Social Marketing has changed us. How do we use social media?

 

Published in Food & Drink magazine.

By Tom Dougherty

Social Media

Advertising agencies and marketing consultants are quick to tell their clients of the importance of social media. Companies and brands throughout the world, including those in the food and beverage industry, are trying to figure out how best they can make social media work for them.

The answer is simpler than you might believe. Get the message right.

At its core, social media marketing is no different than any other advertising form. It does not matter if you are talking about TV, direct mail, print, radio, point of purchase, outdoor, or even social media. No matter what medium you use you must consider:

1. Having a compelling message.
2. Developing a message that reflects the aspirational image of your target audience, thus connecting with them on an emotional level.
3. Having repetition.

There are some unique tactics involved in utilizing social media, of course. You must be succinct and relatively unobtrusive. Most importantly, you must make sure you have permission to be in your target audience’s social circle.

Facebook leads social marketingThink of it this way. You would never see an ad for L’Oreal during Monday Night Football and it is doubtful that you would see an ad for Craftsman tools in the latest issue of Woman’s Day. The same holds true for social media, only you are trying to engage your audience in a much more intimate way. You must consider where your brand has permission to play.

Brand Permission

It is precisely for this reason that gaining your audience’s permission before you engage in a social media campaign is so important. Your target audience is letting you into its lives where companies have never had permission. In this world of “information noise,” the degree to which you understand and respect that will have direct ramifications on whether or not you are successful. (Read about permissions here and how to win when outspent)

The reason social media holds so much promise is because so many marketing dollars are wasted, especially as the importance of traditional media declines. Despite that, messaging today tends to center around product features and benefits. In a marketplace where were seeing unprecedented levels of parity between products and services, the simple fact is that product performance is expected and does not differentiate products in a competitive marketplace.

Too Many Messages?

In addition, your target audience is being bombarded my messages on a daily basis. The vast majority of these messages are ignored as they fail to connect in any emotional way.

Consider all the billboards you see each day. Most are ignored because they are not a reflection of you. However, if a billboard has your picture with your name on it, you’d notice it. That’s because it is a direct reflection of you.

In the food and beverage industry, these marketing issues are of particular importance and represent why most companies struggle to get traction in the consumer market. Most players in the industry simply market taste and price – both of which are the bare minimums to even be considered.

To attract new customers means prompting them to change from what they are doing now. In the case of food and beverages, “great taste” is not a value. For the “taste” message to be meaningful and present a true choice, prospective customers must believe their current choices taste awful.

social marketing means it can't be just more of the sameThere is a better way. In the case of social media, stay away from messages about taste and, especially, cost. Most social media in this industry is about bargains or couponing, which does not develop loyalty and, in fact, teaches audiences to price shop. Soon, you are in a price war, margins drop and you are “buying” into the market.

Instead, think about who your customers are when they buy your food or beverage, or come to your restaurant. And market that. This is true if you are consumer oriented or a B2B.

For example, in the food and beverage industry, whether we care to admit it or not, the most powerful brands today are Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Each has etched out a unique position and represent who their customers are when they purchase its products.

Coca-Cola is about authenticity and Americana, delighting in being a part of the way we think things ought to be and what is really “real.” (Even Coke Zero feels that way.) Its best social media message – whether it’s mobile advertising, on Facebook or even Twitter – is recognizing audiences who embrace “the real thing,” which allows Coke to enact a whole host of social media tactics. Doing that strengthens brand loyalty and explains the reasons why audiences delight in the product benefits. (For McDonald’s, the brand value is “fun,” which is how they market its food.)

Emotional values such as these are what you must put in the forefront of any of your social media activity, just like you would in any marketing medium. Then, and only then, can you talk about product benefits (even cost) because you have demonstrated the reason why your message is important. Thinking outside the food and beverage industry, for example, Apple can charge higher prices because it has taught its loyal customers that they “think different.” (And Nike’s customers “Just Do It.”)

Once you have demonstrated that your message is important, then you have permission to be in their social circle because they will, in effect, be claiming themselves. Otherwise, you’ll just be annoying and intrusive.

Watch your step

Don’t worry about being too repetitive. You will get tired of your messages long before target audiences will.

Do not try to cast too wide of a net. The key to being successful with social media is in the understanding of the proper methods to segregate your audience. While a generalized Facebook campaign is ill advised, linking your company’s Facebook page with other social media like Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn is a great way to get targeted coverage over a wide variety of media.

Mobile advertising has great potential especially when the ads are in direct relation to what that audience is doing at that time. (Beer ads at a baseball game, broadcast over the stadium’s Wi-Fi for example.)

If you are seriously considering your social media strategy, the first step is to think about who you are for and, equally important, who you are not for. If you think you are for everybody, then you are really for no one.

Once you’ve decided who you are for, then build your message around that description and the permissions it gives you. That doesn’t mean simply posting your tagline. Rather you must consider what your brand position allows you to say and do. Ask yourself how you fulfill that brand promise and make that your “tweet.”

What about the technology? Don’t worry about it. You can hire a social media firm to implement the technology, the same way you hire a developer to develop a website. The technology doesn’t matter. It is akin to when we were all worried about the process in putting together banner ads on the Internet.

Technology is stupid. Just don’t be stupid about it.

Tom Dougherty is President and CEO of branding company Stealing Share. His blog can be found at http://www.stealingshare.com.

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