Social media is a powerful channel to be taken seriously, one deserving of its own strategy and creative, says Cheryl Barnett. It plays a pivotal role in supporting above-the-line campaigns and achieving business objectives when executed correctly.
Engagement, engagement, engagement. We all know how important this is in today’s connected world, a world in which customers are empowered to have their say in the public space of social media.
This exposure is 10 times more valuable than what an outdoor billboard can deliver, reaching more than a few passing eyes. In recent studies, 84% of customers will trust a stranger’s opinion online more than an online advertisement (Bloem, C, Inc.com, May 2017).
Social media investment should concentrate on the conversations being had and not just the ads being published online.
Not all conversations are equal: a ‘like’ (quick reaction to show satisfaction) is different to a ‘share’ (a digital endorsement of the message) or a ‘comment’ (physical action to engage) and each one offers a brand a unique benefit of reach and sentiment.
Despite these defined actions on a message, social media often gets the leftover budget and resized billboard creative to share on its pages. Social media is a powerful channel to be taken seriously, one deserving of its own strategy and creative. It plays a pivotal role in supporting above-the-line campaigns and achieving business objectives when executed correctly.
Today, the marketing department is held accountable for showing a return on all efforts, so until we can show that our digital efforts on social media have an important effect on our brands, it will never get a seat at the strategy table.
Reach on social media should result in an increase in traffic to a brand’s website and heightened brand awareness.
Return on conversation
Engagement on social media should impact the goals achieved on the site.
Have visitors actioned what you asked them to do? Whether your goal is a download, video views, or a form submitted, these actions are associated with the engagement on social media. For example: Fans are asked to view a video on Facebook or complete a form to enter a competition.
We should rarely take the ‘last click’ attribution – this refers to a web analytics model in which the last click is given credit for the action taken. Generally, people are driven to an action after a series of digital cues and encouragement. Smart marketers should rather look at the entire communication process and costs to achieve specific business objectives.
Once an integrated campaign has been successfully executed, you should see these two numbers correlate.
Total engagement (likes + comments + shares) = ROC (return on conversation).
Total cost (design + time).
R750 (R500 + R250)
= 0.84 (84% return on your social efforts to engage)
R750 (R500 + R250)
= 0.02 (2% return on your social efforts to engage).
This, combined with a sentiment analysis on your pages, will give a good indication of your customer’s thoughts, experiences and attitudes towards the business and this is worth its weight in gold on the brand report.
It’s the only way social media will get the recognition it deserves in the role it plays in telling the brand story and achieving the objectives set out by business.
From the table to the market: Strategies used by food entrepreneurs to get noticed
Worth a whopping $82 million in 2019, South Africa’s food and beverage industry is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 10.5%, claims Statista. While these figures may seem unattainable to our local, independent enterprises, becoming a household brand is proving less formidable thanks to digital marketing, writes Lucinda Jordaan.
The kitchen, they say, is the heart of the home. The designated space for preparing and sharing meals is also where the most innovative and inspiring creations are concocted – like Edward Molatela Kgarose’s sweet potato yoghurt. This innovative treat was dreamed up in the 29-year-old’s mother’s kitchen as she was cooking the nutritious root vegetable – and he was enjoying his favourite yoghurt.
“I asked myself: what if it is possible for me to produce a yoghurt with this sweet potato?” Kgarose recalls.
He set about experimenting with tastes and textures until he came up with a winning flavour. Following advice, he consulted with the Limpopo Agro-Food Testing Station at the University of Limpopo to ascertain whether the product was safe for human consumption. “I took my product and it failed four times at the laboratory,” notes the tenacious Kgarose, whose innovative offering – which he first sold at taxi ranks – is now approved, available at two retail stores in Polokwane, and gaining traction in the market.
Food regulations aside, rigorous experimentation is the backbone of any successful commercial food journey. Former investment fund manager Ken Kinsey-Quick can attest to this: it took years – and about 60 attempts – before he could find the chilli oil that matched his palate.
“I’m a chilli wuss – I don’t like it too strong – but I’ve loved chilli oil since I first tried it in Paris in the 90s, where it was always served with pizza, something you didn’t get anywhere else in the world,” he says. The oil itself proved as elusive. “You could only find it in specialist shops and even then, it was just chillies in a bottle” – which, he adds, renders the flavour unstable and can cause the oil to go rancid.
About two years ago, Kinsey-Quick finally found a chilli oil he liked, in a pizza restaurant up in the Alps. “It came in sachets and I stole a whole lot and brought them back.” His brother-in-law, Adi Meintjies, a dedicated foodie, noticed him agonising about his pilfered stock running out – and offered to make it for him.
“He started experimenting in the kitchen and 60 variations later, came up with the right formula,” Kinsey-Quick relates.
