A Brand Community is “a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand.” This is according to Albert Muniz Jr. and Thomas C. O’Guinn who coined the term in 2001 with their study on Brand Community for the Journal of Consumer Research.
Muniz and O’Guinn said Brand Communities exhibit three traditional markers of community:
Rituals and traditions
A sense of moral responsibility
Although it would be easy to see how a lot of brands would jump on this bandwagon, the Harvard Business Review said in, Getting Brand Communities Right, it’s not so easy. There are Myths vs Realities about Brand Communities.
MYTH #1 :A brand community is a marketing strategy
THE REALITY: A brand community is a business strategy
MYTH #2: A brand community exists to serve the business
THE REALITY: A brand community exists to serve the people in it
MYTH #3: Build the brand, and the community will follow
THE REALITY: Engineer the community, and the brand will be strong
MYTH #4: Brand communities should be love-fests for faithful brand advocates
THE REALITY: Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive
MYTH #5: Opinion leaders build strong communities
THE REALITY: Communities are strongest when everyone plays a role
MYTH #6: Online social networks are the key to a community strategy
THE REALITY: Online networks are just one tool, not a community strategy
How do you separate the myth from reality? Who is getting brand communities right?
Here are 7 best examples of Brand Communities. (All of these Brand Communities have been around for at least 5 years and are growing).
BEING GIRL (PROCTER & GAMBLE): The site was created in 2000 as a destination for young, teenage girls. P&G includes content provided by experts and encourages open discussion with expert advice on topics such as menstruation, eating disorders, acne and dating. They take a big-sister approach. They also advertise the companies products, Always and Tampax. Being Girl is now available in over 25 countries. It has been cited in the book, Groundswell, as delivering 4X the Return on Investment (ROI) of traditional marketing.
FIGMENT (RANDOM HOUSE): Is an online writing community owned by Random House, the biggest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. It was founded by Jacob Lewis and Dana Goodyear in 2010. It currently has over 300,000 users. The target group of the community is mainly teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. It’s succeeded because they gave the community something to do, write and share novels. This isn’t just a community of interest, it’s a community of practice too. They highlight the best contributions of the community.
H&R BLOCK: Tax preparation is a highly seasonal business. H&R provides immediate access to a tax professional for Q&A through the “Get Answers” section of their website but also connects you to learn and share experiences with others through their H&R Community. The effort secured 1,500,000 unique visitors and answered 1,000,000 questions for a 15% lift in business versus the period before H&R Block created the community.
HARLEY OWNERS GROUP (HOG): Is a sponsored community, operated by Harley-Davidson for enthusiasts. The HOG is “the grandaddy of all community-building efforts,” serving to promote not just a consumer product, but a lifestyle. The HOG has also served to open new revenue streams for the company, with the production of tie-in merchandise offered to club members. Membership is 1,000,000+. The Harley Owners Group was created in 1983 as a way to build longer-lasting and stronger relationships. At that time, the company was facing bankruptcy.
LUGNET (LEGO): When Lego Group set out to develop Mindstorms NXT, the latest version of its game for building programmable robots, it enlisted help from a group of adult enthusiasts whom it found on Lugnet.com the largest unofficial community of Lego fans. While the marketing target for Mindstorms is mainly teenage boys, the people that Lego reached out to were a group of men in their 40s and 50s who knew each other from communicating and working together on elaborate Lego projects on Lugnet.com.The group’s members, according to a Lego spokesman, contributed “incredibly valuable insights” in hardware, software, design and usability based on their own experiences.
MY STARBUCK IDEA: Is now 6+ years-old and remains the gold standard of crowd sourced tip boxes that have actually worked for a brand and delivered ideas from customers (150,00 plus) with innovations (277) that have actually been implemented. Customers today can order a “skinny” beverage and a cake pop, garner digital rewards for using their Starbucks Card and enjoy free Wi-Fi – all thanks to suggestions from fans. “Our passionate customers and partners have been sharing their ideas with us on My Starbucks Idea, and we have listened and acted upon many amazing innovations that we have received from this online community,” said Alex Wheeler, VP global digital marketing for Starbucks.
