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So, we’ve established that Instagram is a fun photo-sharing tool in use by some killer brands (recently, Pitchfork, Matador, Moo, and my brand-crush the Level Up), and now I’m thinking I haven’t seen Soundtracking used this way (peep the official page here), and it may deserve its fifteen minutes. The interface is similar enough to Instagram, with basic menu functions allowing one to follow a user, change his/her profile photo, and scan a recent feed of “soundtracked” songs. Obviously, the app pushes to Facebook and Twitter, too. So, you key in the song you’re listening to or have the program identify it (think Shazam or my preferred Soundhound), and can soundtrack your life, along with your location and a relevant photo. Nifty? Yeah, I can dig this.

I use the app occasionally, when I’m out and about or driving (oops) and want to capture a nifty song. It’s helped me ID new music and also allows me to share with the internet collective that I think, at this exact moment, everyone damn well ought to be grooving along to ‘Everyday is like Sunday.’But the huge differentiator I’m highlighting between Soundtracking and Instagram is I’ve yet to see brands use it.

Why not? Well, it’s going to mean you’re sharing (and endorsing, to some extent) third party content. You may be building a fan base skewed to certain musical tastes, which may not be ideal. But I have to say, there has to be a brand or 100 out there that could benefit from this kinda of network. Maybe it’s that chic Newbury Street boutique, soundtracking their dressing room sounds, or, hell, even the Gap could fall into this kind of sharing to build a network. I haven’t done the necessary focus groups, but I think people like music and will link it with images, and that could even lead to songs or artists triggering a customer’s subconscious consideration of the brand that posts it.

I’m not handling marketing efforts for any clients in-house, so I can’t pick up on the office or team vibe and put this idea to the test. My day job, constantly plugged into Pandora and various XM radio, would be an awesome guinea pig; what if we soundtrack employees’ daily favorites?

Somebody, try it before I get the chance. Or let me know if it’s happening. As Madonna would say, music makes the people come together. Yeah. So can it cause them to rally around the right brands? I think so.

As I worked with a potential client today on social strategies for high-end designer clothing and accessories, I starting listing the merits of Instagram. I love it for personal shots around town, and it’s even inspired me to make a purchase from a brand I follow. I described the site as a photo-sharing tool to engage a community between brands and their customers, and threw out names of a few brands I follow. (Also noteworthy are accounts from giants in their own rights, Starbucks, NPR, and the Boston Celtics.) Anyway, here’s a quick case study of three fashion brands using Instagram to build and grow a mobile community, and why each rocks in its own way.

Kate Spade

new literature-inspired clutches, seen first on the Instagram feed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been a customer of Kate Spade over 10 years; my first “adult” wallet was a little nylon number that cost a whopping $110 but lasted me 6 years. I’ve followed the brand on twitter for the past 8 months or so and have eaten up the links to product shots and playful banter between customers and the brand avatar. They’re on their game with bi-weekly emails as well, highlighting a “color of the month,” sample sales (!), and free shipping offers. But how do they use Instagram? Their savvy social media maven started sharing product shots (including brand new pieces, which I could view before they even hit the website), behind-the-scenes grabs from window sets, and cutesy finds from around town. Branded as the hip, happy-go-lucky girl in the big city (think, what Carrie Bradshaw would share if she were snapping photos with her iPhone), there’s been an interesting shift in the past 6 weeks or so from these distanced posts to more personal content. Fans see where this mystery gal is grabbing a gelato on the Upper West Side, what music festival she went to last weekend, and who she’s meeting with at industry parties. But we’ve never seen her. She’s the anonymous fun girl everyone wants to be. She’s also keeping her Instagram feed relatively separate from Facebook and Twitter marketing(the service easily posts to these networks from inside the app)– so here’s a more isolated, VIP look inside the brand.

Current Follow Count: 28,285.

so this is what it looks like inside a fashion house, huh?

Oscar de La Renta

She’s gorgeous (from what we can see of her), she’s powerful, and she wears designer dresses like it’s her job– ’cause it is. Meet oscarprgirl, “reporting from inside one of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses.” Holy product beauty shots, batman! We meet the designer’s collections firsthand through shots of this lovely lady rocking the duds, as well as ambient shots of the sweet locations work sends her to, behind-the-scenes shots at fashion shoots, and other shots from her worldly adventures. Always with a cute and descriptive caption, I love feeling in the know about these impossibly unaffordable garments– like reading Vogue at the hair dresser, but better.

Current followers: 4,231.

Free People

I love following Free People on Twitter because they’re constantly sharing fun office culture tidbits (like who brought their dog in today) and linking to new products. You can also comment on and rate products on their website using a nice interface that actually looks useful, which I learned about thanks to Twitter.

Since Instagram allows you to mark your location alongside a photo, many of this brand’s shots come from the Home Office. They’re mostly photos of various team members (this company has a lotof accessory buyers, let me tell you!), all decked out in Free People gear. Oh, and they hit up the Pitchfork Music Fest last weekend, so fans got a glimpse of some performing acts via this feed as well. I love Free People’s bright and breezy style, and am I influenced on a daily basis to shop their collections by seeing funky people outfitted in them? You betcha.

