REI: More than just a big box store

I am a huge fan of REI. In general, I think that the business has a great mindset; they want to make getting outdoors fun and easy for people. Their employees are very knowledgeable and they have a great return policy, what more is there to love? Their Facebook page proves to be a valuable asset to the business. Not only does the business maintain open lines of communications with users, but their page shows a lot of valuable information to potential customers. Using GPS technology, REI’s Facebook page displays the closest locations as well as a 1-800 number and a link to their website. The content is very rich and powerful. Their wall is full of beautiful photos from REI as well as user contributions.

The most recent promotion that REI ran wasn’t a campaign to sell anything to customers. In fact, it was the complete opposite. This Thanksgiving, REI did the unthinkable-they closed all of their stores on Black Friday and paid their employees to get outside. They welcomed the public to do the same and developed a following with the hashtag #optoutside. Their Facebook page shows great contributions from customers from the adventures on Black Friday. By choosing to opt outside this past week, REI showed that a love of the outdoors is what really matters, not fanatical shopping trips to spend, spend, spend. I think that this campaign was iconic and will hopefully continue in years to come.

Visit REI on Facebook

My favorite Instagram account that I am following is Osprey Packs. They are the best because they show great content and actually re-post user content. They aren’t directly trying to sell to their followers-they simply post photos that focus on the beauty found in nature and reflect on their love for the outdoors. It is really amazing to see some of the remote images captured. What is even cooler, is that I know that the people in those photos got to those breathtaking locations with the help of the Osprey product line. Again, not every post has their product but it is nice to know that they stand behind getting outside and exploring.

They have a link on their Instagram page that routes users to a Chacos contest “The more The merrier.” It is great to see these businesses support each-other as well as the love of the outdoors.

Click here to view Osprey’s Instagram Page

Of all the emerging social networking sites, I think that marketers should pay close attention to Instagram and the potential it provides via their paid advertisements. In its early creation, Instagram only allowed certain companies to advertise with them. Over time, it has grown and more and more companies are hopping on the bandwagon. What is great about advertising with Instagram is that the post has a truly native feel. It is seamlessly integrated into a user’s feed but the only differing quality is that instead of a time stamp, the ads read “sponsored.” As a user of Instagram, I find that these ads spice up my feed and generate more potential interests. As a marketer, I think that this is a great addition to a growing social networking site and I hope to see more companies successfully utilizing it.

Social Media Policies and Disclosures: How to Save Your Company in Today’s Online Society

In today’s mobile driven society, it is critical for companies to consider implementing a social media policy. Why? It’s important because employee actions made online reflect the business they work for regardless of the post content. Whether it’s a tweet made off the clock about how much their job sucks or an inappropriate Instagram post while on the clock, an employee’s social network posts can have negative repercussions for their employer. According to an article on WERSM (we are social media), “16% of employees admit to posting negative things about their company on social media.”[i] This may seem like an insignificant number but when you consider that over 90% of people trust peer recommendations, this small percentage can lead to a negative company image. Companies should have a social media policy because it can help promote ethical behavior in the workplace as well as after-hours.

A concrete example of how employee social media posts can negatively affect your business can be seen by the 2009 Domino’s Pizza video made by some of its workers. The viral video displayed a couple workers in the Domino’s kitchen performing grotesque, unsanitary actions on food items before putting them under the food lamp for delivery. Even though the employees claimed that it was a prank and the contaminated food was never served to customers, the restaurant was forced to close down by the Health Department until it could meet proper sanitary requirements. Not only did this video reflect poorly on the company and cause revenues to slip by 1 to 2 percent that quarter, but the employees faced severe charges and lost their jobs. It was a lose-lose situation that could have been avoided if the employees had a clear understanding of what was expected of them on social media and if they were provided with other outlets to voice their feelings. It is also important to have a policy in effect to legally handle issues if they arise.

Even though The National Labor Relations Act grants all employees the right to discuss their working conditions, this doesn’t mean that employees have free reign over their social media content. As an employer, a social media policy should be gives employees a clear understanding of what they can and cannot share online. It should also clearly define illegal activity such as trademark and copyright infringement.[ii] In order to hold employees responsible for their online posts, social media policies should also include a section that describes the consequences of negative social media behavior as well as how to maintain open lines of communication online. A social media policy should reflect the company’s values and how they want to be viewed by the world. It should be presented to employees in a down-to-earth manner so that they can understand how their actions can affect the company. Educating employees on how they should act on social media has more benefits than just avoiding the subject. It’s like having Internet insurance policy for your company- your coverage might not be enough but what is important is that you have it. At the end of the day, people will post whatever they want to social media but at least having a social media policy can potentially sway them to shy away from negative comments relating to your company.