This September, the financier will be retiring from his day job to focus solely on a business that has grown exponentially: Banhoek Chilli Oil now has a national footprint, is available in over 200 stores in South Africa, and is delivered anywhere in the United Kingdom via Amazon. The company is also looking to extend its product range by launching a tonic water later this year.
Reducing barriers to entry
The adage goes that – regardless of the state of the economy – if you’re in the food and beverage industry and not making a profit, you’re doing something wrong.
While the country’s scale and reach – and comparably limited marketing and advertising budgets – mean South African food brands are unlikely to dominate the global market, that does not mean they don’t have the cojones to compete with them on the local stage. The journey from home kitchen to formal market may follow a tried and tested recipe, that does not guarantee instant success, but social media has significantly reduced the barriers to entry.
“It’s much easier today – you can just take a photograph with your smartphone and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – then you are in the market,” notes Anat Apter, Founder of Anat Foods, a household name in pitas, breads and Middle Eastern fare that famously started out with a falafel stall at Joburg’s Bruma Lake market in the early 1990s.
“When I started, I didn’t have a vision – I had an emergency; I needed the money and had to pull up my sleeves and do something. I never wanted to be in the food business. I started with falafel because that is what I knew best, and I had only two weeks to prepare and present the product, and make it excellent,” she maintains.
“If you start a business, you have to be serious, honest, dedicated and committed – especially with food, as it’s very emotional: when you eat, you want to know your food is good, healthy and fresh. I’m a strong believer in clean cooking.”
Hands on in growing her family’s brand – “I opened 22 stores myself” – Apter has always had a tight marketing budget and focuses on in-store promotions to attract customers. “As a niche market, I cannot compete with the bigger companies. I don’t do radio or TV, and my marketing budget is so small, I have to be creative. I have to innovate all the time; I listen to my customers and innovate all the time; I listen to my customers – my franchisees are my ambassadors to the public and I take a lot of ideas from them,” she explains.
Innovation, reckons Kgarose, is what sets entrepreneurs apart from their competitors in building a brand. “Social media makes marketing easy for us small producers, but innovation is one of the keys to being recognised in the industry,” he stresses.
How social media boosts awareness
An official launch one year after starting out, and a minimal investment in social media, proved the boost Banhoek needed to grow awareness of their product, says Kinsey-Quick. “We’ve just started using social media, and we’re still learning as we go along. It’s not rocket science, just getting brand awareness out there. We spent about R5 000 boosting posts on social media – split evenly between Instagram and Facebook – by putting out a post every week and engaging with respondents.”
It led to calls for stock from as far afield as Clocalan in the Free State – and the company to explore e-commerce. Banhoek Chilli Oil is now available online and delivered countrywide.
They also gained a new niche supplier: butcheries. “Oddly, they are very keen on the product and sell it very well – we didn’t think about it at the beginning. Now, 90% of our clients are butcheries and delis.” Poetry stores came next, giving Banhoek a national footprint – and the rest is history.
Social media may have boosted brand awareness, but the journey to the formal market is still a complicated process that requires footwork.
“Local brands struggle for space in the formal market because most retail stores won’t allow small producers to supply them due to low production capacity. It’s very difficult because you are introducing a new product that is not known,” says Kgarose, who does in-store promotions to grow the brand.
“Obviously, the first thing was to get the right product, and packaging was the next thing. But you can have best product – if you don’t get the marketing and advertising right, it won’t sell,” avers Kinsey-Quick. So, what would he do with an unlimited advertising budget? “I wouldn’t do things differently – though I would definitely increase our social media boosts to reach more people – and possibly consider putting some ads in print. I’d love to do a cookbook though: hire five top chefs to come up with five recipes – and use that on social media – but to do that properly would be quite expensive.”
What is an influencer and how you can spot a fake one
Social media is constantly evolving and has become so integrated into our personal lives that many people start their day by scrolling through their social media feeds to read the latest updates. From a business perspective, a social media presence creates brand awareness and a connection between the customer and the business.
However, there is a different side to social media, where an individual can reach an almost celebrity status by establishing credibility within a specific community. Social media influencers have followers in a particular niche with whom they interact on a daily basis. An influencer is able to influence purchasing decisions of his/her followers because they believe he/she is an expert on a particular matter or because the follower desires to emulate the influencer.
The majority of influencers fit into one of the following categories:
Celebrities – Individuals who have achieved fame in a particular sphere usually (but not always) outside of the internet. These include actors, musicians and sports personalities but could be anyone who has achieved fame in their field
Bloggers and content creators – Technically a blogger is anyone who creates a blog but in the context of an influencer it would be someone who is considered to have expertise in a particular field, has a large following and actively promotes their blog/online content.
Industry experts and thought leaders – Individuals or groups who are perceived to be leaders in their field and be able to provide credible insights to their followers
Micro influencers – Micro influencers could fit into any of the above categories but on a smaller scale and they usually have a very narrow field of expertise. Because they often are not professional full-time influencers but have rather gained a following due to their passion and perceived expertise, they are considered to be the most credible form of influencer.
