Written word speaks volumes for the brand

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New research suggests that ’likes’ and clicking links online are not enough to ensure long-term sales. Brands need to get people typing comments and more involved with content if they are to turn them into customers.

The consumers who most actively use branded social media content are the ones most likely to maintain a relationship with those brands in future, claims new research for Marketing Week from Starcom MediaVest Group.

Seventy-eight per cent of people visiting and interacting with a brand’s Facebook page are likely to continue the relationship by visiting its website or considering it for purchase. Just 34% of the people who say they are unlikely to interact with a brand’s social media presence on Facebook are likely to do the same.

With the role of social media under question, Starcom MediaVest Group’s strategic development director Jim Kite explains: “The deeper the interaction with social media, the greater the likelihood of moving the consumer from enquiry to brand preference.”

The research draws on a study using a representative sample of 6,000 regular Facebook, YouTube and Twitter users in June. They were asked to spend several minutes interacting with content on brands’ Facebook and YouTube pages in product categories where they had already registered an interest.

Respondents were asked to participate in activities requiring a spectrum of involvement, from watching videos, posting comments, playing games, to sharing pages and following brands on Twitter or tweeting about them.

The study claims that it is not just being aware of brands on social media platforms that leads people to continue that relationship or buy goods. It is the level of interaction or “doing something” with branded content that has a bearing.

“Those people who do something of an involving nature with the content are twice as likely to do something of economic value to the brand,” claims Kite.

Airline KLM has a social media strategy that aims to influence a high number of Facebook users to take brand action. Its recent ’Tile & Inspire’ marketing campaign asked Facebook users to participate by creating an online version of a traditional Dutch Delft tile, which could be entered into a competition to be put on the livery of a limited-edition aircraft.

KLM marketing communication manager Myrna Veenstra says this kind of interactive content on social media makes people more likely to go on to the brand website – and then, hopefully, on to purchasing flights.

But competitions such as KLM’s may be better for creating ongoing consumer relationships than directly affecting sales. The research finds that along with games and video, competitions drive people to websites but do not necessarily move consumers through the traditional purchase funnel, from awareness to consideration and on to brand preference.

Of those people playing a game on a brand’s Facebook page, 63% would visit that brand’s website, but just 51% would say they have a preference for that brand. Of those taking part in a competition, 73% would visit the brand’s website and 61% express a preference, while 86% of those watching videos would then visit the brand website but just 68% express a brand preference.

Other areas of social media engagement seem to have more impact on preference levels. Sixty-nine per cent of the people who have posted a positive comment about a brand on Facebook say they would choose that brand over another, with 89% visiting the website afterwards.

The most involved consumers are those who follow the brand on Twitter or tweet about the brand’s social media page. Ninety-three per cent of those following a brand on Twitter would visit its website, with 80% expressing a preference. And 94% of those tweeting about a company’s page would visit the website, with 86% expressing a preference for that brand.

Kite says these figures show that the more interaction through typing that a consumer carries out – as opposed to just clicking on links – the greater brand involvement they choose. The more involvement from consumers in the content, the more likely someone is to move down the purchase funnel.

“If you are going to write something on Twitter in a positive way, you are personally investing yourself in that brand,” says Kite. “Posting a positive comment is a proxy for a business outcome.”

Keeping consumers interacting for as long as possible with brands on social media is especially important for users of Facebook, he warns. Marketers are often concerned with the number of ’likes’ they receive but do not always go far enough to ensure long-term consumer interest.

“One link we found between high involvement metrics and the ’liking’ metrics is that they fluctuate on a daily basis,” says Kite. “You might have a competition, for example, and experience a huge spike of interest but unless there is something else beyond that, you fall off the chart.”

Kite says brands need to be careful to make Facebook as interactive as possible to demand consumer attention and involvement. He suggests companies be more innovative so that consumers have enough to occupy them there for long periods.

“When a brand is on Facebook, it has control of what people are seeing. But if they run out of experiences and move on to a more general website, the brand will lose some of those consumers,” he warns. “Facebook should be the end destination, so a finance brand might, for example, try and do the cost-comparison type activity all within the Facebook environs.”

Another key learning, which comes at a time when Twitter is starting to take off as a commercial entity in the UK, is that tweeting content should be made as easy as possible for people. “Once someone has gone to the world with their recommendation, you’ve got that consumer – and not just that one, you can start influencing people in their network,” says Kite.

The research suggests that consumer involvement with social media content depends on the sector and the platform used. On Facebook, for example, the health and beauty sector has the highest level of preference but lower levels of visiting brand websites. Meanwhile, on YouTube, retailers perform best across the whole purchase funnel, with more people moving from the video website to the brand website and on to consideration and preference than in any other sector.

Media and entertainment brands seem to benefit least in preference terms from the impact of both Facebook and YouTube. However, reasonably high numbers are driven to the brands’ own websites, so perhaps people are engaged with this content in a different way.

