Conversation is key

We have discussed the importance of companies creating conversations with their customers online. Rather than talking to your clients, talk with them. This not only develops an interactive community that is engaged with your brand, but it will also make your company appear more transparent, which is just as essential.

The recent post “Creating dialogue with your customers,” points out how Jetsetters’ CEO, Drew Patterson engages with his customers with Twitter. The dialogue between Patterson and his clients involve him asking questions, making special announcements and updating viewers with the latest news. This creates a more personal relationship with Jetsetters clients and the CEO himself.

The importance of having a conversation goes beyond just being the CEO. How the company markets themselves online and communicates with their constituents through conversation is vital to create brand loyalty. CBS News wrote an article discussing travel companies that utilize social media. Some companies that have been conversing with their clients the right way include Southwest, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and Carnival cruise lines.  The article also lists some guidelines on how to engage with the public online.

  1. Use social media every day. The worst thing a company can do is forget about their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media accounts. Don’t forget to keep up with your posts.
  2. Be social. Try to engage with the community as much as possible by responding to any of their comments and personally connecting with individual customers who take their time to engage with your brand.
  3. Make time for social media. Even if you are busy, try to schedule a couple hours of your day to get online and communicate for your company.
  4. Chose the right social media outlet that works best for you. There is a wide variety of types of social media that will appeal to different people. Find what you like best and stick with it.
  5. Add value. Make sure that when you communicate, you are talking about things that are relevant to your company and the public. Find ways to make customers coming back for more and wanting to be a part of the conversation and community.

Two of the most common forms of social media are Facebook and Twitter. Many companies today have jumped on the bandwagon and have been engaging through these outlets. If a company decides to take advantage of these web sites, they need to be consistent with their posts and maintain relations with their viewers. Virgin America does a good job of following these rules by tweeting upcoming contests, news, offers and announcements. Disney Cruise Line also markets themselves well with their Facebook page by posting pictures of customers, updating statues and posting and answering comments from users.

One last thing to keep in mind is acknowledged in the article, “Marketing to a community” consumers are constantly connecting with the “social web” where people are going to comment on your products or services regardless. Reviews can be both positive and negative and it is never good to avoid any feedback from the public. The Dell scandal is a great example of how ignoring customers’ feedback can be detrimental to the brand, so it is important to listen and engage with all consumers to be an effective company.

By: Stephanie Strickland

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Maintaining the Starbucks Brand with the Help of Facebook

As previously mentioned, Facebook serves as a social media tool to positively enhance a company brand. The article, “Converting a social network into a brand network: How brand profile on Facebook is used as an online marketing communication tool” states that Facebook has more than 500 users to date, which gives an incredible marketing opportunity for businesses to promote their brand. Social Media Today lists the 10 most successful brands on Facebook and one particular company that utilizes this social networking website very well is Starbucks.

Starbucks’ Facebook page stands out for their consistent customer engagement by posting at least once a day. The company speaks in a happy-go-lucky and innovative voice, resulting in approximately 15,000 Likes daily.

It’s not just the company’s effective use of Facebook that makes Starbucks successful, Joseph Ruiz lists several other marketing communication factors the company utilizes in the article, “6 Reasons Starbucks Marketing Communications Strategy is so Effective”.

  1. Keeping the brand consistent—Starbucks created their own persona and logo that is recognizable wherever you go. Keeping it consistent has increased their visibility and help the company stand out in a unique way.
  2. Giving viewers a full web experience—Starbucks recognizes customers’ rewards and other ways to access their account and locate different stores. The company even takes advantage of story telling where everyday customers and their experience with the company are documented through video.
  3. Delivering content through numerous channels—Starbucks has many Twitter and Facebook followers and sends out daily emails to subscribers. The company manages to inform their audience, rather than endorsing their products.
  4. Making things mobile—Starbucks has their own app where customers can purchase products, add money to their personal card and locate stores. Email subscribers can also receive their daily emails on their smart phone.
  5. Easy to share content—regardless of what type of communication channel being utilized, Starbucks makes sure customers are able to share whatever messages they are sending to gain an even larger audience.
  6. Create conversation with customers—Starbucks allows consumers to post different ideas on their social networking web sites, where the company provides feedback in return. This not only gives the company more creative ideas, but it also enhances the relationship between the company and customer, which is essential.

There are several lessons other companies can learn from Starbucks regardless of industry. Starbucks has been and will continue to be a leading brand thanks to their obvious visibility on Facebook and their effective marketing strategy.

By: Stephanie Strickland

JetBlue Saves Their Reputation

Having a strategic crisis communication plan is essential in maintaining a company brand. As soon as crisis hits, a company’s reputation can be changed forever if not handled properly. One example of dealing with crisis successfully is the airline company, JetBlue. Luckily they managed to save their brand’s reputation, but it took many necessary steps to make that possible.