ORACLE COMMUNITY (ORACLE): Is a site for people interested in Oracle Corp.’s database and software products. Members share personal stories, pictures, videos and birthdays. They can create blogs on the site, form groups around themes and build networks of designated friends. Members can also schedule meetings and events both online and in person.
These examples show Brand Communities can produce significant results and ROI but they also demonstrate companies should not try to create them unless they accept are willing to accept diversity of opinion, occasional conflict and apply the internal resources necessary to engage.
Do these examples explain Brand Communities? Are they best examples to you?
87% of marketers want to know how to measure their return on investment for social media activities (source: Social Media Examiner)
85% use social networks in some way; only 14% tie financial metrics to it. (source: AdAge)
Only 8% of companies say they can determine Return on Investment (ROI) from their social media spending (source: Econsultancy).
“How do I measure the return on my social media investment? This question has been top of mind for marketers for the last three years. Clearly very few marketers have figured this one out.” (source: Social Media Examiner)
The case studies cover a range of businesses, large and small businesses, B2C and B2B and profit and non-profit, enough to find one relevant to your brand. The chapters are organized to show with real examples how social media works with SEO, CRM, content marketing, customer service and promotion to help brands overachieve ROI.
But mostly, these are stories of courage. People made them happen. Many of the case studies occur during the worst part of a very bad recession. Social media was put to the test during often after traditional marketing failed and was the only affordable option, which makes the results that much more extraordinary.
Here are 4 videos of businesses and people featured who took that leap of faith. You can listen to their stories and the results they achieved that exceeded expectations:
AJ BOMBERS: In 2009, after six month of break-even sales and no money for traditional marketing, Joe Sorge, the owner of AJ Bombers, a burger restaurant in Milwaukee, started using Twitter to attract customers. Joe proved Twitter to be an invaluable customer service tool. Within a year, weekly sales increased +60%. Today, there is also an AJ Bombers in Madison, at Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers Stadium and 23,600 people follow the brand on Twitter.
BLENTEC: Has manufactured blenders since the 1970′s. Mostly for B2B use (e.g. Starbucks used Blendtec blenders to grind coffee beans) , the company decided to create awareness among B2C as well as B2B audiences through commercials that ran on YouTube and cost less than $1000 each. CEO, Tom Dickson, did some rather unconventional product demos. Company sales went from flat to a +700% increase within two years. The campaign started in 2007 and is still running today. Here is most recent video in this 7-year campaign
H&R BLOCK: Used Facebook and Twitter during the tax season to provide immediate access to a tax professional for Q&A in the “Get It Right” social media campaign. The effort secured 1,500,000 unique visitors and answered 1,000,000 questions for a 15% lift in business versus the prior year when there was no social media “Get It Right” program. Here’s how Amy Worley explained the company’s use of social media.
FOILED CUPCAKES: A Chicago company that bakes cupcakes generated 93% of its business through social media leads to surpass revenue targets by +600%. But, the most impressive statistic is this company has no storefront (it sells only through a website) and success was achieved through the relationship building and conversational benefits of social media.
This self-published eBook began as a series of case study blogs in 2010 and was compiled into an eBook in 2012. It resulted in an invitation to join the MBA Faculty of Rutgers CMD in 2010 where I teach Measurement and ROI at Rutgers Social Media Marketing Mini-MBA. The invitation came because people in the administration had been reading the blogs. The ROI has exceeded my expectations.
Does your businesses struggle with ROI? Do these case studies prove Social Media ROI to you? Do the stories behind these businesses offer inspiration for your brand?
A brand advocate is a person, or customer who talks favorably about a brand or product, and then passes on positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages to other people.
According to Forrester, Zuberance and an infographic from Jay Baer (below), the influence of brand advocates accounts for billions of dollars in purchases for everything from cars to computers, hotel rooms, movies, enterprise software, and more. Brand advocates are:
5X more valuable than average customers
Spend at least 2X as much as average customers
Spend 3X as much as average customers over their lifetime of their relationship with a company or brand
Reach 150 people in social media every time they advocate for a product or service
92% of consumers trust brand advocates
Do brand advocates generate return on investment for brands? Here are 10 case studies that prove the ROI of brand advocates.