Current Follow Count: 3,947.

adorable dress, as per usual on Free People's feed

I’ve been pretty impressed, as I started the week with 135 LinkedIn connections and sit before you on a Friday evening with 220. I finally held my breath as I read through the list of 700+ people from my Outlook contacts and GMail address book. After removing awkward first dates, a workplace stalker, and difficult former clients, I sent invites to the remaining contacts. Each time an email comes through confirming how I’m now networked to someone I vaguely remember interacting with in some way (or not), I’m impressed with the near blind willingness to accept.

The process of “friending” on Facebook is super personal, and there’s that awkward moment early in a workplace relationship when you need to evaluate if you should befriend someone. On Twitter, I’m moderately selective, and don’t automatically follow back new followers. On Yelp, I accept nearly all requests, but occasionally turn down users clearly building huge friend lists who otherwise have no content to add to the site.

Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate these people accepting my invites as I beef up my social networking profile and brand myself more professionally online. And some of them have really cool jobs; I’m now connected to a woman who I approached in a sales role and runs Miami Culinary Tours and producers at National Geographic who must reside in my work email list. I’m just kind of digging how all I did was ask, and since LinkedIn is legit (the IPO this week probably didn’t hurt), I’ve added nearly 100 people to my growing professional network.

Speaking of asking, The Atlantic put out this infographic last Friday, citing how nearly 100% more “asks” come from twitter (“follow me,” “RT to win,” etc) than Facebook. Makes sense to me, since I’ve been championing the uses of Twitter for small, hyperlocal business marketing, but have to really think up  innovative ways to draw followers to my clients’ Facebook pages.

Every day, social media legitimizes itself more as a force to be reckoned with and a necessary business tool and investment. So, whether we’re growing the reach of a client brand or we wanna improve our own social network “klout,” it can never hurt to ask.

The adoption by the Boston Red Sox to twitter contests to score new followers has gotten me thinking about real time, location-based instaoffers. (Yup, just made up a term and a word).The latest by the Boston sports franchise is #tweetmyseat, offering the first tweeter to share his/her location along with a photo of the batter a gift basket. Cool concept, and I’m all over this when I hit Fenway on Sunday (ssh, don’t tell Mom)..but I’m curious if these schemes will offer long-term follower loyalty.

In a similar vein, @BostonTweet offers “find it” contests, sharing a picture of a gift certificate at a location and offering it up to his 20,000+ followers. They’re infrequent and random. Local Social‘s followed suit and used the planted gift card concept to drive followers of UBurger, G’vanni’s, and others to their locations to hunt down freebies.

Are these brands seeing loyalty as a result of these giveaways? Or is this more a viable strategy to drum up new interest rapidly?

We’re seeing a closer-knit brand network as a result of these promotions, and a quick surge in (inter)activity on their online feeds. But to really drive awareness and spread the word about our brands, we’re going to need to leverage some kind of cross-network promotional strategy. We’re working on it. Stay tuned.

Twitter v. Facebook, Round 1.

Today, I stumbled upon this article, one of may highlighting the Facebook “like” as a show of support for a business. Countless others speak to the number of users on Facebook versus Twitter. (Here’s one diminishing the reach of the latter.)

It’s been my gut feeling that Twitter’s the easier “quick fix” marketing solution; I help clients expand their reaches by following relevant tweeters en masse, and most follow back because it’s a low-impact way to stay in touch with a brand. I use Twitter’s mico-blog style to share links and images, set a call to action for contests, etc, and have no trouble building a solid following. But Facebook is a little more tricky. For me, anyway, liking something on Facebook is 1)both more of a commitment and 2)often triggered by a friend or a sense of personal connection. I’ll explain:

I follow a network of people I actually know on Facebook– friends, coworkers, old contacts from school, etc. To “like” a brand, I need to really like it, or feel some kind of connection. I’ll typically like a coworker’s band, a family member’s business in an irrelevant part of the country for me, or a cause page a friend is passionate about. So, how do the brands I don’t love from experience or feel a call to action to like hook me? Here’s how they do it, and you can too.

Successful cross-platform marketers are sharing unique content on Facebook. Today’s post was triggered when one of my favorite brands to follow online, Seven for all Mankind Jeans (Twitter) shared that they’d posted new product shots to Facebook. Naturally, I took the plunge, made the commitment and checked it out. Sharing photo galleries, hosting a giveaway, making an anticipated announcement…mention it to your twitter fan base and actually post the content on Facebook. No brainer, right? Maybe not.  It’s a real, deliberate effort for me to remember to share certain things only on Facebook and to ask my Twitter followers to venture on over. Time will tell if their “likes” stick.

These beauties are mine, and I can thank the power of brand influence, technology on the go, and my complete inability to pass by the Kate Spade store on Newbury Street and not go in. I first saw this pair of must-have patent leather, pointy-toed, Mary Jane-inspired, rubber-soled flats on their Instagram feed.

