Are social media image boosters, or just time-consuming fads?

Tuesday June 12 2018 by Sharon Nagel

Client services director Dan Hooper : “Any brand who has built in five layers of sign off, three rewrites and a focus group per tweet will be finding itself overstretched !”Client services director Dan Hooper : “Any brand who has built in five layers of sign off, three rewrites and a focus group per tweet will be finding itself overstretched !”
A study by agency YesMore hints that drinks companies may be becoming social media-weary. Client services director Dan Hooper tells us more.

Over a decade after the advent of major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, cracks are starting to appear in their armour. On top of data confidentiality issues, could the industry be tiring of the need to constantly feed these energy and time-consuming media? A study conducted recently by marketing agency YesMore, based in New York and London, hints that drinks companies may be becoming social media-weary. We asked director of client services Dan Hooper to tell us more.


Too time-consuming

According to YesMore research, nearly half of the spirits brands reviewed abandoned Twitter without warning. Some of them, who belong to major groups such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Brown Forman and Bacardi, have not tweeted for three months, others for more than a year. “What’s strange about these brands who moved away from Twitter is they simply stopped”, says New York-based Dan Hooper. “They didn’t make a huge statement about it a la JD Wetherspoons, the UK pub company that cited security, general misuse and its addictive nature as reasons for their decision to leave social media”. The scope of the study did not ascertain the reasons why major spirits brands are leaving Twitter, but for Dan Hooper, the time-consuming and labour-intensive aspect are probably primary causes: “Any brand who has built in five layers of sign off, three rewrites and a focus group per tweet will be finding itself overstretched!”


Be prepared to pay

Ironically, for the marketing specialist the step away from social media is actually a step forward. “For me (excitingly) I think people are starting to take marketing seriously again. Brands seem to be moving away from this notion of flocking to the next social media platform and registering their brand name before someone snatches it. I could say people are moving to Hemtoss in droves*, but it’s too early to tell”. This does not imply that social media do not have a major role to play, as Dan Hooper is keen to point out: “What we’re learning is Twitter is great, Facebook is great, Instagram is great, IF it works for your brand, your strategy and your targeting”. Another prerequisite is the willingness to spend money on a social media campaign and not wait for the returns to be generated automatically. “Facebook is a comms channel much the same as TV or radio - if you want to reach people you have to pay for it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve grown to 100,000 organic page likes since 2006. If you set up an ad campaign with a smart budget linked with good creative and targeting, the results are there. But you can no longer just expect your latest post with zero money behind it to reach your audience, because it won’t. There’s a reason Facebook as a company is worth so much. It knows what brands want to use it for and it charges them”.


No social media presence is better than half-measures

The message is that social media need to be used smartly and with caution but most certainly can bring in benefits for some firms. “With everything that can be achieved with these channels I think you’d be remiss to just simply have no social media presence at all. IF you have time to dedicate to the bare essentials, as mentioned before. If you can’t even manage that then don’t! A half-baked Facebook page with a few press shots of your wine and 30 unanswered posts on your feed isn’t the best opening impression to any new customers”.


Forget about the classic demographic divisions

Of all the social media platforms, Instagram seems to stand out as an effective way to start engaging with customers in today's ultra visual world. “If I see an ad for a new beer or wine I’ll go to their Instagram page and check them out. In 2018 a new wine, whiskey, beer, mezcal is popping up every week. I personally want to make sure I’m not being served ads by some random company and evidence of people enjoying and interacting with a brand is a great first step. So the minimum is to show off your product and accept anyone who chooses to collaborate, submit, tag, mention or talk about your brand with open arms! These are your brand ambassadors and people listen to them”. Knowing which target audience uses which platform is an essential part of any strategy and Dan Hooper believes that when it comes to sifting through demographics, the rule book should be torn up. “It’s important to regularly look at the data and see who is where and which channel attracts who. But if you’re going to talk demographics, get specific! No campaign - and I really mean no campaign - will get by on targeting “Millennials”. The big, broad, decade-long groupings are just too ancient to use today. There’s so much data available right now - the brands that do best are those that make use of it”.


