Reputation (mis)management??

‘I shop at Waitrose because… I don’t like being surrounded by poor people’: Internet jokers hijack ‘posh people’s supermarket’ Twitter stunt

Internet Lesson 1.01: Once it’s out there – you can’t take it back!

Whilst Waitrose would sooner like to forget this PR disaster the memory lives on thanks to the ‘www’ and  although this campaign took place in September it still has viral traction!  Last week I received one of those email ‘forwards’ from a friend and this was the joke being passed around – this one’s got a good shelf life!

In September The Daily Mail published the latest social media casualty: the Waitrose twitter (failed) campaign on why people shopped there.  It was a PR disaster!  Waitrose trying to shed its reputation for being just for the rich were doing a good job reinforcing the message; the ‘Waitrose Esssentials’ range and even their brand match campaign ‘Our prices on branded grocery products are now identical to Tesco’s’.  The twitter campaign was intended to get ‘regular’ shoppers to tweet the reasons they shop at Waitrose, however the campaign got hijacked with the majority of tweets reinforcing the posh positioning! It’s worth reading the full article but here are few of the ‘unexpected responses’ :

  • ‘I shop at Waitrose because Clarrisa’s pony just WILL NOT eat ASDA Value straw,’ one said
  • Another said: ‘I shop at Waitrose because the toilet paper is made from 24ct gold thread’
  • ‘ASDA peacock feed isn’t as nice’ was anothers response

So whilst this has been dissected many times over, it worth highlighting a few lessons on social reputation management that we can learn from this;

1. Be clear on the objective

Be clear about what you want to achieve and set your goals accordingly.  The open question Waitrose asked left them open to ridicule.  With a medium like twitter there are a number of free ‘buzz tools’ available that help you understand and gauge sentiment.  Let the data drive the decisions!  If you analyse the sentiment you’ll get a wealth of information what your customers are talking about.  Develop realistic goals for example, monthly campaigns talking about the key sentiments for that particular period.  No-one likes pushy sales messages!

2. The customer is king!

With social media the customers often have a greater share of voice than the brand – you don’t make the rules!  Social Media is about dialogue; engaging with your customers . You’re invited to their party not the other way around.  Find the ‘pollinators’– opinion leaders and influencers.  These are your brand ambassadors that influence your target audience.  Find effective ways to spread the message through these channels to the multiple existing social communities.  These numerous (actually in their millions) communities represent your earned media, and using these communities managers to socialise your brand is highly effective.

3. Have a Social Policy

This doesn’t have to be complicated.  When you send out a press release it’s standard that you know within your company who will be fronting the press calls. Just because twitter does not require the same process to sending out a press release doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be measures in place that help employees understand the social media ‘rules of engagement’.  For example, what they can tweet about, tone of voice, impact of personal handles (twitter account), chain of command for when it goes ‘pear-shaped’ etc. Everyone within the business should be encouraged to be a SM champion from the CE, to the development team, client services etc.  It’s less about control but more about putting guidelines and best practice in place.

Nothing is fool proof, so ensure that you have a fall back plan for crisis management – particularly who is the ‘go-to-person’ and how to approach the negative sentiment.  It also goes without saying, measure everything!  If you’re consistent in measuring the results you’ll soon figure what works best.

In conclusion, whilst everyone is busy with year-end results, consider your 2013 targets. Have you got a 2013 social media plan for your own, earned and paid media?

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Does Social Media have an ROI?

In a word YES!  But as with everything the way you go about it impacts your results.  Personally speaking over the last few months as a result of the social web I have developed at least 2 strong business partnerships, build(ing) a brand reputation and secured several qualified business leads resulting in signed contracts! I did not spam my followers and connections with overt sales messages, but rather shared newsworthy content to specific audiences across different social networks.

From my experience in business, people buy from people.  Why? Trust, rapport and specialist knowledge – the rest will follow.  It’s worth bearing in mind that ‘word-of-mouth’ applies to both good and bad service, and if they have a bad experience they won’t just the traditional 9 people anymore, it’s countless numbers through the web.  The social web has great impact for brands, both positive and negative.  In my article How ‘Pollinators’ change the marketing equation for Land Rover  you see how an automotive brand targets their influencer audiences online resulting in highly effective reach, engagement and sales leads.  Brands that identify the various social communities and interest groups with their influencer audience, can generate measurable results using proven social platforms to reach this audience.

My personal view is that there’s a lot of confusion in the market place about social media.  In these challenging economic times, businesses have to prove ROI on their investments and marketing is no exception.  Social Media can definitely deliver an ROI for your business but to do so requires a well thought out strategy, which includes resource (time, budget, people) allocation.  Consider the basics:

  • how are your owned channels performing; engagement rate, discussion, interaction with and between fans and followers
  • which social networks and platforms do your customers connect on
  • what is the most effective way of engaging with existing customers and prospecting for the new ones through paid media
  • measure, monitor and manage activities

The more effectively brands develop and manage their paid media, the better the results with their earned and owned media.

How are you defining your social media strategy and measuring results?

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How “Pollinators” change the marketing equation for Land Rover

Martini Media partnered with WPP’s research group, Added Value, to take a closer look at the influencer audience who comprises 25% of the population and is responsible for 70% of the spending online.

This video with an array of panelists includes Land Rover’s Communication Manager Ken Bracht.  Ken highlights the importance of luxury automotive brands reaching niche audiences through targeted marketing and why it is important to target these pollinators as part of their core media plan.  These “hyper influentials” not only become effective brand evanglists but are first in line for big-ticket items.  In the study 68% of Pollinators indicated purchase intent for luxury cars.

Technology is ubiquitous allowing marketers to effectively and effeciently reach their audience.  Brands need to be exploring ways to reach influencer audiences in social communities to improve engagement, brand awareness and lower cost per lead.  You can see how effective and measurable this channel can be for new vehicle launches.

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Which online channels influence car buyers purchase decisions?

Over the recent Christmas break I was keen to find some new Portuguese restaurants in the South West, so naturally I resorted to social media for my research. In less than an hour I had several tweets with recommendations and a quick search online showed they all had great customer reviews. Result: the restaurant made some new patrons through social word of mouth!

The process is no different for high risk purchases.  Mashable recently published  an article with data from M Booth and Beyond, high recommmenders, those that make purchase less frequently, purchases more expense and/or research requires more time and effort in the research, are 3 times more likely to recommend a product.

Data from M Booth and Beyond survey show top online channels that influence purchase decisions across various sectors.  44% of car buyers use car forums for their research.  The top  influencing channels for car buyers are branded websites, search results and online advertisements.

With this insight and knowledge of how the social consumer is influenced in their purchase decisions Automotive Dealerships and manufacturers should be investing in the following channel to increase their traffic and leads;

  • web and mobile search optimisation
  • monitoring what customers, influencers and opinion leaders are saying about vehicle performance
  • Dealer websites provide customers with a consistent manufacturer brand experience
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