Social Media Promotions: An Interview with Joeline Hackman from Strutta

Planned and executed effectively, social media contests and promotions have significant potential to help companies expand their breadth and depth of engagement with customers, grow their fan base, and identify their most passionate advocates. Companies have a plethora of options and opportunities with respect to creating promotions that will truly resonate and drive business. The primary challenge, however, lies in gaining people’s time and attention to participate amidst an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat about contests and promotions with Joeline Hackman, Director of Marketing at Strutta. Strutta, a Vancouver-based company, provides tools and expertise to power online promotions for companies, and possesses a top tier client list that includes Microsoft, Edelman and Coca-Cola. Joeline shared insights on the evolving social media landscape for promotions, as well as best practices that can help companies achieve success.

Q: How have brand metrics with respect to online promotions and contests evolved?

A: I feel like we’ve gone from a stage where people are counting likes and followers to one in which measurement is focused on engagement through shares, retweets and mentions. It’s also about identifying who those people are that are engaging with your brand, being able to talk with them directly, and identifying top influencers. It sets up this ecosystem where you can identify the most valuable nodes and communicate with them.

Q: How has Facebook’s switch to Timeline impacted social and promotional apps?

A: For us it’s all about engagement. I understand that Timeline has really impacted the experience on Facebook. It’s been mandatory for people to switch over, it was done so that there is more real estate on Facebook where people can engage on a company’s page with photos and other posts, with highlighted relevant content bubbling to the top. Tabs are still at the top and companies can directly link to them on their walls, using an image or any other content. It’s been great because it’s made Facebook a more immersive experience, and more valuable. Rather than just being a constant newsfeed, people have been able to assign a quality score to posts and drive traffic to elements within Facebook that are most relevant. With our clients, they post interesting content from within the contests, which drives more engagement from their fans.

Q: What best practices should companies consider in order to achieve maximum value and ROI from promotions? Are there any common traits you notice in successful promotions?

A: Just be responsive and engage with your audiences. Social is social. I see a lot of companies publish things, and there’s not that interaction. For us, we encourage companies to take us much data as they can – and understand there are individuals behind the data. Someone’s talking to you, then respond, take information and demonstrate you’ve listened.

Also, the prize should be commensurate with the value of what you’re asking someone to do. If you’re just asking someone to enter a basic sweepstakes, then there are guidelines for the value of the prize based on the amount of people you expect to participate. If asking people to enter a video for the contest, the prize has to be a lot more indicative of the effort involved. We recommend prizes are unique to your brand, no one is going to be engaged over period of time to win free iPad. We encourage companies to create unique experiences.

What are your thoughts on online promotions and contests? Do you have any best practices you’d like to share, or perhaps examples of innovative and effective promotions that have truly led to positive business results?

Listen. Engage. Connect.

This post originally appeared as a comment in response to a post written by Mitch Joel. Mitch asked readers to provide thoughts on what it takes for marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world. The two people who submitted the best responses, selected by Mitch, won complimentary tickets to the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. I was fortunate to be selected (my answer was ranked third but one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend).

Hi Mitch,

Several keys come to mind which should be considered.

Recognize that social media is about people.

Companies need to have the right people in place, whether in marketing, communications or customer service, with appropriate skills and education on social media best practices. These people, on the front lines, are essentially the face of the company – they should be both empowered and trusted when engaging with customers.  Enable people (your customers) to like your people (your employees) and thus your company.

Spend time learning.

Given the nature of the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape, continuous learning is a necessity for people at all levels – so that a company’s employees are well-poised to listen, engage and connect. Marketers should regularly spend time reading social media and technology blogs and books, as well as occasionally attend conferences (such as The Art of Marketing).

Understand that listening leads to engagement and connection.

Marketers should start by listening to their target audience, in an effort to understand them – their needs, their nuances, their language. Engagement should start once sufficient listening has occurred. However, any marketing outreach can’t just be about the brand. The conversation must be relevant and genuine from the perspective of the customer, and it must somehow add value. Marketers that focus first on listening and have customer-centric mindset, will have a better opportunity to establish true engagement and connection.

