3 reasons you need to rethink your social media strategy

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With ad costs rising for brands to reach their fans and followers across social media, forward thinkers are switching strategy – and going direct.

Organic reach is waning on two of the largest social platforms, Facebook and Instagram. Core to their model, Facebook offers paid options to reach more fans, as does Instagram. We’ve hit the pay to play threshold.

After reaching critical mass with 1 billion DAU (daily active users), it’s no surprise that Facebook is ramping up monetization. The problem is that organic reach on Facebook isn’t just slowing – it’s in free fall, down from 16% in 2012, to 11% in 2015 – and project to dip to 7% in 2016 according to AdWeek.

Instagram growth is also down 93% with engagement plummeting 70% in 2015, according to a study by Locowise.

With the average Instagram user now following 400 to 500 accounts, any kind of interaction is fleeting at best.

The age of “build your social network for free” has transformed to “pay to engage fans at scale” – platform owners win big, brands get squeezed. Understandable in the capitalistic grand scheme of things, you can’t make the rules if you don’t own the room. Unless you do.

One company out to change the game is Mightybell, a SaaS customer community platform, purpose built for direct customer engagement. Led by social networking visionary Gina Bianchini (co-founder of Ning), Mightybell leverages the ubiquity of smartphones to connect brands with 100% of their base, not a declining percentage.

Brands like Intuit QuickBooks and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took notice and launched their own niche networks on Mightybell in 2013. Intuit, for example, has created OWN IT, the most active social network for small business owners and the self-employed with 100,000 members on the platform. The benefit is that members are building relationships with each other, not just the brand.

This quality of customer engagement at scale can generate network effects that spark innovation and help brands stay relevant – especially true for Millennials and Gen Z.

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Customer communities on Mightybell, Intuit’s OWN IT community shown in center.

These customer platforms aren’t new and have evolved quickly with the rise of mobile. As early as 2002, I worked on CPG customer community projects where participants were extremely high value customers (high spend/high frequency), first in their peer group to try something new, most likely to share new ideas, and would often brainstorm new products. A dream segment for any CMO.

The community approach delivers three key benefits over a standard Facebook or Instagram strategy:

Build vs. Buy – Building a customer community gives brands a chance to own the room and learn from all their customers, anytime needed. It’s a platform that focuses on customer interests, needs and opinions. Without limits on reach, brands can more easily deepen loyalty and engage in an ongoing dialog.

Whitespace vs. Whitenoise – The rise of content marketing and social media as a whole makes it harder for a brand to be heard. Communities offer a way to co-create new products with top-tier customers and tap opportunity gaps before the competition. Deep community engagement drives more ROI than standard social media postings.

Value vs. Vanity – Growing customer lifetime value is critical to long term survival. Brands need to go beyond superficial social media stats and care more about bringing high value customers into the fold, involving them in everything from product development, to packaging, and marketing.

While Facebook and Instagram still have a role in a brand’s social strategy, their roles are changing and the customer community is rising.

 

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

5 innovative marketing strategies – mapped along the customer journey

Some brands see the omnichannel marketing challenge before them and quake in fear. Others are crushing it. We’ll focus on the latter. 

Mapping the best of these efforts along the customer journey demonstrates how important timing and trust are when planning, implementing and optimizing digital strategy. Be not afraid.

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1 – First things first, does anyone know who you are? / AWARENESS

Breaking through the clutter is tough, but when you can leverage new technology to spark an innovative form of brand engagement, it’s a good thing. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff did exactly that when the highly popular brand created a VR based runway show, complete with a Rebecca Minkoff branded cardboard viewer. 

Through commoditizing access to the brand, this strategy brings what was previously reserved for fashion royalty, to the regulars. This also reflects a larger trend of fashion designers eschewing the “status quo fashion show” and going direct to consumers.

 

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2 – Building trust is all about knowing what matters most, and delivering it. / CONSIDERATION

Millennials are known for their passion around sustainability, including things like knowing where products come from. Amazon is speaking directly to that need with Amazon Elements, a tool that allows customers to track items from creation to expiration through the Amazon app.

The more comfortable people are with all aspects of your product, the more likely they are to make a purchase – a critical next step in the customer journey.

 

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3 – Once they know you, and believe in you, it’s time to make the sale. / PURCHASE

Instacart and All Recipes teamed up to make sales happen faster and at greater value. Customers can add an entire recipe’s ingredients to Instacart from AllRecipes in one click. The strategy adds more value collectively than either brand could have alone. 