In my opinion, the single biggest legal issue impacting social media marketers today concerns disclosures. The Federal Trade Commission mandates that all forms of advertising must include accurate product descriptions and that their promotions must be honest. This means that marketers “need to disclose any bias on their promotional materials.”[iii] Also, it is a deceptive business practice to “buy” social media fans and followers.[iv] Paid endorsement also tends to be a little grey when considering sponsored athletes, bloggers, vloggers, etc. According to FTC guidelines, disclosures have to be made clear and conspicuous when someone is receiving product or support from a business. If an individual is getting paid to endorse a product, there must be clear disclosure so that readers understand the business relationship. Contests and sweepstakes rules also require disclosure. A specific example regarding disclosures is the FTC and Deutsch L.A. settlement that concerned the agency’s illegal promotion of PlayStation Vita. Basically, they failed to disclose a bias with their Twitter hashtag #GameChanger and encouraged their employees and public to tweet positive statements about the hand-held gaming device. This was a violation of the FTC’s disclosure policy as the brand failed to have a full disclosure about their intentions on the social media platform, Twitter. Marketers can learn from this discrepancy and make sure that any marketing promotion involving a third party has clear disclosure. Hashtags as short as #client, #ad, or #sponsored can save marketers a lot of steam from the FTC.[v] Overall, when in doubt, use a disclosure.

[i] Villy. “How Negative Social Media Comments Affect Your Employer” 17 Nov 2014. Accessed 21 Nov 2015 <http://wersm.com/how-negative-social-media-comments-affect-your-employer/&gt;.

[ii] Akitunde, Anthonia. “Employees Gone Wild: 8 Reasons You Need A Social Media Policy TODAY” 15 Aug 2013. Accessed 21 Nov 2015 <https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/employee-social-media-policy/&gt;.

[iii] Castillo, Michelle. “FTC: No, Agencies Can’t Ask Staffers to Casually Tweet Nice Things About Clients” 4 Dec 2014. Accessed 21Nov 2015. <http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/ftc-no-agencies-cant-ask-staffers-casually-tweet-nice-things-about-clients-161755&gt;.

[iv] Manna, Joseph. “Tips to Avoid Legal Issues in Social Media.” Accessed 21 Nov 2015 <http://www.infusionsoft.com/blog/tips-avoid-legal-issues-social-media&gt;.

[v] Beck, Martin. “FTC Puts Social Media Marketers On Notice With Updated Disclosure Guidelines” 12 Jun 2015. Accessed 21 Nov 2015 <http://marketingland.com/ftc-puts-social-media-marketers-on-notice-with-updated-disclosure-guidelines-132017&gt;.

#LikeAGirl Phenomenon

Always, a feminine products brand from the Procter & Gamble Family, ran a social media campaign to change society’s gender stereotypes. According to a survey, 72 percent of girls feel that they are limited by societal expectations. The campaign was developed to break these negative ideas about being a girl and develop confidence in females everywhere, especially those on the verge of puberty.

The first installment of the #LikeAGirl campaign was launched on YouTube. This video achieved over 85 million global views from more than 150 countries. Six months later, the company aired a 60 second version of the video during the Super Bowl. According to CNN, this championship game attracted an average of 114.4 million viewers, which provided a record-breaking audience for the ”Like a Girl” ad. The advertisement also broke another norm; it was the first time that a feminine care product was advertised during the Super Bowl. It spurred a hash-tag #LikeAGirl that saw tremendous response. By utilizing both traditional marketing and social marketing, Always created a campaign that resonated with women everywhere. In fact, it was deemed the top digital campaign of the Super Bowl based on an Adobe ranking system of social network mentions.

The creative strategy behind the video is marvelous. Documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield joined Always to produce the “Like a Girl” ad. Throughout the brief commercial, she asks individuals to perform a task (run like a girl, fight like a girl, throw like a girl). How the older generation displays these activities differs drastically compared to the young girls who are asked the same thing. Whereas the post-pubescent people are shown tossing their hair and light-heartedly committing to tasks, the young girls do the complete opposite. They run at full force, aggressively throw punches, and use all of the strength in their tiny bodies to toss an imaginary ball. Throughout the short ad your heart melts. You resonate with the older generation and start to ask yourself when you learned this behavior. When did “being a girl” translate to “half-assing” activities? When did it become an insult? Most importantly, why do we accept this derogatory language?

As a marketer, I would deem this campaign as the best of social media because it received such a huge following. It was able to show heart and encourage change for the good of society. I think that this is what most marketers strive for but they often fall short. Thanks to Always, women around the world now feel empowered. Not only did the campaign boost the confidence of females, but two out of three men that have watched the “Like a Girl” video report that they will reconsider using the phrase as an insult. This campaign was successful because it showed that everyone has the power to break negative views. Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, every individual can change perceptions and this was documented by the countless social posts using #LikeAGirl.