The issue of personal data security

To access this data, presence on an e-commerce website can provide the solution; it has the added benefit of generating live comments from Internet users enabling producers to tweak their marketing strategy and product offer. YesMore customer Wanderlust markets wines on a subscription basis and relies on big data to establish a rapport with wine consumers. “It’s mostly about looking at patterns of how people buy wine online and where. It’s not so much about people’s data, but it’s reading historic reports on how people look for wine descriptions and when they make decisions to sign up for a wine subscription. We do opportunity mapping and cross reference data to see where those opportunities are and what age brackets, genders and locations are mostly likely to sign up to a subscription”. Regarding the consequences of recent scandals on use of data through Facebook, Dan Hooper believes the impact will be relatively marginal: “I think Facebook will fade in popularity gradually but that’s no reason for everyone to panic. It’s boomed for a long time and now it’s going to slow down a bit. I do think however, it will make people think twice about how much they share about themselves online, which is only a good thing. This might mean that the amount of data mentioned previously is smaller but that just means marketers have to get more creative. We could market effectively before we knew every single movement of a potential customer and civil liberties are way more important than any of this!”


“The product needs to live up to expectations”

Greater distance from social media will consequentially lead to an increase in other vehicles for communicating with consumers. One of them is the use of storytelling, and according to Dan Hooper, the wine industry could make better use of it. “There is a growing sense now that people don’t buy products, they buy people and they buy stories. That’s what they invest in and in my opinion, any product needs that, especially a product like wine. Your story doesn’t have to be long – it can be a one-liner: oh yes, these are the guys that buy grapes from around the world and then make their wines under a railway arch in Bethnal Green [Ed. Renegade Wines]. It doesn’t have to be a long story about a family who’s been making wine for 500 years. It can be short, it can be quirky and making sure this is at the forefront of the brand is really important. Also, Keep It Simple. Too many brands have propositions that mean absolutely nothing when we look to actually action them in their marketing plan. Lines like: “Making this world a better place, one wine bottle at a time” … what? Tell me “great wines sent to your home” or “we provide independent wines no one else has access to”. This is the basis for all comms, so keeping it simple means it will translate better and reach more people”. And one last recommendation, that should be obvious: “It goes without saying that the product needs to live up to expectations – there is no point in telling a fantastic story if the quality of the wine is not there”.


A clear, concise message on mobiles

In addition to the need to maximise the potential of labelling – “Wine aisles in supermarkets and wine shops can often look like wallpaper, in that it all looks the same or frighteningly similar” - the connection between mobile phones and other digital technology requires careful thought. Is it likely that the Chinese model, where mobile reigns supreme and WeChat combines information seeking and buying, will be transposed to the Western world? “People are now spending more time on mobiles than at any other time. The big difference between the West and China lies in research to conversion. In the West, people will tend to do their research by mobile phone but when it comes to conversion, desktop is still king. And I can see this trend for research by mobile growing. Getting your message out on mobile, keeping it short and clean, giving people all the information they need is essential. The mobile service needs to be optimised for mobile and by that I don’t mean adapted to mobile phones, I mean it needs to be slimmed down, clear and concise. In fact, it’s almost a completely different version of the website because you don’t keep people’s interest for long – 50 seconds to a minute is a maximum. Once your consumer has read up about your brand and they know everything about you, you need to make sure it’s a clear journey to the desktop version. Even with the rise of mobile, I don’t see this type of conversion changing too soon”.


Reverting to an holistic approach to marketing

So what will be the next big thing when it comes to digital and/or classic wine marketing? “To stop referring to them as two different things. Let’s get back to holistic marketing plans where a brand’s solid, clear message is communicated smartly through multiple channels. I’d like to see marketing get back to marketing. Everyone talks about usage of Facebook or whether they should use Instagram or Snapchat, and they do offer a chance to get creative, but actually they’re a small part of the marketing bundle. It is important not just to focus on your comms but to see the wider marketing issues – your pricing structure, your targeting, your labelling, your storytelling. These are all the bedrock of any strategy and it’s essential to address these issues before asking whether Instagram is right for you or not. We’ve seen a massive boom in social media channels recently and I think they’re starting to clap out a little bit. They’re not dead or gone, they’re just normalising. If that makes every brand using Instagram, Snapchat or whatever stop and take stock of what they’re doing, then that’s good. Everybody has got so caught up in their Instagram or Facebook profile that they’ve kind of lost sight of the main goal and strategy. People can now step back and re-analyse the whole thing and approach it from a smart, practical angle, rather than just jumping on the next social media channel”. 



*The name is totally made up, but seriously, did you just Google it?!!




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