Real vs fake influencers
Influencers have been proven useful to brands and businesses but it’s important to note that they are not simply marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets that can help brands achieve their marketing objectives. Influencers can create trends and encourage their followers to buy the products they promote. As great as it may sound, influencer marketing has its drawbacks with influencer fraud being one of them. Unfortunately, brands that fall victim to influencer fraud often suffer both reputational and financial damage.
A fake influencer can be defined as a social media user who artificially increases their following and engagements to imitate influence. They are considered scammers looking to make easy money by “buying” followers. These followers are usually bots designed to increase a profile’s follower count making it seem as though the profile in question has a large online following.
Naturally, brands don’t want to be associated with fake influencers but identifying them can be quite difficult. Here’s how to spot them.
Their follower growth: Growing a large online following takes time and effort – it doesn’t just happen overnight. Tracking an influencer’s follower growth can reveal whether or not they purchased their followers. A relatively new account with 200 000 followers is likely to be fake.
Their follower vs engagement ratio: Look at how many likes and comments they receive per post in comparison to their number of followers. Generally, fake influencers only receive a small number of engagements per post. This can be calculated manually or by using an online tool designed for this purpose.
Their follower to following Ratio: On Instagram, when looking at an influencers profile, compare the number of accounts he or she follows with the follower amount. If you see the number of followers is far exceeding the number of followings, be careful. This is probably the most common way to spot a fake account.
Their activity on other platforms: While most influencers have a preferred social media platform, they don’t limit themselves to only one. A real influencer will have a similar number of followers on all their platforms while a fake influencer won’t.
Google them: This may sound obvious but a good way to weed out the fake influencers is to simply Google them. Influencers are often well known online so their names or social media handles will be present in search results.
As a brand, it’s important to do your research before choosing an influencer. If you are a lifestyle brand, work with a lifestyle influencer. That way, your target audience is already following the influencer, so you don’t have to search. Influencer marketing is a direct, sure shot strategy for reaching your target audience.
Moreover, influencer marketing can establish brand trust. A product endorsement from an influencer can boost your reputation as his or her infusion of credibility by association is extremely valuable for moulding a leadership position within your industry.
Would you like to learn more about how influencers can fit into a well-balanced and complete marketing strategy? Why not upskill with one of IMM’s short courses in Strategic Brand Management or Social Media Marketing. For more information on these and other short courses offered by IMM, call 0861 466 476 or visit www.immsc.co.za
Attention with a Capital ‘A’ is what every marketer wants for their brand, especially online. But what makes people follow or unfollow a brand? Much research has been done in this area. Time and time again we are told what we probably already knew – that people follow brands that are interesting and entertaining. The term interesting not only refers to the products and services that are on offer or their relevant promotions and discounts, but also the content associated with that brand. This should make sense, since people (in general) do know what they want, right?
When I first began my transition from ‘traditional marketer’ to ‘digital marketer’ some 6 years ago, I wondered what the point of this endless and seemingly useless supply of content was that brands seemed to produce faster than consumers could read. How does an inspirational quote like “Big things often have small beginnings” contribute at all to the marketing strategy and objectives? Quite honestly it all seemed like a massive waste of time and resource. It took me years of learning and on-the-job practice to fully grasp the power of content. Now, when asked the questions “What is the point of all this content?” and “What does social media actually do?” by brand managers, marketers and CEO’s alike, I answer with this simplified three stage explanation:
First, as with any promotional strategy, the objective for your social pages should be to build awareness of your brand and your product or service offering. In social media speak, your efforts of raising awareness builds a community of like-minded people. Unlike traditional marketing, this effort is extremely measurable by the number of likes/loves and followers you collect along the way. The content that you create for this purpose needs to appeal to your ‘perfect customer’ so that when the time comes for them to consider purchasing, your brand is already top of mind. If fact, eighty percent of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social (Sprout Social Index, 2019). And for many, this is where it stops.
But, building a community is just the beginning. You now get to speak to your followers – your captive audience. Again, unlike traditional channels of marketing social media provides you with the incredible opportunity to engage with your future customers and have them speak back to you. At this stage of the game, it’s got to be all about them. You need to be listening, observing, learning what they like and love so that you can give them more of the types of content that appeals to them. Now is not the time for hard-selling offers – that will come later. You rather want to be educating your followers about your brand, what you stand for, your company culture and you want to introduce them to and educate them about your products and services. Essentially, you are building trust. If you do this part well, the magic starts to happen – increased traffic from your social pages to your website. After all, isn’t this really where you want your customer to be? If you need further convincing, know that when asked what content type they want from brands on social, the majority (thirty percent) of consumers surveyed said they wanted links to more information (Sprout Social Index, 2019).
