantly you learn something about how people meet and interact in social media and what the value of this can be.

We worked with the team at PetNet to develop and launch a space for cat owners (Scratching Post) to share more than just cute pictures. By looking at how they interact with each other about the highs and lows of pet ownership we can learn a few things about how consumers interact online:

  1. Photos and text make good stories - in a world of instagram and camera phones, it often seems that images are replacing text in many interactions online, and whilst cute cat photos are obviously popular we attract long stories just as often. People like sharing and writing stories either about the joys of cat ownership or sharing and asking for advice about more difficult situations.
  2. Cats can type - not really, and more an observation about how community members will develop their own behaviours. Perhaps the most surprising development was with these stories, after a few months we noticed that some started to be written ‘by the cat’ - first person narratives written from their point-of-view. And this wasn’t just an isolated example with lots of the content being penned from the cat’s point of view. What is going on is actually quite clever - members of the community (organically) started to write the stories of joy from the cat’s point of view and the more serious questions and enquiries (for example about health issues) from the owner’s point of view. An unplanned for development that has then been used to inform the UI and changes we’ve made to the community.
  3. Expert advice is critical - a real success of Scratching Post is that community members can balance questions and advice from fellow cat owners with an expert view. The weekly ‘surgeries’ (with vets, behviouralists and others) are the most popular times of week on the site with people coming together for a two hour period to ask questions of and interact with these experts.
  4. We can provide an outlet for people’s passions - one community member put this quite nicely saying that Scratching Post allowed her to “bring out the crazy cat woman inside”. And she’s right. We use the different communities and networks we are part of for different reasons - you might not flood your Facebook friends with your cat photos, questions and experiences so a safe environment with other cat owners is perfect for this side of your character.

Overall, the Scratching Post site is a microcosm of the kind of interactions that happen across the internet and more so in true and valuable communities. Perhaps most important is that it provides a space for people to come together and share a common passion. And it is helping to stem the cute cat pictures that might otherwise be flooding their friend’s Facebook news feeds.

I’ll be talking more about cute cats and social media (and how to balance the needs of a community with commercial needs) at Social Media Marketing London on 25th October.

A sentiment experiment: This week’s #BBCQT panellists on Twitter

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Sentiment is a complex beast, even for humans to decode. How many times are you never really sure if somebody is being positive or negative about something? How many times do you have to use non-verbal cues like their body language or facial expression? Cultural and linguistic factors play a huge role in our ability to understand what is meant. And this is why it is a difficult process to automate.

This is why sentiment reporting for social media discussions is problematic - giving a single ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ rating to a comment risks missing the real nuance. Even at a Tweet-level, assessing 140 characters as positive or negative can be wrong as often as it is right.

There is another way of looking at sentiment. Not to look at the comment, but to identify known elements within the sentence and look at how they are discussed. For example, let’s consider the following Tweet:

As much as I absolutely adore BBC Question Time, Steve Coogan is making me hate this week’s show so much. He’s making me really angry #bbcqt

As we read this, we know that it is neither positive or negative. It expresses both things depending on the object being discussed:

  • ‘BBC Question Time’ is clearly being described positively (‘I absolutely adore [it]‘)
  • ‘Steve Coogan’ is clearly negative (‘making me really angry’)
  • ‘This week’s show’ is also clearly negative (‘[I] hate [it]‘)

So by breaking down the Tweet into elements like this we get a much more nuanced view of sentiment. And probably a much more useful one. If I am analysing what people say about an episode of BBC Question Time, for example, I might be more interested in comparing how people talk on Twitter about the issues raised, or the guests on the panel than I am generically about the tone of discussions during the show. Looking at sentiment at this object-level is more insightful and more actionable.

So for the episode first broadcast on 27 September 2012, we conducted an experiment to explore sentiment. Not of the show or general discussions but specifically to investigate people’s sentiment towards the five guest panellists.

What we analysed

  • Using DataSift, we recorded all Tweets including the hashtag #bbcqt during the time the show was on air. This was a total of 21,651 tweets.
  • A random sample of 20% of these was then taken, giving us a total sample of 4,266 tweets.
  • This sample of Tweets was analysed using Semantria - this identifies the things (they call them ‘entities’) discussed in the Tweet and then gives a positive or negative score based on the context in which that entity is discussed.
  • We isolated entities that were the five guests on the show - using all possible spellings of the following names:
    • Danny Alexander
    • Harriet Harman
    • Jacob Rees-Mogg
    • Kirstie Allsopp
    • Steve Coogan
  • We then took a mean score for how positive or negative the context is in which each of these entities is discussed.