AMERICAN EXPRESS: To promote small business credit cards, American Express created a social media community for small business owners to share, learn and grow. They also created a holiday, Small Business Saturday. The community has 2,700,000+ Likes, 195,000 Tweets and American Express saw a +23% increase in transactions to small business merchants.
CARS.COM: encouraged rating, reviews and sharing (versus no ratings, reviews and sharing) and it showed that pages that had ratings and reviews had a 16% higher rate of conversion and a 100% higher rate of traffic through to dealer’s sites.
DUANE READE: A drugstore chain with 250 location in New York and New Jersey, used a VIP Blogger Team generating content via their own social platforms, DR-QR code landing page, blogs, and Google+, in addition to traditional PR tactics. The utilization of celebrity bloggers from daytime shows and one-hour Twitter parties created over 20 million impressions. From over 2000 pieces of original content, there was a 28% lift in year-over-year sales and a 5x ROI.
FOLICA: A well-known retailer of health and beauty products, noticed they had many referrals to their website, but had no way of tracking and identifying these referrals. By engaging their customers and encouraging them to share the secrets of great hair, customers were able to share via Facebook, Twitter, email and personalized urls. After 30 days of running the new Social Referral Program, 6,000 brand advocates were identified. The average number of shares per advocate was four. 21,000 shares had been generated via Facebook, Twitter and email and a 16% conversion rate was driven by the program.
J. HILBURN: A retail brand which was receiving many referrals from existing satisfied customers. By offering customers $50 for each friend referred and encouraging the advocates to share the offer using social media, brand advocates were identified and rewarded. Any referred customer who spent over $100 received a $50 discount on their purchase. After 45 days of running the new program, 1,000 customers had made referrals. Averaging 12 shares per advocate, the referral program produced 10,000 social shares via Facebook, Twitter and email. The bottom line result was 600 transactions which created over $250,000 in sales.
ROKU: specializes in streaming entertainment devices for television. With 1,000,000+ units already sold, they tapped their existing and large user database into a source of acquisition. Sales increased 30% and the number of monthly referrals is now around 10,000 per month.
SENDGRID, a cloud-based e-mail provider, contained a simple offer for existing customers which could be shared socially. The offer was made to existing customers to share referral links. This meant that when any of their referred friends became new paying customers of SendGrid, they would receive $20 cash and the referred customer would also receive a 25% discount on their first three months. SendGrid achieved a 111% ROI after six months of running thel program and a 353% ROI projected for the first year of the program.
STARBUCKS: Since 2008, MyStarbuckIdea.com has been advocate-driven idea tank where Starbucks drinkers submit ideas for new products and coffee concoctions. It has worked as a hub for all Starbucks customers to share all their ideas, suggestion and even their frustration. “We used to launch a new product and it cost millions of dollars. Now, when we launch a new product, we already have millions of fans,” say Chris Bruzzo, Vice President Brand, Content and Online at Starbucks.
SUBWAY: Sponsored the “Slim Down Challenge,” a live speaking event consisting of some of America’s hottest speakers and celebrities. Its mission was to travel from city to city across America delivering powerhouse information that challenged your mind, heart, and waistline. They used social technologies and promotion apps to raise awareness of the Slim Down Challenge and recruit speakers. The strategy included a social competition. This was part of a full marketing strategy for the campaign. They found that 71% of site traffic that went to the registration page, came directly from Facebook.
WALMART: Has 34,000.000+ fans, more than any other brand on any social platform. They also have more than 385,000 followers. They post 6 to 7 times per day. They engage with fans, regularly. Last year, on Black Friday, Walmart received 62,000 posts from consumers, a rate of 42 per minute. The engagement with consumers who spread the work is getting a “marketing equivalent” of 10X return-on-investment (ROI) compared to other advertising spends according to CMO, Stephen Quinn.
These case studies cover brands big and small, B2C and B2B and show brand advocates can be found for any business if you look for them. Do they convince you of the ROI of brand advocates?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves technology and software to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service and technical support.