And now the unveiling! Because your future customer visited your website, you have the privilege of getting to know them better. Through Google Analytics you can delve deep into several visitor insights; Who are they? What are they interested in? What technology do they use? Where do they live? How old are they? What media to they read? Where do they spend their time when online? And more. It’s here where the true power of content marketing is unleashed. It’s time for those great offers and hard-working ads. Here’s the thing, with all this information about your prospect, you have the power to create an offer that truly resonates with them – and with remarketing technology you can show them your offer in the online spaces that they frequent (outside of your social pages and website). And since they already know you and trust your brand, it’s an easy step for them to click back to your website and make a purchase. None of which would have happened if not for the small beginnings of an inspirational quote.
The three stages above do not necessarily happen in sequence. That would be far too easy. This means that at any time social marketers should be creating three types of content; content that builds communities, content that engages and educates and content that sells. All of which should be aligned to the needs of the customer you want to visit your website and buy your products or services.
The above three stage approach to social content is a sure way to drive real, measurable returns, but it takes time and persistence.
Should brands try to change the world? What the research says.
Should brands try to change the world? What the research says.
Psos researcher Nick Coates examines some of the recent adverts placing themselves in the firing line and the long-term consequences of aligning themselves with these messages, as well as some considerations prior to launching campaigns.
It is the remit of advertising to elicit a reaction from consumers, but in the era of increasingly volatile public backlashes, brands are navigating very rough waters by placing themselves in the political or “social issue” space, especially with public feedback channels rapidly multiplying on social media.
Gillette’s controversial advert
Gillette is the latest to use its significant reach to address an issue that has been increasingly top of mind for many over the last decade. With the release of ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’, the brand took a firm stance on the need for a more positive definition of masculinity.
The ad has garnered over one million dislikes on YouTube and a sentiment analysis of social media commentary by Ipsos shows 36% negative comments, compared to 16% positive, about the campaign in the days following its release. Many detractors don’t like the perceived stereotyping of male behaviour and accuse the company of trying to ‘shame’ all men.
On the other hand, those that do like the advert applaud Gillette for “making people think” and urge critics to reflect on why it makes them mad. Many defend it, saying that it is simply calling for men to be better human beings. In fact, ad testing done by Ipsos indicates the commercial could reap rewards for the brand long after the negative social media backlash has passed.
The analysis shows that the ad has done quite well to address themes that matter personally to consumers, and pull at the heart strings. This brings about two positive outcomes; a strong desire for the brand, and of course, a buzzworthy piece of content.
So, here is an advert from a major advertiser, taking a somewhat controversial stance on a social issue, that seems to perform well in an ad-testing vacuum, receiving a large volume of polarised responses on social media in the days after launch.
Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’
Much of this summary falls in line with the firestorm that surrounded Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ spot, featuring Colin Kaepernick. The social response was similar to the early returns for Gillette, with Nike seeing a big spike in interaction – and far more of it negative than positive. There were calls from some for boycotts, just as Gillette was facing.
Interestingly, ad testing of the Nike video also shows similar positive results to the ‘We Believe’ ad. The Nike ad is a little stronger overall, driven by better branding – it has a natural fit with Nike positioning, and better integration of Nike equipment, sportswear, and brand ambassadors.
Time, and the markets, have shown this campaign to be a success for Nike, despite the early objections from some critics.
So, should we expect the same win for Gillette once the social media backlash moves on to the next target?
Not so fast. Let’s examine a local example that yielded immediate positive results.
Carling Black Label, ‘Bold. Brave. Strong.’
A South African campaign for Carling Black Label is the perfect case study to follow of how to go about playing in this space. ‘Bold. Brave. Strong.’ is an impactful new campaign that has already garnered praise from the media for showing “how powerful brands can be as catalysts for change”.
What did they do right?
By conducting the right research, at the right moment, a stronger idea can be revealed, which is a catalyst for creativity and can support the brand teams in launching a bold and purposeful campaign that drives their business successfully.
On Carling Black Label’s path to reinvention, in-depth investigation of modern South African males revealed a tension: masculinity has a lot to do with strength, yet male strength is often stereotyped by society as brutal muscle, mindless sexual appetite and violence. South Africans do not recognise themselves in that stereotypical way, and masculinity can thus become something to be ashamed of, rather than celebrated.
Carling Black Label seized the opportunity to paint a 21st century portrait of masculinity that could rally all men under its banner: bold, brave, strong men are those who are true to themselves and use their strength to do the right thing. This sensible message required research-driven content to ensure the right chord was struck by the advertising.
Three months into the launch, Carling is showing record growth in South Africa, with major positive volume changes and significant improvements in image attributes.
What does this mean for brands?
It’s too early to say whether Gillette’s campaign is going to be a surefire win for the brand and Gillette, Nike and Carling are very different brands. Time will tell whether this works out for Gillette, or not. But if they think it will, and they back the work they have done to get to this point, then they should stay the course.