Any research that can unravel the myths of social media and show levels of ROI is undoubtedly a good thing. “Here are proof points showing that social media has a business case rather than just a ’fluffy’ engagement case,” says Kite. “It is something you can do for any category and any brand but there are rules – you must have content people want to play with, it must be easy for people to find and people should be encouraged to type responses rather than just click.”

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78%…of people interacting with a brand on Facebook are likely to do a further ’brand action’, such as visit a website and consider purchase.

34%…of people who don’t interact with a brand on Facebook are likely to visit the brand website and consider purchase.

73%…of those entering a brand competition on Facebook would visit the brand’s website.

86%…of those watching videos on a brand’s Facebook page would then visit its website.

The frontline

We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ’trends’ redearch matches their experienceon the ground

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Katherine Duckworth

Katherine Duckworth

Head of consumer marketing

Alton Towers

At Alton Towers, website traffic from social media is on a continuing upward curve. I generally agree with the research, which confirms what we know from our own measurement of social media activity. However, I’d disagree that video, games and competitions don’t lead to conversions – for us, they routinely increase visitation because they help us portray the rides and attractions at their most exciting. That compels people to visit.

Throughout this year’s summer holidays, we’ve used the spectrum of social media to encourage people to vote for their all-time great ride. By encouraging people to canvass opinion and campaign for their favourite ride through social media, we greatly increase the number of social stories about Alton Towers Resort and then the brand message snowballs.

There’s a careful balance between getting people involved and getting them to go one step further and purchase, but by softly encouraging online bookings amongst all the fun, we achieve that.

The most interesting insight for me is “the deeper the interaction with social media, the greater the likelihood of moving the consumer from enquiry to brand preference”. This mirrors what we know. The people who are most involved in dialogue and interaction on our social media sites are the true ambassadors of our brand. They are the ones who buy annual passes and visit the resort again.

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Julia Kenyon

Julia Kenyon

Head of global brand

BBC Worldwide

I see a lot of correlation between what we do with our brand Doctor Who and these research findings.

I am particularly interested in the notion that it is crucial to engage with the brand on a deeper level because that is definitely something we are finding. If we use Facebook effectively, we can have real commercial impact.

The other interesting thing with Facebook and Doctor Who is that there might be other fan sites out there but we are the only official one. We are leveraging that status as the official voice of the brand. Consumers are looking to us to guide them around the brand on social media.

Twitter is a platform that allows for a really intimate conversation with a brand. Other third-party research shows that up to 50% of brand followers on Twitter will purchase from a brand.

Social media is central to our future work with fans and customer relationship management. It is a marketing and commercial tool as much as it is an engagement tool.

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Simon Cheape

Simon Cheape

Senior brand manager

Mountain Dew at PepsiCo

Qualitatively, this research validates our own hypothesis that the greater the level of engagement, the higher the chance of purchase. It was the power of social media that brought Mountain Dew back to the UK. We responded to a 10,000-strong online petition and several Facebook groups. When we launched, we drove those ’fans’ directly to suppliers. They, in turn, flooded stores resulting in demand levels that outstripped supply.

We firmly believe that ’content is king’ and it is only great ideas that will resonate with our consumers and therefore drive brand actions. Since January, we have quadrupled our Facebook community – which is now upwards of 200,000 members – and have done that through relevant, disruptive and engaging year-round content ranging from large-scale applications to daily wall posts.

It is interesting that the research reveals how highly branded websites still feature in brand strategy. In our experience, we’re seeing success where we reach our consumers directly through the most popular social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. An example of where we have driven brand activation is through our use of Facebook as a platform to publicise our sampling tours, which has helped to drive product trial, and our ’Deal of the Month’ posts, which announce product offers directly to our fans.

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Toby Feldman

Toby Feldman

International marketing director

World Wrestling Entertainment, the sports entertainment channel

The research findings that consumers who interact with brands on Facebook and YouTube are likely to subsequently visit the brand website is absolutely what I’d expect to see. It’s pleasing to see such high percentages here – it’s clear a significant majority of people engaged with social media choose to continue their relationship with the brand afterwards, which is affirmation of our social media activity.

We’ve done our own research into how our brand fans interact with us via social media and results show interest in our content and willingness to share it.

We are continually striving to find ways to really involve our fans, rather than just treating them as passive consumers of new content.

A good example of this is our Be A Part Of WrestleMania campaign. The campaign was devised to drive purchase intent and engagement around our main pay-per-view event, WrestleMania. Facebook users were invited to click through to a video that made use of their Facebook name and profile picture to place them ’behind the scenes’ as part of the build-up to WrestleMania. It was a fun concept and it really caught on, enabling us to roll it out globally and while tailoring the message.

We also use Facebook and Twitter to provide information on how fans can watch our TV content and get tickets to our live events.

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