Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting Social

Many brands use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to keep their loyal customers and fans involved and engaged with its store, product, or service. From information about new items and sales to company news like press releases, corporate social responsibility announcements, and quarterly earnings, brands are turning to online platforms to share data and get to know the people who keep them in business.

When it comes to Facebook, consider the following statistics: The average user has 130 friends and spends an hour a day on the site. In one month, a user leaves an average of 25 comments, becomes a fan of four pages, and joins 13 groups.

Earlier this year, an omnibus study from consulting organization Morpace showed that "[r]etailers who are actively involved in marketing their products and/or services using Facebook may have a distinct advantage over their competitors."

Facebook provides an outlet to announce exclusive deals and offers to already loyal fans, as well as to attract a new base of faithful followers. This summer, Campbell Soup Company used Facebook to introduce its V8 V-Fusion + Tea line, giving away free samples, as well as to advertise a new strawberry version of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. The company is one of many food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies utilizing social media outlets to connect with consumers online.

Facebook isn't all fun and games, though. Companies are always evaluating their social media presence and comparing it to their bottom line. In May, web research company Vitrue valued Skittle's Facebook page at $7.7 million. To determine an online domain's worth, Vitrue's Social Page Evaluator calculates brand connections, the number of interactions on a site, and other factors. It allocates $5 per "like," based on earned media CPM (cost per thousand impressions) value. Today, more than 11,902,000 "like" Skittles on Facebook.

Even though many companies are using such tactics to communicate directly with its target audience on Facebook, people are more engaged with brands on Twitter, a rapidly growing medium. Today, Twitter has 175 million registered users, up from 145 million users in September, adding approximately 30 million users in less than two months, and 70 million new users since April.

A study conducted last year by researchers at Penn State University found that "users employ Twitter to inquire about product information. About 20 percent of the tweets contained product information in the form of asking and providing, thus giving companies a 'rich source' of information concerning issues and questions that customers have regarding their products." Another study showed that Twitter users in the United States were far more likely than general Internet users to post to forums, blog, comment on blogs, and post ratings and reviews, proving that consumers active on Twitter are some of the most influential online.

While Twitter users are tweeting, brands are listening and connecting with consumers. Just last week, Mashable named the five most engaged brands on Twitter. With numerous mobile apps, more than one million Twitter followers, and 15 million-plus people who "like" its Facebook page, Starbucks landed at the top of the list. Coca-Cola, Oreo, Skittles, and Red Bull rounded out the list. Social media statistics company Famecount released a report with similar results in June that included Twitter and YouTube data.

It is important to note that Facebook and Twitter have not taken the place of CPG websites, although consumers have "found Facebook to be the ideal platform for voicing their opinions and connecting with other customers."

No matter what the next generation of social media tools will bring, it is clear that companies and consumers alike value and appreciate the connectivity and interaction that comes along with online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What about you? Leave me a message and tell me about the ways you use Facebook and Twitter to connect with the brands you know and love!

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