Stop, think and smooth the waters
When thinking about marketing and advertising placing itself in a cause-based or political space, some considerations would do well to make the waters smoother for these brands.
Broader understanding of political currents in your market and country.
What is the brand’s history and purpose: Does the brand sit comfortably in that space? Nike has a history of targeting youth with edgy adverts and pushing the boundaries with an audience who are aligned to their message – Just Do It. They also famously live up to their messages, with carefully selected sponsorships and are quick to pull out of sponsorships that do not align with these social messages.
Is there a tone of positivity and partnership: Carling Black Labels’ campaign has a positive tone that avoids any misinterpretation of the campaign as a criticism of masculinity as it is today.
Imagining the advert from a different perspective: Would the advert be received more positively or more negatively if a different type of person were used in the advert, women instead of men for example?
Will the message have a positive effect on sales, based on the product? There is a loose upper limit on how much Nike gear a fan will buy, likewise with Carling but unfortunately for Gillette, the rate at which people need to replace razors does not increase, even if they have nothing but praise for this ad. People are unlikely to wear Gillette branded apparel as a badge of honour, so there seems less obvious upside in immediate sales.
These are questions that research prior to launch will help answer. Playing in this space can be hugely advantageous for brands, but being bold also requires being prepared.
Blooming business: NetFlorist has a rich, 20-year e-commerce history
NetFlorist was the talk of social media on this year’s Valentine’s Day, for all the wrong reasons. But this was just a blip on the e-commerce company’s history. Michael Bratt spoke to the company’s managing director, Ryan Bacher.
Having geared up for 45 000 deliveries on the day of love, load shedding and heavy rains severely impacted NetFlorist’s operations. Non-delivery of orders or the delivery of sub-standard gifts left many consumers fuming, and they weren’t shy about relaying their experiences on social media.
The backlash was handled very professionally by the brand, with Bacher issuing a video apology, which was posted on social media, and the company responding to all complaints.
“My gut is we haven’t recovered as a brand,” Bacher honestly responds, “because we upset our customers… I don’t know that you can always recover. All we could do was control how we tried to recover and learn from this and ensure we plan better for next year,” he adds.
This incident was a knock to NetFlorist, which has built itself up to become one of the largest e-commerce retailers in South Africa. Marketing has played a huge role in the brand’s growth over the years, and it’s interesting to see how their strategy has evolved.
In the early days, NetFlorist didn’t use any brand marketing, instead relying on affiliates (partnering with large companies) to gain traction.
“We lost our brand in that space, but we were so new to the e-commerce retail journey we didn’t understand that the brand is important,” comments Bacher.
These relationships later morphed into co-branded environments, before NetFlorist launched its own brand journey. Radio was the chosen medium to begin with to get the message out, but nowadays Google AdWords dominates, followed by digital and social media, radio and out of home billboards and vehicle branding.
Having had a childhood friendship with current FCB Africa CEO Brett Morris, NetFlorist partnered with the agency for advertising campaigns. Bacher stresses that this was an important step, as FCB really understands the essence of who NetFlorist is, and that great creative is vital for marketing success.
“From day one it’s really been about getting NetFlorist to become a household name through the marketing. There obviously have been changes in strategy and product innovations and many other developments along the way, but the marketing has always been true to building the equity of the brand,” explains Morris.
This has led to a situation that Bacher describes as “the brand being bigger than the business”.
“Our brand has been overweight in terms of the success of our business. Our name is everywhere and people think it’s this giant business, but we’re relatively small. We’re lucky to have a brand that’s punched above the business, because people need to trust us to deliver and a brand helps that tremendously,” he elaborates.
Realising that NetFlorist would probably never have big advertising budgets, Bacher and Morris had to ensure that the end product, of whatever was being spent on marketing, stood out. This was where creativity and humour were incorporated, with NetFlorist becoming known for its mischievous, irreverent, tongue-in-cheek tone in adverts, which entertain.
Harold, based on the father of a friend of Bacher and Morris, has become synonymous with the brand and its advertising, arguably reaching the same level of celebrity status as Steve from FNB.
Complaints about adverts
But many times, this advertising approach has landed the brand in hot water with consumers lodging complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority. The most recent one happened at the beginning of this year, with NetFlorist winning that case.
“We won the case, but we pulled the ad. We’ve done that before quite a few times. We’ve never lost a case against our ads, but we always pull the ads. If it gets to that stage we do that, because our aim is not to offend,” comments Bacher.
Morris says that NetFlorist is a fantastic client to work with because “they are not afraid to have a point of view and are brave enough to put their point of view out there. We have had some criticism in the past for being a bit too risqué, but you can never please all people all of the time,” he says. “As the saying goes, if you stand for something you may have some people for you and some against you and if you stand for nothing you will have nobody against you… but nobody for you either.”