Valentine’s Day 2007 started off as any other normal day for JetBlue Airways. The company was known for their extraordinary customer service. However, that was all changed after an ice storm left customers stuck on their flight with no plan to take off for 11 straight hours.

The “Jet Blue Flies South” article explains more background information on the crisis itself, but it is important to take note of what problems came out of this incident for JetBlue and how they managed to overcome them.

With approximately 1,100 flights canceled within 6 days following the crisis, many customers expressed negative feelings towards the company with the help of social media. One passenger, Genevieve McCaw, created a blog called jetbluehostage.com after referring to herself as one of JetBlue’s “hostages.” So the question is, how did JetBlue resolve this?

First, JetBlue acted fast. They knew they couldn’t waste any time so they created the Customer Bill of Rights. This is a program that requires the company to communicate with customers about any delays, cancellations or any other problems in advance before their flight is scheduled to leave. They also became aware that an advanced contingency plan must be formed. With that idea, they came up with all types of emergency scenarios that they could be faced with and how they will handle those ahead of time. Another action JetBlue took, and probably one of the best steps was having CEO David Neelman holding the company accountable to the public by acknowledging their mistakes and how they are going to fix it. Neelman delivered a personal public statement through YouTube openly admitting that they made a mistake. The message was effective in connecting with their customers and assuring them that they are doing anything possible to make sure this mistake won’t happen again.

Watch the video that David Neelman delivered following the Valentine’s Day disaster. At 0:54, Neelman gives an outline of the company promise, which will be put into effect within the next couple days.

Companies that are faced with crisis would benefit from having their CEO addressing the situation with the public. It shows that the brand is transparent and values their customers’ first and foremost.

By: Stephanie Strickland

Carnival Cruise Gets Social

As Joel Postman mentioned in his definition of branding in Social Corp: Social Media Goes Corporate, good branding is all about the overall experience a company gives to their customers. One company in the hospitality and travel industry that does this very well is Carnival Cruise. Mashable.com notes Carnival’s success comes from taking advantage of the idea of “social media bragging.” This concept is when customers either go viral about their Carnival experience during their trip or leading up to their vacation, which as a result, creates huge buzz for the company. The media outlet that is used the most for the cruiseline is Facebook. With over 1.2 million fans,  Carnival is able to engage and promote their brand by asking and answering open-ended questions with customers. Carnival’s brand goes beyond using just Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are also two other successful social media websites the company uses.

This video from the “Carnival Fun Ships” channel on Youtube, makes viewers feel as though they are there along for the ride with the ship. The speaker talks about how they have a lot of fun attractions ready for the trip and even says, “all that’s missing is you.” This introduction to a series of video clips of that particular trip is a smart technique the company uses to contribute to current and potential customers’ overall experience with Carnival.

As previously mentioned, Carnival’s brand expands in the social media world with the help of Twitter. Dori Saltzman discusses in her article, “Marketing with Twitter: Suppliers Embrace the Social Network as Communication Tool,” how certain travel companies are using this social media resource to form relationships with travel agents and customers. These constituents are the first to know about company events, packaged deals, prizes and any promotional information relevant to the company. Carnival successfully tweets to approximately 8, 671 followers maintaining their brand and providing customer service. Although the account was originally made to “push” messages to followers, it is now directed to answering customer questions and making recommendations about booking trips and excursions.

Given the constant changes and developments in the corporate world, it is noted that a company brand is likely to be affected over time. However, it is important to know a brand can easily be managed with the help of various social media tools. Carnival Cruise has demonstrated that it is not only a successful brand in the hospitality and travel industry, but also remains proactive in maintaining their brand by becoming visible online to their constituents.

By: Stephanie Strickland

Creating Dialogue With Your Customers

Engaging with consumers is extremely essential for any company. The travel and hospitality industry especially benefits from keeping the conversation alive between customers. Not only is it effective to do so through company websites and other social media networks, but creating dialogue by the CEO is an even better way to get more personal with your targeted audience. Drew Patterson, CEO of Jetsetter is an example of this trend. Mashable.com discusses this in How Jetsetter’s CEO Keeps the Travel Conversation Flowing with Social Media, and provides a “Questions and Answers” section with Patterson himself for other travel industries to take note of.