References:

http://www.dandad.org/en/case-study-always-likeagirl/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/03/why-like-a-girl-is-so-important_n_6598970.html

http://www.people.com/article/like-a-girl-always-ad-unstoppable

http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/02/media/super-bowl-ratings/

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ad-day-girls-are-unstoppable-next-phase-always-girl-campaign-165784

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/02/always-super-bowl-ad_n_6598328.html

Always has released a new video to add to their campaign. It plays off of the previous idea of breaking negative female perceptions. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhB3l1gCz2E

Inspiring Ideas for Beginner Business Bloggers

Blogging can help businesses in many ways. This post will graze the surface of corporate blogging and share some tips. I have also included an example of a corporate blog that has great content in order to provide some inspiration for beginner business bloggers.

The positive side of blogging

Increase your SEO: One benefit of blogging is that it can increase your SEO. If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Ever wondered why certain results appear higher on Google than others? Well, search engines use a method that incorporates titles, keywords, content and mobile compatibility to return a list of links. A blog can boost search engine rankings if it shares fresh content that is regularly updated. Blogs naturally attract search engine traffic making it a great tool to utilize in marketing efforts.

Generate new leads: Another great aspect of having a blog is the potential to generate new leads. Readers can be transformed into customers simply by providing some kind of incentive. What is your company selling? What benefit can a consumer gain by using your product or service? If you’re sharing this content with the world, then it should be easy for these visitors to share their personal information in exchange for promotional product or discounted service. By including a call-to-action on your blog, organizational marketers can gain valuable email contacts to pursue as future clients.

 The negative side of blogging

Time consuming: A negative aspect of blogging is that it can be time consuming. In order to make sure that content is rich and non-repetitive, it is critical to take as much time as necessary to post relevant content. Formulating thoughts and editing them in such a precise manner can take hours. How much time do you have to spare each week to blog? This is an important question to consider before blogging. Readers generally expect posts to be published on a regular schedule so there is a lot of commitment associated with blogging. If a blog is not updated or well written, it could have a negative reaction to how people view your company.

Negative comments: Blogging can lead to criticism. It isn’t always sunshine and lollipops in the blogging world, there are people that will misunderstand your posts and they can react in a negative and hostile way. These disagreements can lead to negative brand awareness if they aren’t handled correctly. Responding to complaints can be a tricky task but the most important thing to do is explain your side as clearly as possible. Do not point fingers and do not take sides. Reply to negative comments by considering their viewpoint in order to explain your ideas more clearly. Controversy is a constant part of life. In order to maintain open lines of communication with readers and promote your brand awareness, make sure that you handle negative comments with care and constraint.

Below are a few tips for corporations looking to pursue blogging:

The most important part of blogging is the intent. Why are you starting a blog? What do you want it to accomplish? How will you reach this goal? The key to success lies in your answers. If you are able to identify and curate clear content that relates to your subject matter, then start a blog and share your ideas with the world! Another big factor associated with a corporate blog would be good time management skills. It is critical to keep up with your blog. This goes above and beyond the regular content posts, this also includes replying to comments in order to maintain open lines of communication with potential customers. Furthermore, it is important to gain a good audience. This can be achieved by incorporating the blog into every aspect of the company’s social media by providing links to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. This cohesiveness will improve brand awareness as well as increase SEO. Overall, marketers can find success through creating a blog with clear intentions, maintaining a consistent schedule and incorporating other social media channels.

Below is an example of an effective corporate blog:

Zillow is a great website to find your future home. Whether it means renting or buying, they help people get a roof over their heads by providing an organized database of free real estate listings. This company also features a blog. It is a great addition because it offers readers more insight into the subject: home. Everyone wants a home. Everyone needs a home. On the Zillow blog, readers can dive deeper into six different topics including: celebrity real estate, tips & advice, unique homes, home improvement, market trends and Zillow news. These links provide valuable content that is clearly organized and supplemented with rich photos. Whether you are big into home improvements and want to find a new DIY project, or you love celebrity gossip and want to see their multi-million dollar real estate listings, you can find these stories on the Zillow blog.

http://www.zillow.com/blog/

References:

Cleanthous, Alex “9 Ways To Improve the SEO of Every Website You Design.” 10 Apr 2010. Accessed 4 Nov 2015 <http://sixrevisions.com/web_design/improve-seo-website-design/>

Redsicker, Patricia “How to Create a Successful Business Blog.” 16 April 2014. Accessed 5 Nov 2015 < http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/create-successful-business-blog/>

Eridon, Corey “Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketing.” 30 Sept 2015. Accessed 4 Nov 2015 <http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/the-benefits-of-business-blogging-ht>