We all know that consumers are already content marketers and that many brands incorporate social elements into all of their marketing campaigns – through the likes of # hashtags, whether in print material or in the closing frames of a tvc.
Consumers or brand loyalists use these mechanics to share ideas, thoughts and comments on their brand experience and marketers in turn collect this content and brand information to further shape the brand conversation and to learn from consumers on what works or doesn’t work for the brand.
I’d like to quote from one of the reports I’ve reviewed that cover aspects of this conversation. “The Marketing Trends to watch in 2014” is a short report compiled by offerpop – a USA based business that builds Engaging Customer Experiences and helps marketers launch social marketing campaigns.
The quote goes as follows:
“In 2014, companies will fully realize the benefits of user-generated content (UGC) in offering consumer insights, humanizing their brands, and amplifying the reach of their messages.
We’ll see UGC play more of a central role across all marketing programs. Brands will run more frequent UGC campaigns to leverage brand advocacy and grab more impressions. And to take advantage of the wider audience, they’ll build out more programs and tactics to convert their audiences through social.”
So what this is telling us is that we should expect to see many more brands calling for, and relying on consumers to broaden the brand conversation and to share their “love” for the brands in question.
Going back to the report, which I must add covers 5 key marketing trends, although in my opinion, those trends really only roll-up into two key trends, the very topics that I have mentioned from the connected consumer theme, namely those of:
• User-generated Content and the role of Social – The report states that “according to research from Forrester, every time a consumer posts a piece of content on the web, it reaches 150 people. By triggering your fans to share content, you’re helping new consumers discover your brand.” Tell me which brand does not want this level of brand earned reach?
Another important fact learnt from the report is that “messages and endorsements that come from users make your brand seem reliable and authentic, and are a powerful revenue driver. In fact, an increase in brand advocacy of only 12% results in a 2x increase in revenue.” Again, tell me which brand does not want this level of brand influence, and therefore revenue increase?
I do however believe that the challenge is to ensure that advertisers have the right philosophy of understanding on how to stimulate and effectively leverage off the User-generated content. This is where partnering with the correct media and creative agencies is essential, as well as having a highly competent CRM and Data Management team internally that can aggregate the content and repackage and re purpose for the brand conversation continuum.
The second point that I refer two, that of Social, covers four of the five trends referenced in the offerpop report. These trends being defined as:
• Tie social to Traditional Advertising
• Connect the Dots between Social and E-mail
• Embracing Social’s role in Driving Commerce and
• Increase the Frequency of Your Social Campaigns
So why Social or Social Marketing?
Well, social marketing is the means by which brand owners, or advertisers, can influence and change consumer behaviour, not just for the benefit of individuals, but idealistically, for the benefit of groups of society as well.
Threading the social media layer across tradition campaigns will most definitely drive further reach, and as we noted, possibly drive incremental revenue growth as well.
The offerpop report cleverly presents the social layer trend under the heading “Get to know the #SocialLayer” and goes on to describe how the inclusion of the hashtag in campaigns drives deeper and broader brand conversation.
I thought it an ideal opportunity to quickly address the topic of Hashtags and to give some context to their origin and current use as an “aggregator” of specific topics or conversation themes.
# Function – Hashtags are mostly used as unmoderated ad hoc discussion forums; any combination of characters led by a hash symbol is a hashtag, and any hashtag, if promoted by enough individuals, can “trend” and attract more individual users to discussion using the hashtag.
On Twitter, when a hashtag becomes extremely popular, it will appear in the “Trending Topics” area of a user’s homepage. The trending topics can be organized by geographic area which in turn can assist with developing bespoke / targeted messages.
Hashtags also function as beacons in order for users to find and “follow” (subscribe) or “list” (organize into public contact lists) other users of similar interest.
Mass broadcast media – Since 2010, television series on various television channels promote themselves through “branded” hashtag bugs. This is used as a means of promoting a backchannel of online side-discussion before, during and after an episode broadcast. Hashtag bugs appear on either corner of the screen, or they may appear at the end of an advertisement (for example, a motion picture trailer).
While personalities associated with broadcasts, such as hosts and correspondents, also promote their corporate or personal Twitter usernames in order to receive mentions and replies to posts, usage of related or “branded” hashtags alongside Twitter usernames (e.g., #edshow as well as @edshow) is increasingly encouraged as a microblogging style in order to “trend” the hashtag (and, hence, the discussion topic) in Twitter and other search engines.
Broadcasters also make use of such a style in order to index select posts for live broadcast. Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s director of media partnerships, identified two types of television-formatted usage of hashtags: hashtags which identify a series being broadcast (i.e. #SunnyFX) and instantaneous, “temporary” hashtags issued by television personalities to gauge topical responses from viewers during broadcasts.
Purchasing – Since February 2013 there is a collaboration between the social networking site Twitter and American Express that makes it possible to buy discounted goods online by tweeting a special hashtag. American Express members can sync their card with Twitter and use the offers by tweeting and look for a response in a tweet with the confirmation from American Express.
We know that digital and social are transforming the way that televisions ads are created and consumed as multiple screen engagement habits distract consumers from a single platform immersion or brand experience.
This has led to the development of integrated campaigns which consider all media touch-points and through the use of social media, can lead a consumer on an interactive and participative brand conversation or experience journey – from the traditional first screen, that of TV, to mobile, tablet usage or laptop – even when in front of the first screen.
The report states that Nielsen research found that 88% of marketers believe that integrated multi-screen campaigns will become very important in the next three years. I believe that 100% of marketers should think this!
Why do I say this? Well, if you consider a piece of Gartner research that found that 74% of consumers now reply on social networks to guide their purchase decision, you would want your brands to be on as many social networks as possible.