This solution drives revenue and allows both Instacart and Allrecipes to bask in the glow of delighted customers. Customers use a matrix of brands in their daily life, understanding which ones they love and exploring partnerships, shows you understand them, and know how to make their lives better.

 

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4 – Welcome to the honeymoon phase. Sale is made. Everyone is happy – until they’re not. / ADVOCATE

Sooner or later you hit the “What have you done for me lately?” problem. Best advice is to act before customers even ask the question. Patagonia picked up on their customer’s passion for the brand and rolled out a pickup truck destined to tour the nation on an apparel mending mission.

This strategy puts Patagonia face to face with customers, reinforces the brand messaging that they stand behind their products, and creates social media value through sparking conversations online, and on the road.

 

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5 – No one knows your brand better than your best customers. / INNOVATE

Customers who love your brand are much more likely to help you grow. MIT professor Eric Von Hippel led the research that popularized the “lead-user” approach that engages customers who care deeply about the brand to co-create new product ideas. I’ve personally seen this strategy work well with CPG brand clients testing new product concepts.

Brandy Melville is a top fashion brand for teenage girls taking a similar approach. The brand (with 3.3 million Instagram followers) has a team of about 20 “Brandy Girls” who “work paid shifts in the back room of the brand’s Santa Monica store, where they brainstorm new concepts and consult on existing ones,” according to Racked.com.

“Let’s say there’s a cut of a T-shirt that’s doing really well, they’ll ask our opinion on it. Do we like it? Should we make more? If so, what colors?” – Kjerstin Skorge, a 16-year-old from Malibu

Strategically, mapping marketing strategy against each stage of the customer journey helps to more effectively transform browsers into buyers, and buyers into innovators. Increasingly in client projects we’re using the customer journey as a timeline to map messaging against, and it’s been an invaluable process for stronger conversions and recall.

 

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

It’s hard out there for a Peach

Peach App - Popbox Digital
 

The highly fragmented messaging app space is loud, crowded and pushy. No place for a thin-skinned newbie, or is it?

Described as “Twitter meets a group messaging app” Peach is built for close friends and family with some quirky surprises. Think Path – infused with the spirit of Slack and a splash of Snapchat. Experienced leadership, UX innovation, and strategic WOM are some of the things that give Peach its juice.

Founded by Dom Hoffmann (co-founder of Vine), Peach launched to big buzz at CES 2016, then cleared the gauntlet of the “Tech Twitter” community barely bruised. Investors, entrepreneurs and journalists helped the app quickly attain top rankings in the App Store. Innovation around “magic words” and embrace of the Product Hunt community also drove downloads.

By typing the “magic words” draw, shout, gif or song, users can doodle, share what song they are listening to or post a gif to share how they are feeling.

New words like: here, goodmorning, goodnight, battery, weather, move, meetings, safari, dice, time, date, movie, tv, and game are being added – a critical element to keep the “magic” alive and a fairly frictionless approach to engagement.

Peach app - Popbox Digital

 

In February, Peach introduced gaming to the platform. Users can start a game of Peachball by typing the word “play” for five chances to get your peach in the basket. The most innovative gaming experience ever? No, but mildly entertaining enough and always just one word away. Never underestimate the power of proximity.

Assuming you’ll be able to soon play against your friends, this aspect of the platform has tremendous revenue potential following Asian messaging apps like LINE, Kakao, and others where the majority of high margin, recurring revenue is from games.

The on-boarding process for Peach is quick, simple and punctuated with a push to invite your three closest friends, a move likely to boost the viral co-efficient.

Increasingly a common Word-of-mouth metric, the viral coefficient is a quantitative measure of virality calculated as the average number of invitations sent by each existing user, multiplied by the conversion rate of invitations sent. A viral co-efficient greater than one sparks growth.

Peach has an advantage here, the closer you are to the people you invite, the more likely they are to sign-up. That said, one can estimate Peach’s viral coefficient to be approximately 2.099, assuming three close friends are invited per user (spouse, friend, sibling, parent, etc.) with a 70% likelihood of sign-up. Plausible, considering these are close friends and family only.

Following the trajectory of messaging app momentum, Peach is poised for significant growth given its rising profile which now includes Android and a web platform. Short term funding won’t likely be a problem, things get tougher a bit further out when apps like Slack, Messenger, iMessage, Peach and Telegram all start to feel the same.

If Peach keeps innovating and stays true to crafting a compelling UX, it has a real shot at becoming an industry leader, and not just another flambe in the pan.

 

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

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