CRM has been with us since 1986 when ACT!, the #1 best-selling contact and customer manager, introduced the business world to contact management software, essentially a digital rolodex. Today, CRM involves the use cloud-based and SaaS CRM solutions to lower costs; the integration of marketing channels like digital social media and mobile devices to increase leads and conversion; and “Big Data” to make smarter business decision from analytics.
How is it working? Here are 11 convincing case studies to prove the ROI of CRM.
ALLINA HEALTH: Used CRM to manage its data warehouse. It’s identified benefits that include reduced patient length of stay, reduced admissions, and improved health outcomes in stroke, depression, and angioplasty treatments. Within 2 years, the CRM initiative had an ROI of +152% and generated $1,052,828 each year.
BEST BUY: Proactively monitored the social channels for customers in need of either customer service support or technical assistance. They created a CRM community to offer a place where Best Buy’s advocates including Blueshirts, Geek Squad Agents, and the community teams used lTwitter as their customer service channel. There are now roughly 600,000 customers visiting the community and posting 20,000 messages (over 77,000 messages and counting). The community has published over 22 million pages of content. Best Buy estimates that online community engagements provide a benefit of over $5,000,000 to the organization.
BUSTED TEES: Sought to bring back recent customers and convert casual browsers, but they also wanted to re-engage with customers who hadn’t made a purchase, been to the website, or opened an email in a significant period of time. They use CRM Retargeting to serve display ads to people with nothing but an email or mailing address. It increased average order value to $40 and generated an ROI of +390%.
CANADA POST: One of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced postal companies, has $5.9 billion) in annual revenue. It uses CRM as a cornerstone of its business transformation, particularly with regards to electronic shipping tools for commercial customers; internet sales and service tools for customer self-service and easier access to services; and contact centers to give customer service agents integrated information for customer transactions. CRM saved $16.25 million in revenue leakage.
CISCO: Established a social media listening center. It listens to more than 5000 social mentions a day on Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. Cisco has been able to control outside agency fees, avoid other customer and partner interaction costs, increase team productivity, and identify new sales opportunities. The social media listening center has had an ROI of +281% in 5 months to generates an annual benefits of $1,596,292.
GET SATISFACTION: A leading online customer community platform that companies use or customer support, idea submission, marketing and sales questions, and capturing positive feedback, focused traffic driving strategies on search, social media, blogging, and buildling a content community. The CRM strategy achieved an ROI of +104% in month one, +168% in month two and +248% in month three.
KIXEYE: An online gaming portal, used CRM to increase customer acquisition through its growing volume of Facebook ads. It’s enabled Kixeye to decrease annual advertising costs by 15%, extent the acquisition life cycle of games by 6 months and increased user productivity by 7.5 percent.
MAGOOSH GRE: offers online courses for GMAT, GRE and SAT courses including video explanations, subject lessons, and practice tests. Magoosh ran a test and found that people who had been retargeted converted at a significantly higher rate than the control group. A CRM retargeting campaign generating 1,123 conversions for an ROI of +486.
QOSINA: A medical and cosmetic components distributor, sells products to medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, skincare and spa companies. It used Microsoft CRM to effectively track its customer and prospect interaction, and to provide management oversight for accountability of sales opportunities and salon industries. It generated ROI of +172% within 2 years.
TYROIT: is Europe’s largest manufacturer of bonded grinding, cutting-off, sawing, and drilling tools, generating $416 million in annual revenue from more than 70,000 unique products produced in 19 plants for 60 countries. Tyroit used CRM integrate products and solutions to reduce the number of contact points and transaction costs. It increased bottom line costs by +25% and produced an ROI of +183% within 2 years.
ZENDESK: is a web-based customer support software company with a robust ticket management system and a strong customer community. They offer products from starting from a free trial to three paid tiers. They used retargeting to improve lead generation and saw conversion increase by +1317%.
As a full service digital marketing agency focused on proven relationship marketing principles and ROI, we want to make sure there’s a case study that relevant to your biggest business challenge.
90% of the data in the history of the world has been created in the last 2 years (source: IBM).
It’s given rise to an industry, Big Data, and a significant portion of it comes from social media chatter.
Does it make sense for brands to listen to social media data? What kind of insights are revealed? Does it result in better decision making?
