Happy Chinese New Year everyone! All the best for the Year of the Rooster! As one of my favourite Chinese proverbs says – don’t be afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of standing still.
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 🙂
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.
January and February are peak travel periods for New Zealand. Can you guess what would be the most important daily routine in tour guiding work? It is to ensure that tourists are able to charge their devices (cameras, mobile phones, etc). Why? Because they may want to cancel a scheduled tour if their devices are not ready to explicitly document their adventures. That is exactly what happened last year when my company’s clients called a whale watching tour off.
Some time ago I researched relationships between businesses and consumers on social media. One result that has come through vividly is that our consumption practices take on a new meaning in the digital age – without being broadcast over social media, they are pointless. How does it apply to businesses?
Supporting consumers’ desire for self-presentation/expression has certain benefits for businesses, particularly when it comes to branding. For example, KiwiYo, a fast-growing chain of frozen desserts in New Zealand, blurs the line between its offline and online presence: photos taken by consumers in the cafe go to the company’s social media profiles in KiwiYo’s colorful promotional picture frames. KISS, an iconic American rock band, is famous for allowing their fans to display their photos on the stage jumbo screens, as well as on social media during the band’s performance. According to KISS’ website, they were the first band to experiment with “interactive concert photo experiences” (KISS debuts “KISS Liveshare”, 2010).
It seems logical to conclude that if business does not offer their consumers an opportunity for self-expression, then it might be wasting time on social media. In this respect, the ultimate goal for any business, regardless of industry, is to provide consumers with personalised experiences. Here is how:
- Learn what makes consumers engage with a brand. There are numerous personal and professional reasons. Use this knowledge to change approaches to social media content and conversations.
- Turn consumer-brand interactions into “red carpet” or “award ceremony” experiences by taking advantage of modern technologies in conjunction with social media.
(Piven, I. & Breazeale, M. (2016). A desperately seeking customer engagement: Five-Sources Model of brand consumption in social media community. In V. Benson, R. Tuninga, & G. Saridakis (Eds.), Analyzing strategic role of social networking in firms growth and productivity. UK: IGI Global.)