What we found

  • The most discussed guest panellist this week was writer and comedian Steve Coogan who was explicitly mentioned in almost 7% of all Tweets about #bbcqt. But he was also discussed most negatively.
  • The most positively discussed panellist was Labour MP Harriet Harman. She was also the only panellist who had a positive sentiment score overall.
  • Liberal Democrat MP and Minister Danny Alexander was the second most negatively discussed panellist, with Jacob Rees-Mogg and then Kirstie Allsopp above him.

What we can learn about sentiment analysis

What can we learn from this? As with all research it is important to understand the biases of our sample - it could be that the audience who view the programme and discuss it on Twitter are more left-wing and so more sympathetic to Harman’s point of view. It may be that the discussions about Steve Coogan were coordinated by a small group of individuals who had an agenda against him and so biased his score down. And it may be that the relatively small instance of mentions of Kirstie Allsopp makes her score less reliable.

All of these are areas of potential bias that should be explored. But analysing sentiment at the object level like this gives us a much more nuanced understanding of how people were discussing BBC Question Time last night. And it allows us to have much more valuable discussions than just knowing that Tweets during the show were positive or negative.

Sentiment is a complex beast, as are the humans that are expressing it. To inform a real discussion and to have a real understanding of what may be happening in discussions online we need to stop thinking in terms of Tweets and posts and comments, and to start disaggregating the individual objects discussed and explore those instead.

Engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand. If it’s done right.

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Day 30 - Falling dominoes

Day 30 - Falling dominoes (Photo credit: evil_mel)

I really don’t care how many people follow your brand on Twitter, or Like your brand on Facebook. Numbers like these are essentially meaningless - building the right kind of relationships with 500 targeted people will always be more beneficial to you then meaningless, un-targeted relationships with 500,000.

The same is often said about ‘engagement’ - what value is there in engaging people on social media? This is a valid question to ask, but it is not the same as just attracting more Likes or Follows. Done well, engagement is valuable to a brand.

There are two main challenges to the value of engaging people in social media as brand:

  1. Surely sharing photos and chatting to people online has no connection to sales
  2. If it does have a connection, is it just a correlation (people feel positive about our brand so they both join us in social media and spend more money with us) and not a causation (people join us in social media and therefore feel more positive about our brand and spend more money with us)

What’s the value of ‘just chatting’?

The first challenge is a valid one - you can spend forever as a brand mindlessly chatting away to people without it having any impact on what you do. Are the people you are talking to even valuable to you, and are your engagements helping at all with them to spend more money, to recommend you to more people or to do some other action that will be beneficial.

The truth is that nothing should be done in social media with a clear understanding of why you are doing it - what you want to achieve and why this will help your business - and a clear understanding of who you want to target. These can be difficult questions to answer, but if you are not completely clear on them then you just won’t get the same benefits from engaging people in social.

Imagine a luxury fashion brand. It is probably very easy to get lots of people to ‘Like’ you page on Facebook or to follow you on Pinterest, but are these people actually the ones you want to engage? Or are they just aspirants, or people who like looking at the beautiful pictures? If you haven’t clearly identified who you want to engage (who will be valuable to you) and are managing your activities to attract these, then you may just end up chatting away to people who could have little value for the brand.

Know what you want to achieve, know your audience and make sure you are working hard to attract the right people.

Is it a causation or a correlation?

The bigger challenge to the value of social media engagement is that it does not lead to greater value for a brand, but that people engage more and spend more because they already feel positive about the brand. In short - that this is an example of correlated events and not causation.

A great piece of work by Bain & Company last year addresses this. Their Social Media Consumer Survey looked at average annual spend of customers who have a meaningful engagement with a brand in social against those who do not. Overall, those with a meaningful relationship spend 30% more annually.

If we were confusing causation and correlation we would expect that it would be those who are already positive about the brand who are spending more; those who are less positive about the brand would not. But the research doesn’t show this - those who’s spending is increased the most are the ‘fence sitters’ (those ambivalent to the brand); even the brand’s ‘detractors’ spend 20% more annually if they engage in social.

Bain Social Media Consumer Survey, 2011

So what does this mean for engagement in social?

So having good engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand - it’s not another meaningless number like Followers or Likes. Meaningful engagement, with the right people can lead to greater value for the brand from those customers.

But getting good engagement is not easy - it involves having a clear view on why you are using social, on the audience you want to engage, and on how you turn them from being passive to having an active relationship with you in social media. Most brands could get better at this and a focus on quality engagement, with the right people, will always pay greater dividends than just hunting down a few more Twitter followers or Facebook Likes.