Here are 8 case studies that show the predictive power of social media listening.
CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS: In the 2010 California governor’s race between candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, a study from Activate Direct social listening proved the ratio of positive to negative social sentiment to be very much in line with the ratio of favorable to unfavorable ratings shown by traditional polling and on-going focus group. But social media listening identified potential crises earlier, faster and for less research money.
DELL: Uses social media chatter for cross-departmental team collaboration. Over 90,000 employee quickly and easily collaborate and listen in 11 languages in places like the company’s Listening Command Center. What has they found> In the US, Twitter chatter has a positive impact on their reputation and gained positive coverage in Mashable and Fast Company; in Germany, social media chatter among employees helps monitor the success of internal conferences; in China, blogposts have a direct effect on coverage with Sina, RenRen, microblogs and forums.
HEDGE FUND MANAGERS: “Analyzing social media conversations can provide insights, ‘like X-Ray vision’, about a company’s performance in between their quarterly financial reports.” That’s the point of view of the McAlister Study and how hedge fund managers now listen to social media chatter when their research showed a direct positive correlation between sales and chatter; a 5% rise of positive chatter led to a 5% rise in sales.
MORTON’S: You may have heard about social media consultant, Peter Shankman, who had the good luck when tweeting a shout out about how a Morton’s steak would be just the right ending to his flight arriving in Newark. The consultant with 150,000+ Twitter followers was greeted at the airport by a man in a tuxedo sent by Morton’s to deliver a complete steak dinner. Social media listening enabled Morton’s to pick out advocate from the crowd and create influence at a low cost. It probably didn’t hurt Shankman’s influencer rating and visibility either.
NIELSEN: The gold standard for assessing the performance of TV programming, has started collecting social media chatter for TV rating. The Nielsen company said that one in three people using Twitter in June of 2012 sent messages at some point about the content of television shows, an increase of 27% from only five months earlier. Nielsen also estimated that 41% of tablet owners and 38% of smartphone owners used their devices while watching television.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: His violent Nazi revenge fantasy Inglorious Basterds pulled in more than $37 million domestically in its opening weekend. A good portion is thanks in part to Twitter. After a $14 million opening on Friday, the film picked up steam over the weekend as the positive tweets kept rolling in. Research service, Trendrr, showed the number of tweets about the movie climbed steady through most of Saturday before tapering off early Sunday correlating directly with movie receipts.
TOYOTA: At the beginning of 2012, the company faced very negative press due to revelation of recalls and announcing them late to the public. Toyota launched a large “transparency” and “apology” campaign using social media outreach. The company had four official Facebook pages, which saw a 10% fan base growth between late January and early March. USA president and chief operating officer, Jim Lentz, also participated in regular Twitter Chats. Toyota experienced a 41% increase in March 2010 sales, compared to March of last year. The company can’t prove a link between social media outreach and the sales boost, especially considering the unprecedented sales incentives and discounted leasing deals and mainstream media appearances by executives on such outlets as NBC, ABC, and NPR. But it certainly didn’t hurt Toyota to be transparent through social media and was a very smart part of a successful integrated campaign.
UNISYS: A 100+ year old company, Unisys understandably has had some obstacles to overcome when adapting social media to their corporate culture. With several top executives leading by example, departments began to openly share communication using internal social media applications. But success stories within the company show huge innovative payoffs aided tremendously by the open sharing of information available through well-constructed social media platforms and corporate adaptations.
To be transparent, not all brands are benefiting from social media listening. Coca-Cola reports it has yet to see any sales lift from social media buzz, even though the brand has 61,000,000+ fans on Facebook but the company continues to listen.
In the music industry, Tom Silverman reports: “My new take is online media is the propagation channel through which attention waves travel. Bieber and Kutcher have huge attention waves so they travel far and fast. Speed of propagation is greater on YouTube than any other social platform due to the sticky video content. Media is not necessarily neutral. Great images and videos drive engagement faster than words for example. But we keep learning from real life stories. His New Music Seminar is this week in NYC.
Do his case studies prove the predictive power of social media listening? Do you need help finding insights in the chatter for your brand?