Jetsetter is only two years old and their CEO has created a lot of buzz for the new brand thanks to consistent communication on the web with consumers. Jetsetter has approximately two million members and gives out 20 to 40 deals a week on all types of hotels throughout the world. With 127,00 Facebook likes and 26,000 Twitter followers, Jetsetter allows its members to take advantage of the social media to learn about the company, places to visit, organize vacations and work with customer service. Drew Patterson has made tremendous efforts to constantly create dialogue with customers and has seen a great benefit as a result. First of all, Jetsetter’s business model involves having members associate travel with anything possible. Therefore, they like to post things online that involve anything travel-related to get that idea in the consumers’ head. Patterson describes social media to be, “immediate, lightweight, targeted and personal.” Consumers today are constantly seeking ways to directly communicate with companies. With social media, you are able to see what kind of people are behind the company and how they relate to the company’s values. Patterson also highlights the importance of establishing trust and confidence, especially in the travel industry. Thanks to online social media, travelers can talk to others who have experienced a certain destination, hotel or adventure. Feedback from others is key. Jetsetter’s social strategy continues to grow along with the company by now taking mobile and social media into consideration. This combination is very influential and impossible to ignore these days. Drew Patterson gives final advice to other company CEOs, which is to not allow yourself to get distracted with all the online activity constantly going on. Instead, focus on forming and maintaining a relationship with consumers. They are the ones to communicate with and accommodate for.

Take a look at Patterson’s Twitter and see for yourself how he discusses travel with his followers. He incorporates his personality as well as the company’s values and overall goals. Not to mention, he constantly updates his account by tweeting about the latest news on Jetsetter.

The journal article titled, In Search for an Online Discussion Value: Assessing Media-Initiated User Communication from a News Value Perspective, analyzes interactivity and creating unique discussions in the corporate world online. It offers helpful information to understand how and why online discussion is effective from the research perspective. The concept of “media-initiated user communication” is mentioned and explained why is used over the term “follow-up communication.” Media-initiated communication is defined by two factors. First, the media is the one to initiate ideas, concepts and news. Second, user communication differentiates information from professional communication. Thanks to the rise of the “web 2.0,” online conversations can be read publicly, tracked and dissected, which makes it easy and efficient for both the company and consumers. It is essential to take note of specific points on how media-initiated user communication influences constituents on page 7. To put it simply, more online activity from a brand results in a higher likelihood of an individual becoming engaged. Not to mention, diverse content on the web leads to other customers taking note of the published online media. It is also to understand the importance of network influences. When people see their peers comment and interact with a company online, they become more willing to join in on the conversation as well since these are the people that influence them the most. The value of online discussion is clearly imperative and the news value theory identifies what and why some news is necessary for conversation.

By: Stephanie Strickland

Engaging With Your Audience Through Facebook

For years, Facebook has and remains the most commonly used social networking website. Not only is it used for social purposes, but it has become a key player for marketing successful brands in the corporate world. Andrew Lipsman, Graham Mudd, Mike Rich, and Sean Bruich point out several key factors that Facebook has to offer for companies hoping to engage with their audience in their article, The Power of “Like”: How Brands Reach (and Influence) Fans Through Social-Media Marketing. This piece points out that 90% of time spent on social networking sites is on Facebook, and they lay out important ways Facebook is an effective marketing tool for brands.

Brand mentions on Facebook can come either from the company itself or by being shared through mutual friends on the website. The article discusses two key audiences on Facebook; the first group are the fans of brands–these are people who already support the brand itself and are not only easiest to reach but most likely to engage with. The second group are the friends of fans. These people are the “influencers” of your brand. These people hear about the brand from their friends but also re-share and continue to reach an even larger audience than the fans alone. It is also mentioned that the brands’ main focus should be on reaching and engaging with fans. The importance of fans and friends of fans go hand in hand with this idea. Along with making your brand visible, Facebook is also a helpful resource for better knowing your targeted audience demographically and their specific behavioral patterns. For example, clothing lines like “Abercrombie & Fitch” generally target male and females between the ages of 12 and 21. Therefore, Facebook is a great way to reach this specific group of potential customers.

The article notes the “value of a fan” by discussing how they are assessed. A brand must simply engage as much as possible with their fans in order for them to remain loyal. Brands need to pay attention to how their audience purchases by understanding that behavior and it is essential to reach both fans and friends of fans.

There are clearly huge benefits to companies who market themselves online, especially through Facebook. It offers numerous opportunities and can better reach a larger audience. Companies who are looking to extend their brand through Facebook can refer to Mashable.com’s helpful article on “9 Essential Facebook Marketing Resources”. This short list of tips and guidelines gives ideas from measuring your reach to the top Facebook marketing trends.

In case you still are convinced that Facebook can greatly benefit your brand, check out this video to help change your mind. Key statistics about how this social networking website is so influential is mentioned in this short video. Did you know that the number of Facebook users is equivalent to being the 3rd largest country in the world? That in itself, shows how omnipresent Facebook is throughout the world.

By: Stephanie Strickland