Differentiating selling points
NetFlorist currently does on average 3 000 deliveries a day, with two thirds of those being same day. Same day delivery is a key differentiator for the brand, as is personalisation of gifts (across 1 000 different products), which is the fastest growing part of the business.
“What we try and do is provide what we think our customers want, even if it’s hard, because it raises the level at which competitors are going to have to take us on. For example, we moved the same day delivery cut-off time from 12:00 to 16:00 and we also introduced home delivery,” explains Bacher.
Bacher says the business will continue to be the best it can be, with personalisation remaining a key driver. On the floral side, there are two focus areas over the next year; the introduction of home delivery and the scaling up of wedding deliveries.
It’s high time to revise the tried-and-tested, three-pronged approach to succinct communications to include a fourth message: the inevitability of the sh*t hitting the fan. Crisis comms expert Janine Lazarus rolls out the strategy.
During workshops on key message development, I always beat on about only having three key messages at hand to carry you through any form of communication – particularly when it means having to convey something unpalatable. Anything more than that tends to get lost in the bubbling maelstrom of information we have to wade through each day.
Think of it, I tell my delegates, as the three key messages we arrive unceremoniously into, in this rather complex world of ours: we are born, we pay taxes, and then we die. They generally titter a tad uncomfortably but seem to latch onto the general idea. The more economical and efficient your message, the less likely you are to land knee-deep in the brown stuff, trying to fruitlessly explain how you didn’t mean for your message to be misconstrued.
However, it’s high time to revise this tried-and-tested, three-pronged approach to succinct communication to include a fourth message: the inevitability of the sh*t hitting the fan. I mean let’s face it: I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t gone through a crisis at some point in their lives.
In fact, if this special soul exists somewhere on the planet, someone should summon the media forthwith!
Crises are a dime a dozen. Open a newspaper (do people still read these things…?), hop online, or tune in to your favourite radio station or television channel, and there will be some sort of investigation, commission of inquiry, think tank – take your pick.
State capture is still leading the race, as is wholescale corruption. Vote rigging will inevitably be next, along with the plunging share price, the brutality of yet another sexual assault, or news of the latest in a series of self-made clerics living the life of Riley while their doting followers are forced to munch on the lawn.
And that’s just the first three pages of today’s weekend newspaper (because, yes – I still read them).
The hand grenade of social media
Toss the hand grenade of social media into the mix, and the inevitable sh*tstorm morphs into a veritable tornado, bringing down corporate reputations and more often than not, ending careers. It’s almost impossible to recover when the madness of instant messaging kicks into gear.
I’ve decided purposefully to keep away from politics as we could be here for ages, and instead focus on a few well-known brands that have landed themselves in hot water. Take Woolworths – or as coined by social media: Woolworse.
Hot on the heels of engaging international experts in the aftermath of the furore around the retail giant’s appropriation of the style and ethos of the Frankies retro drinks brand, it found itself again in the unflattering spotlight of the media after being accused of stealing a private designer’s hummingbird design for scatter cushions.
Then a locally produced baby carrier design made for the third allegation that the company makes it a habit of stealing intellectual property. This time, in the face of huge public embarrassment, Woolworths found itself apologetically begging and scraping at the feet of Cape Town-based independent designer Shannon MacLaughlin.
The result: the immediate withdrawal from sale of its supposedly in-house product (read: made in China) that was remarkably similar to the entrepreneur’s baby carrier design.
I found the ‘unreserved’ apology for what the retailer described as a “failure of internal processes” pathetic, to say the least.
Also in poor taste – pun intended – was retail giant Coca-Cola having to slam the brakes on its nationwide Share a Coke activation as a result of one of its cans going out with the Xitsonga word Xitombo (vagina) printed on it. What delicious fodder for social media!
The incident rightfully so offended the Tsonga community and the public at large, that it actually made a mockery of the original spirit of the Coca-Cola campaign, which was about inclusivity, respecting diversity and understanding. Yeah, right.
While on the subject of inclusivity, pen manufacturer Bic had to hastily pull a South African Women’s Day advert that was branded sexist and offensive to women.
Penned alongside a picture of a woman dressed in a power suit, were the words: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss.”
Full marks to one of Bic’s rivals for a post that was deemed way less offensive. “Look how you want. Act how you want. Think how you want. Work like a BOSS.”
It’s not an easy task to think of a household brand that has escaped unscathed from the fiasco of instant messaging. Wait… there is one.
South Africa’s oldest online retailer, NetFlorist, came under fire for its late delivery of last month’s Valentine’s Day orders. Social media was flooded with pictures of browning bouquets, melted chocolates and personalised gifts peppered with spelling errors.
Managing director Ryan Bacher wasted no time in posting an apology on the same social media platform his brand was lambasted on. He said a combination of load shedding and rain in Gauteng created “the perfect storm”. (I wonder who wrote his copy…?).
But he went a step further. “We should have prepared better for this, we didn’t and we let our customers down.” Bacher then said that the brand would do “whatever we need to make this right”.