If you’re not familiar with the program, Instagram is a mobile app for the iPhone that allows you to snap an image, apply one of a handful (maybe 15 filters), and share with a tagged location and comment via Facebook, Twitter, or email. The photo is also saved on your phone. Users who opt to follow you (Twitter style, no accepting necessary) see your photos in a news feed stream and can like and comment on them. The service has come under some scrutiny for its liberal terms of service (read: others can use your images royalty free and without notice to you), but I still snap shots of Woofie on the go without fear of the loss of my intellectual property. When I see brands such as Kate Spade, the Boston Celtics, and  Starbucks hopping on the bandwagon, though, I’m not too worried– and I love seeing brands share their products and industry events with followers through images.

So, back to the shoes. Scrolling through my feed and wiping the drool away from my lips as I passed Chobani and Chow, I meet the Elena flat. You can’t even find it on their website yet, but I was prompted to search because, voila!, here was a product I could really use, and I wanted to find the absurd price. I liked them enough to comment on the Instagram shot. (PS, comments, likes, and new followers are pushed to your phone, but I don’t think anybody’s got a solution that syncs these updates with other network activity a la Echofon.) Uh oh. Once you engage in conversation with a brand over an item, you’re done. You will end up with it– just ask everyone I discuss the merits of a burger and frappe with over on the UBurger twitter feed.

By a destined twist of fate, I walked down Newbury Street today and passed the store. I wondered if they had The Shoes. We crossed the street and went in. They had The Shoes. The Shoes cost a cool $198, a bit more than I’d want to spend for footwear that I intend to wear into the fall, but a bit less than I’ve spent at the same store for some slingbacks I couldn’t live without. The sales girl sealed the deal, recounting to me that she has a pair and loves them, that the rubber sole is durable, that they are a solid city shoe. I made the purchase and happily left the store.

This transaction started long before I set foot in the store, or approached an employee for my size to try on. One night, waiting for someone or something, I casually scrolled by this product. It was something I’d been seeking and wanted and was too damn lazy to commit to shopping for. Buying this product would solve a problem (namely, that I buy cheap black flats every 5 months or so when my old pair wears through), and this brand carries influence and is reputable in my eyes for being quality. The trendiness of their product as well as their marketing team, who is heavily active on Twitter and  Instagram, wins me over as well.

Of course, the attention at the store was appreciated, but I was sold from the second I saw that photo in my Instagram feed.

Especially working for myself, I can get extremely bummed when I lose a client. Even when it’s for an “it’s not you, it’s me” reason, I tend to take the severance a bit personally at first. In my head, I draft a witty retort to being cut loose, making sure it’s clear that business (and life) will definitely not go on for this person without my greatness. Then, I send a note that’s a little more constructive. A quote from HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me (2007) comes to mind; a therapist shares with a client the insight that she believes it is important to take as much care ending a relationship as was spent beginning one. I spent time back and forth on email, 45 minutes on an introductory call to learn my client’s objectives, time setting up her campaign and walking her though it, driving times to meetings, etc. I might as well spend a few minutes wrapping things up with some care.

Here are points it’s key to hit when you close the door on a working relationship:

What you did (routinely)

Tactfully explain what you were doing on a daily and weekly basis, both to the client directly and behind the scenes. I wasn’t sure my client knew I monitored her Twitter follows, @ mentions, and DMs in real time and answered every inquiry between about 9 am and 12 am within the half hour. Pointing this out highlighted a nice value add that not every consultant may be committed to including.

What you accomplished (already)

Real facts and numbers here. “I was pleased with our progress, adding 20 new Facebook followers and building a Twitter following of 530 in three weeks. The 35 submissions to our contests showcased the interest customers have in your brand.” Focus on you’re accomplishments and what they mean. Show you are meeting your milestones, and that you’re thinking about them to draw conclusions.

What you were going to do

It’s worth reiterating what you had discussed for future action plans, especially highlighting any commitments you had. If you’d come up with something new since your last meeting, mention it here. If you had a contact you were going to intro for some networking opportunities, drop the name now. Maybe even be disgustingly nice and share the name anyway. No hard feelings, right?

What you could do to salvage the relationship

If this breakup hasn’t brought to light a new aspect of your client that’s less than ideal (i.e. she asked you to invoice her two days ago, and then backs out without warning and you question her to stick to an agreement) and you’d like to continue working together, grovel a bit to salvage the partnership. Were you dropped because your rate was too high? Lower it(if that makes sense and it’s what you want). Did your client opt for a competitor whose rate or scope of services you could match? Communicate that.

What you’ve learned

My last client dumped me by saying the corporate office brought on an account executive who would be contributing sales help and had the background to help with social media marketing, rendering my role obsolete. I told her that our company’s not equipped to offer sales support, but it was food for thought. Every business needs sales to succeed, so maybe we could integrate some of that work into our marketing packages.
If you’re open to working together again…

Thank your client for your time together, and close with a mention on how you’d like to reconnect in the future if that makes sense for both parties. Check in periodically if this relationship could benefit you later, and you’re not too pissed. : )

And, just for fun- enjoy Queen singing about these woes.