In May 2011, a 3-year-old girl named Lily wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s, a British supermarket chain, about its Tiger Bread. Lily felt that with its spotted crust, Giraffe Bread would be a more appropriate name. After the store manager wrote back, Lily’s mother put the letter on Facebook and it promptly went viral.
“Because of one little girl, a thoughtful supermarket manager, and 150,000 Facebook likes, a major retail brand rebranded a product,” said IBM’s Michelle Killebrew at her ClickZ Live San Francisco session, “Connect, Engage, Collaborate: Building and Sustaining an Audience in a Social World.”
Killebrew, the program director of IBM’s social business strategy and solutions, highlighted the importance of social media engagement, noting that 80 percent of people are willing to give their personal information to a brand they trust.
“Marketers have always been responsible for knowing their customers, but it’s a very rapidly changing landscape,” she said. “Now, they need to not only know them as individuals, but in context: what device they’re using and what they want to do.”
According to the CMO Club’s most recent study, most of the things marketers plan to focus on improving during 2015 are related to engagement. Citing specific brands, Killebrew discussed several ways marketers can become more engaged, including:
- Knowing the target audience: Piggybacking on the popularity of cats on the Internet, Friskies put out a video about an older cat giving a kitten advice on the ways of the house. Since June, the video has been watched more than 15 million times on YouTube.
- Crowsdsourcing: Starbucks polls customers and encourages them to submit ideas on its My Starbucks Idea website.
- Mass participation: Making working out into a social activity, Fitbit has more than 400,000 Facebook likes.
- Employee advocacy: In February 2012, Southwest Airlines celebrated its arrival to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport with a flash mob.
- Exceptional digital experiences: During the last Wimbledon Championships, the international tennis tournament live-streamed real-time updates to its website, as well as mobile and iPad apps.
- Storytelling: Trion Worlds video game developer held a contest in its Defiance game, wherein the winner’s avatar would appear in an episode of the corresponding television show on the Syfy network.
- Customer service: After a long delay during a recent trip to Singapore, Killebrew nearly missed a connecting flight. When she landed, she found someone from Cathay Pacific Airlines waiting to take her to the gate and upgrade her to business class. “We need to think about every interaction,” she said. “The human face-to-face interaction, that’s what makes customer experiences special.”
Killebrew’s insights were helpful to attendees like Joe Ward, an account executive at ScribbleLive, a content engagement platform based in Toronto. “A lot of the stuff Michelle talked about is very relevant to what I’m hearing customers talk about,” he said.
Another attendee, Joshua Walters, is the marketing manager at Sensidyne, a Florida company that provides products in the manufacturing and infrastructure industries.
“We’re B2B, but not just B2B — we’re selling to engineers who just don’t have social engagement with our products,” he says. “Trying to give them content they would share is a challenge.”
Walters is still challenged on how to engage his notoriously left-brained customers; his main takeaway from the session was how important it is to keep working on it.