Full marks for the quick sticks apology? Definitely not, according to NetFlorist customer, Angelique McKenzie. “I ordered a Valentine’s gift for my mother for whom this was the first Valentine’s Day without my father who passed away in December.
“You have not delivered it.”
THE THREE-PRONGED PLAN
There really is no magic bullet to enable you to neatly sidestep a crisis and move on with your life. (If I had invented one, I’d be lying on one of five glorious islands I own sipping on my umpteenth chilled margarita of the afternoon).
But there is a tried-and-tested methodology to mitigate the impact of the crisis, which should leave you with something of an intact reputation.
Before you even pause to think about throwing an evasive “no comment” or “I’m not at liberty to speak” type of statement, understand that making no comment is louder than any comment you will ever make. Ducking and diving is simply not the way to go. It’s career suicide.
Try this three-pronged plan:
Step 1: Connect with the issue
Yes, really connect. No stiff upper lip. We are not a British colony. Show empathy and connect with the issue. Those who it impacts are human beings. However, once you’ve connected, move right along. You don’t want the negative message to resonate any more than necessary with your audience.
Step 2: Throw back to a previous positive track record. (You do have one, right…?)
Perhaps this has never happened in all your years in business. It’s a freak accident, a once off.
Step 3: Move forward. Make it crystal clear what you are going to do about it. I’m talking specifics. Refrain from talking about putting measures in place, unless you are a tailor.
Social media helps brands to connect and become more engaged with its target audience. Of course, there is a difference between customers who (out of love for it or habit) use a product without promoting it, and customers who promote and post about their favourite brands and products on social media. A major goal for businesses is to turn their regular customers into loyal super-fans.
The way consumers talk about their user experiences has changed over time. With the presence of social media, consumers are able to instantly share their positive experiences with their potentially large social media following. Since modern consumers rely heavily on online product reviews before making a purchase, passionate recommendations from a fellow customer will be considered more valuable and taken more seriously than a message from the brand itself.
A brand ambassador is someone who “visibly flaunts the adoption, use, and presence of a certain brand”. Simply put, brand ambassadors use and talk to (preferably) large audiences about their favourite brands. Traditionally, brand ambassadors were celebrities with their own large social media following, however, now with ‘average’ consumers gaining online popularity, anyone can assume this position.
Finding brand ambassadors
The best place for a business to start looking for brand ambassadors is within the organisation. Employees are often good candidates since they already know the finer details of the products and services on offer. Another option is to analyse the existing customer base and pinpoint who the most loyal individuals are, then ask them whether they would like to become an advocate for the brand.
Brand ambassadors must have these key characteristics:
A good knowledge of the brand, its products and history
A basic understanding of marketing principles
An established online presence
A large social media following
A passion for the product or brand
A team player
How brand ambassadors are made
Converting the ‘average’ customer into a super fan requires time and effort. These seven strategies can help turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors.
Maintain good customer relationships. If a customer has a pleasant experience with a brand, they are likely to remain loyal and refer their friends.
Show interest. Ask customers for their feedback, they can offer a unique perspective on the brand. Also, asking customers for their opinion will make them feel heard.
Make use of User Generated Content (UGC). Asking customers to produce content for the business will not only provide fresh content such as videos, photos and written text, but the brand will also earn customer loyalty.
Encourage user creativity. Businesses can hold contests to encourage its audience to create content for the brand. This will increase user engagement and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations.
Build a community. Create an online community centred around the brand to encourage brand to user interaction and promote loyalty.
Appreciate your customers. When customers provide a business with user generated content or refer a friend, be sure to show your public appreciation.
Reward advocates. Provide existing brand ambassadors with special offers like discounts or free shipping and post online about the benefits of being a brand ambassador.
How your business can benefit
Having a brand ambassador on your side can greatly benefit your business. One obvious benefit is that ambassadors are often unpaid. Brand ambassadors can also:
Increase brand visibility and awareness
Use social media to hype up the brand
Help to make the brand more ‘human’
Help to protect a brand’s online reputation
Drive traffic to the brand’s website
Once a brand has gained ambassadors, the final task is to maintain these relationships – this requires ongoing effort on the business’ part. The best ways to keep ambassadors interested and engaged is to constantly provide them with an exclusive sneak peak of new products, special deals or any future changes. This will give them something new to talk about with their audience.
Lastly, having brand ambassadors who create content for the brand would be of no use if the business doesn’t use their content. Publicly posting their content and showing appreciation for it will show followers that their efforts don’t go unnoticed.
Social Media has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives
Social media is constantly evolving and has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives – keeping up with it isn’t an easy task. Of course, social media isn’t just for personal use -it has become an integral part of digital marketing and can help a business develop from a start-up into a smooth-running machine.
