Social networks are not exclusive to the young and trendy. exporters can use social media to create an emotional tie with important customers seeking some form of connection.
BY ANTHONY DOESBURG
When Auckland ad man Vaughn Davis was ready to publish his new book, Twitter was the obvious way to promote it. More than that, Twitter was also how he chose to distribute the e-book.
With more than 13,000 readers worldwide in little over a month, Davis says his experience illustrates the power of social networking as a marketing and selling tool.
“In the past couple of years I’ve been taking a professional interest in social media, both on behalf of my clients, who look to us for advice, and also in terms of broadening my own professional network,” says Davis. “It’s been really successful on both counts.”
Using Twitter to launch the book is a case of “the chef eating his own cooking”, says Davis, who has been in the advertising industry for more than a dozen years, and runs agency The Goat Farm. Entitled Tweet This Book, and covering the use of social networking for business and personal brand-building, there was really no other way to go about selling it.
Davis says the response since its release in December 2010 has been as many conversations about how the book is distributed as about its contents.
“A lot of people have opened a Twitter account just to download the book and their first tweet has often been about it, which is really cool.”
By making the book freely available to anyone who agreed to send a Twitter or Facebook message about it, Davis ensured its “viral” spread.
What has worked so well for him is equally applicable to many exporters. And reading his book, which he describes as a beginner’s guide to getting the most from social networking for businesses and the career-minded, is a place to start.
“Social networking can work for companies that want a relationship with their customers, and not all customers want relationships with the companies they deal with. So there needs to be a reason to be there, and I think caution is completely justified before jumping in.”
Twitter comes in for criticism for being an outlet for celebrity brain-dumps, but Davis says that’s a content issue, not a deficiency of the medium itself.
“A lot of what appears in the print medium is brain-dumps — not all of it is War and Peace; a lot of it is New Idea. You can’t really judge the medium entirely by its content.”
Another misconception about social media is that it’s a young person’s game. Not so, Davis says.
“I think they’re not as difficult [to master] as people believe. There’s a sort of throwing up of hands, ‘this is for young people’ reaction, which is one thing that can put senior marketers and business owners off.”
He advises newbies to first familiarise themselves with social networking in their private lives.
“If you’re a manufacturer of nuts and bolts by day and a breeder of sausage dogs by night, express your sausage dog passions through social media, and see how it works — sort of a low-risk entry.”
Air New Zealand is an example of a large company with an overseas market that is “working the social networks really hard”, Davis says.
YouTube is Air New Zealand’s social networking tool of choice, although the Google-owned online video sharing service isn’t often thought of in the same context as Facebook and Twitter. The airline’s promotional campaign for its Boeing 777-300 premium economy seats, revolving around puppet character Rico, is drawing hundreds of thousands of online viewers.
But what do countless YouTube viewers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers mean in conventional marketing terms? Davis thinks exporters using social media shouldn’t allow themselves to be distracted by the numbers, keeping their eye instead on traditional brand and sales measures.
“The trick is linking those measures to social networking activity, and that comes down to how you do it in other mediums — whether you’re doing discrete promotions or certain promo codes or stuff that you only promote through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.”
A legitimate concern is when social networks turn against a user who puts a foot in his mouth, something sportspeople, in particular, seem prone to doing. But commercial users sometimes do it too, finding themselves in the headlines as a result.
“A classic example that I use as a litmus test with clients,” Davis says “was Westpac Australia, back in the early days of Twitter, about 18 months ago. It was a Friday afternoon and the guy who ran the Westpac Twitter account mistakenly tweeted to his work account, ‘Man, I’m so over this week’.”
The blunder — if that’s what it was — provoked a storm of Twitter responses, ranging from “Who wouldn’t be over it when you’re paying this much interest on your home loan”, to “Yeah, it’s really hot and I’m over it too”.
“A number of interesting things happened,” Davis says. “First, the mainstream media picked up on it saying it was a great example of what’s bad about social media; how things could go terribly wrong.
“But then a lot of people started saying that it gave a human face to a bank that no amount of advertising ever could.
“The final thing that happened is that the conspiracy theorists came along and claimed it was planned all along.”
Even if that were the case, Davis says, it’s the kind of ploy that has been practised in other media “for as long as there have been advertisers and customers”.
Although avoiding such missteps is important, a more mundane point for businesses taking the plunge is that social media need regular feeding. There are no hard and fast rules about frequency of updating content, but interactivity is the name of the game.
“I guess if you were going to prioritise them, Twitter is the hungriest, requiring the most frequent interaction and the quickest response. Facebook would come a bit behind that, and LinkedIn a distant third in terms of how dynamic each network is.
“The main thing if you’re going to jump in and raise the social networking flag as a brand is that you are promising people you will respond to their engagement.
“A lot of smart companies are aware of that and really try to look after their social media contacts,” Davis says. [END]