Thank you to all who had the time to attend my keynote guest speaker presentation at the #NZIE annual Business, Management and Leadership Symposium last month. After presenting my ongoing project on relationships between businesses and consumers on social media, the discussion turned to whether businesses know their consumers enough to offer meaningful and memorable experiences both online and offline. The short answer is no. So, here are some after-thoughts following my discussion with the audience.
Quite obviously, consumption practices take on new meanings in the digital age – without being broadcast/shared/communicated on social media, they are pointless. Last year my clients called a whale watching tour off simply because they forgot to charge their cameras. I’m not surprised, I teach consumer behavior in my marketing classes 🙂 What I try to say is that if a business does not offer their consumers an opportunity to create and share their content/experiences with others (yes, it’s about user-generated content and consumers’ self-expression, academically speaking) then it’s probably wasting time on social media. The key is to learn what makes consumers engage with a brand. I’m sure that there are numerous personal as well as professional reasons.
The travel industry provides a clear example of changes in consumer behaviour driven by social media. Millions of ordinary users take an active part in determining what they would like to see, like, follow, receive, consume and communicate with. Even though a range of social media marketing tactics and strategies has been developed for the travel industry over the years, they cannot guarantee that actual users will be responsive to sales funnels designed by travel companies. There is a need for a deeper understanding of the travel consumer journey on social media.
The results of the study by Tamara Zyrianova I have been involved in as an academic supervisor, has shown that Russian millennial travelers tend to follow travel bloggers on Instagram rather than travel companies. Bloggers have been chosen as the preferred source of information about future travel plans. Travel bloggers’ posts are perceived to be more personal and equal to friends’ recommendations.
Research has identified two primary motives for travel content consumption on Instagram: 1) desire for travel inspirations and 2) getting genuine information about travel destinations based on other consumers’ experiences. It is important to mention that Russian millennial travelers view Instagram as a departure point for trip planning. The data analysis has shown that research participants use Instagram as a search tool: not only do they look for places to visit, but also “where to eat and to shop”.
However, Russian millennial travelers do not solely rely on Instagram, they browse travel websites and other social media platforms to get maximum information about places of interest before they make a final decision. Interestingly enough, research participants pointed out that it is a very rare case when they remember Instagram accounts where inspiring travel contents were found, excluding, of course, their favorite bloggers. This is one of the challenges travel companies are being confronted with.
Hopefully, research findings will encourage travel companies to reconsider their current social media marketing approaches and change perceptions about their social media audience. For guest speaking and workshops please contact me directly.
Before social media, marketing communications was a relatively stable and predictable business; the traditional approaches generally worked, keeping advertisers and PR managers satisfied. The emergence of social media has flipped the marketing world on its head. Suddenly, businesses start questioning whether social media is the best channel, as so many suggest, to reach consumers.
At Otago Polytechnic (Auckland campus) I taught marketing courses. The entire point was to get my students to develop a habit to scan everything when it comes to marketing – from a company’s day-to-day operation to its social media presence. As you may guess, social media remains one of the most popular topics in my classes. From my students’ perspectives, business on social platforms should be working towards one big idea – building a community. The idea isn’t new. However, whether businesses are capable of building a community on social media or not is debatable.
In a publication by Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg advised, “If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house” (2015). There is also no agreement between academic and marketing practitioners regarding whether brand communities emerging on social media should be seen and treated in the same way as traditional (face-to-face) ones.
It seems that Giapo Ice Cream shop and Mr Vintage t-shirt company (Auckland) are not aware of this debate. They somehow know how to develop a highly participative brand fellowship off and on social media. This is what my research participants say about them:
He [Giapo] has created his following, and the other day he is like ‘ok, I need feijoa leaves; who’s got feijoa leaves?’ and everybody offered feijoa leaves, and he got them for free. This way he has made Twitter feel like they are a part of his endeavour. (*feijoa – an evergreen shrub or small tree that bears edible green fruit resembling guavas. It is native to tropical South America and cultivated in New Zealand for its fruit).
Mr. Vintage has done a really good job building a brand around themselves as a cheeky kind of company that uses the community they’ve created really well… they’re always producing t-shirts that people have suggested.
If you still think that all electronic devices can do is to put people in touch with a keyboard, ask your Facebook friends to help you with your house renovation. I’m sure they will.
Quite some time ago I came across a brilliant book called ‘Mischief Marketing’ by Jean-Luc Ginder. While it was full of simple and often trivial advice, there was one thing that helped me make sure my business wasn’t boring… and that I wasn’t getting bored of it either.
One of the essentials for finding your happily-ever-after in business is to enjoy the process. Believe me, having a sense of enjoyment and excitement when it comes to your business is by far more important than your results in finance, marketing and management…however in saying that, before you get too comfortable, having impressive results definitely doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, if you want to make your customers fall in love with your product/service, become the most devoted fan of your company first. Experiment with your business processes, play with design and constantly look for new ideas.
I have plenty of examples of New Zealand companies who stand out of the crowd. They offer experiences that no one else would offer. If you are going to Dunedin, have a cuppa in the cosy and welcoming atmosphere at Modaks, the most popular hipster cafe. They have hundreds of old gig posters and Ryan Gosling pics instead of traditional table numbers 🙂
Adler is such a star in the making. A 3 years old barista was discovered by the popular coffee blog from beanhunter.com While searching for the best coffee spots all over the world, they came across Bindle Coffee located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to their website, Bindle Coffee provides a space and environment that gives people room to breathe, to dream and to enjoy beautiful food & coffee. Bindle is the forging of artistry and ritual. It is restorative and comforting. And it is also adorable. Have a look at how Adler makes a decaf cappuccino under his dad’s supervision. So cute:)
I have a lifelong habit – collecting funny/smart/interesting/weird business-related bits and pieces. New Zealand businesses seem to know well how to capture attention of passers-by without traditional “SALES” and “50% OFF” displays. Well, it is simple – you need a content customers can relate to and may be inclined to publically share. It’s also well known that consumers are more likely to feel emotionally connected to a brand if elements of humor and entertainment are incorporated into their brand experiences (Piven, I. & Breazeale, M., 2016). And yes, I’ve shared this display from New Lynn Mall on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… you name it.