Social media marketing is all about communication. According to industry legend, Neil Patel, “Social media marketing is the process of creating content that you have tailored to the context of each individual social media platform in order to drive user engagement and sharing.”
Facebook has 2.320 billion users by the end of 2017 and even though there are currently over 7.5 billion people in the world, one in four people have a Facebook account. Patel claims that Facebook is quite literally taking over the world and that in some ways, it is a country of its own. With so many active users on a daily basis, social media presents a prime marketing opportunity.
That’s only Facebook and it’s worth noting that each platform is different in that they each require their own strategy. One thing remains the same, however, the content. Content drives each social media platform. In Neil Patel’s article, Social Media Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide, he unpacks some key social media terms. We have summarised them here for you:
Content: Content is whatever you are posting on your social media profiles. This includes text, videos, and images. Each social network requires different forms of content meaning that what you post should be tailored specifically to each platform.
Hashtags: Incorporating hashtags into your posts have become a very common way of adding meta information on nearly all social networks. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest thrive on hashtags which lets you describe the topic of your content or mark it as part of a current trend.Hashtags make content easier to find and share – especially if it’s part of a trend.
Shares: Shares are considered the currency of the social media world, they are all that matters. While “likes” are also important, you want people to pass your message on.
Engagement: Engagement just means that other users see and interact with the content you share on social networks. This includes liking, commenting on and sharing your posts.
Fun fact: Nomophobia is the fear of not being near your mobile phone.
In another article, Social Media for Business: A Marketer’s Guide – by Saige Driver. Driver explains that not every social platform in a good fit for every business, businesses need to invest in the platforms where they are most likely to reach their target audience. Here’s what you should know about each of the most popular social media platforms:
Facebook can be used to share any type of content from photos to important business updates. With a business account, you’ll be able to access various advertising and analytics tools. Having a business page also enables you to highlight operating hours, contact information and the products and services on offer.
With Instagram gaining popularity, it’s important to note that the platform is almost entirely mobile meaning that you can’t create or upload content from your desktop. Artists tend to do well on Instagram as they can take photos and upload them on-the-go with their mobile devices. It’s important that whoever runs your page has some basic photography skills and a keen eye for detail.
Twitter is the ideal platform for posting short updates about your business or sharing links to longer content such as a blog. Twitter has a character limit of 240 characters but also allows the sharing of multimedia content, links, and polls etc. Driver suggests that if you’re a highly visual business or if you don’t have a blog, you may want to skip Twitter. All in all, Twitter is a great platform to quickly spread the word.
No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care Tracy Porter
For many PR people, we live with the everyday fear of an incident causing a reputation disaster. Where daily tasks grind to a halt, where the days become longer and the weekends shorter – as we tend to the catastrophe at hand. Some bound by corporate policies and procedures, many limited to the instructions of senior management and some even caught between the media and the company spokesperson.
We have so many examples of how this could go horribly wrong. How a miss managed reputational crisis can simply cause more confusion and then we are also faced with an ‘always on’ world where it simply takes a one second of posting on a social media platform to intensify the situation.
We need to know, that this is never going to go away – that’s the bad news for the PR industry. The good news though, is that you will never be judged by what caused the crisis, but you will ALWAYS be judged on how you respond to the crisis. So how do we respond to the media and public at large? Perhaps this is the big question.
You will remember the Tiger Brands Listeriosis crisis that must have had a disastrous effect on the perception of their Enterprise products. Incidentally, does anyone recall a press statement from them indicating what their plan of action was around resolving this? Or was there a subsequent announcement saying that these products in store are now “safe to purchase and consume?” Did I miss something?
Then there is the dreadful rape of the little girl in the DROS restaurant – where only quite a few days after the incident they finally spoke and issued a press release (and very obviously written by a lawyer) where the DROS branded footer was left on the release which says ‘cause you can’t get too much of a good thing. OUCH!
Then there is also the example of Momentum, where they declined to pay out on a policy. The reasons made very clear and transparent the next morning where major news channels and social media were lit with well composed media statements and interviews with media spokes persons. They harnessed their excellent PR savvy and put it to good work. I salute you!
The moments of crisis in the PR world become very unkind and are often littered with Execs (who in many cases have little to no PR understanding) to media, staff and social media that badger you. I recall a time when working in a PR department where the CEO of the company I worked for instructed me, during a reputational disaster, to have no contact with the media – ignore them and they will go away, he said – bad PR is better than no PR at all, he said.
Let’s just say…it didn’t end as well as he thought it would!
So what’s the answer? TALK! Even if you have nothing to say, TALK! Let the media and the social media frenzy know that you are working on it; let them know you will get back to them as so as you can. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know, but I am finding out.” We deal with a world that lives in heightened technology, but we still deal with human beings and never forget that no one wants to be ignored.
Go behind the scenes and then adhere to the corporate PR policy, and then ensure you have a final communication ready to address each and every platform. But please don’t stay quiet – this won’t go away!