Be proactive and build relationships.

Related to the point above, marketers should be proactive in building relationships – both with key influencers and other people in the target market. Relationship-building can occur by commenting on a blog, interacting on a social network, or perhaps meeting in person at an event. Investing in a relationship can truly help at a later point, perhaps when an social initiative/campaign is being launched that could benefit from engagement of key influencers.

Provide great content.

Whether making use of a corporate blog, or sharing information through a social network, marketers need to invest time and effort in cultivating and curating content that is relevant and provides value to existing and potential customers.  Time invested in listening to customers’ needs can truly pay off here, as insights gained can feed into the content developed. By becoming a trusted resource for customers, engagement and connection with customers will be enhanced.

Show that you care.

Simply put, a little recognition can go a long way.  If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them. If someone cites an issue or concern, ask them why and do what you can to help them – in a genuine and, ideally, expedient manner.  You may not always be able to please everyone, but you certainly can earn a lot of respect by showing that you care.  Again this goes back to listening, which provides opportunity for engagement and connection.

More Community Management Best Practices

Following up on my recent post on community management best practices, I thought I would share some additional tips and advice – based on my own personal experiences.

Building an online community for your company and brand isn’t rocket science. That being said, there are some simple steps you can take that will facilitate growth and foster engagement with your burgeoning band of advocates (otherwise known as community members).

The five key points from my previous post:

  1. Participate where the conversations are happening
  2. Be timely with your responses
  3. Focus on being people-centric, not company-centric
  4. Be careful what you say
  5. Don’t ignore negative comments

Five more I’d like to add:

1. Give new members a warm welcome

It’s important to make new people feel welcome in your community, to set the stage for engagement – particularly when a community is young and growing. If possible, take the time to send a personalized welcome message to new members. Imagine how a new member will feel, receiving a message from a community host or moderator that is uniquely customized and tailored.

If you see a new member contributing to the first time, give that person some recognition. Thank them for their contribution, and try to elicit further discussion or comments if possible – perhaps that member has more to say. Showing a little gratitude will go a long way!

2. Study your community

Yes, study your community! Do your homework! Learn the make-up of your of your community – read member profiles and gain a better sense of just who has joined, and the different types of interests your members have. The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be able to interact and converse with your community.

3. Monitor community activity and health

Be sure to stay tuned in to your community, from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective. Track key data that is most relevant, whether related to new member joins, commenting activity, voting activity or another metric that you value, and develop reports as deemed appropriate. Keep an eye out for trends! If your community had higher or lower levels of participation that expected during a specific period, dig in and find out why.

4. Communicate with your members

It’s important to keep members appraised of activity in the community. A regular email, if you’re hosting the community on an internal platform, can go a long way.  If you’re using Facebook, Twitter or another network, make use of status updates. Just don’t overdo it, however – you’ll need to find the communication mix that is right for your brand.

5. Keep members engaged

Provide community members with incentives for contributing. At Genius Crowds, a product innovation community I used to moderate, we provided community member with gift cards related to different types of community activity – such as posting product ideas, commenting and voting. There’s plenty more you can do. For example, if a new hot topic is posted in the community, send a personal email to members who might be interested, to let them know (this is where your homework on knowing member interests will come in handy!).

See You in 2015!

We are going through some amazing, transformative times in the business world. I don’t think it’s a stretch to use those words. Digital technology and social media are providing unprecedented opportunities for companies to truly engage and build relationships with stakeholder groups, on a very direct, personalized and humanized one to one level. It’s scaled caring, to the point where companies and brands can create relationships with thousands of customers – and it’s what people are increasingly looking for in the brands they do business with.

Unfortunately, many companies do not yet fully realize or understand this. I have had a number of conversations with peers who work in marketing, communications and advertising – with companies and agencies. Many of them believe that the value and benefits associated with social media, particularly as presented by well-known social media bloggers and authors, are just hype – stating that they are far removed from present realities within the companies they work for or do business with.

Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps their realities are far different. If so, it is unfortunate, because their companies risk being left behind by competitors who embrace the social capabilities that digital enables – no matter which industry they operate in, no matter whether they are B2C or B2B.

Recently I sent a tweet to Gary Vaynerchuk, a well-known social media luminary and author of best-selling books Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, asking for his perspective on the issue. Gary was kind enough to record a video response, which he originally posted on garyvaynerchuk.com and I have re-posted here.

I have read both of Gary’s books, and I agree with Gary’s perspective. I think, in today’s day and age, it is necessary to have an entrepreneurial mindset – to be proactive, to search for new and emerging opportunities to engage with customers and grow business, and to be willing to take risks while doing so. Digital and social are evolving at breakneck speeds, it’s important to be mindful of new platforms which companies can leverage to build relationships with customers.  Not all initiatives will be successful, but companies that employ a diverse, well-thought out range of engagement activities will uncover some that are “sticky” and favored by customers.

Having the right corporate culture, one that truly supports the new social paradigm, is also key. According to Jason Baker, Digital Strategist at Magnify Digital and Digicate, “The most important thing for any company is to focus on their culture and how their culture fits into telling their story in an authentic and genuine fashion. Anyone can know that you’re a social company. You can blabber on Twitter for as long as you want in 140 characters, but no one can truly connect with your business until you’ve identified your core values, personality, vision, purpose, and/ or cause. Ask the hard questions to extract those answers, then develop an integrated digital strategy that allows you to share those elements in a passionate, authentic, and genuine way.”

Collectively, we are all learning as we go – and sharing insights along the way. Age and experience in marketing and communications, while still important, are not the be all and end all. Look at the number of bright, young minds who are excelling in digital marketing – there are a lot of young entrepreneurs out there. Awesome!

That said, while lots of the talk is on social and digital, I don’t believe that traditional marketing is going away. Actually, I look forward to the day when traditional marketing and digital marketing just become known as “marketing”. I think there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to develop integrated campaigns across a variety of platforms, telling their brand story while engaging and building rapport with customers. Companies need to pick best platforms and engagement styles that are right for them.

It’s important to think strategically and realize that success in digital and social media will not happen overnight. At the same time, companies need to be nimble and fleet of foot, adopting a culture that enables engagement opportunities to be seized as they arise.

For a great example of this, please read my recent post on KLM.

As for everyone’s favorite social media topic, ROI, well let’s not kid anyone here – tangible metrics are important. Here is a great post on the topic from David Armano, SVP at Edelman Digital.

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and communications, I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store. See you in 2015.

Bucky’s Buzz #3 – Excellent Social Media Engagement by Lululemon

Marketing thoughts and insights to help you stay ahead of the game.


Engaging Online Communities with Your Brand

Companies can increase the likelihood of achieving success with their marketing programs by more deeply engaging specific groups within their target market. It’s no secret that the most effective marketing strategies typically have a well-defined target. However, the proliferation of online groups over the past decade has created significant opportunities for companies to become more focused with their brand communication efforts.

In his book “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay Shirky details how the web has brought down barriers to group formation. Costs and geography, amongst other factors, have reduced risk and provided opportunities for people with extremely specific and unique interests to connect.

Consider the website Meetup.com, an online social networking portal that facilitates group meetings in various locations around the world. Founded in 2001 by Scott Heiferman, Meetup had 66,725 groups as of September 2009. Many of these groups are very focused in nature – for example, there are over 200 Pug Meetup groups. On a local level, what a great opportunity for a pet food store to become involved, perhaps organizing dog walking events so that pug owners can meet and connect.

Beyond Meetup, many companies are now creating their own brand communities online. Urban Reserve is an online and offline community for wine enthusiasts, sponsored by RJ Spagnols and Vincor (disclaimer: I am a Community Manager for Urban Reserve in Vancouver). Urban Reserve enables people to share their love of wine – with the enticement of belonging to a fun and unique community. People have the opportunity to connect online, and offline through wine tasting events.

There are many groups of people out there who might have an interest in your brand. What are you doing to connect with them?