From the Bottom of the Freezer to Top of Mind: How to Take a Brand Online in 2013

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This book collects the entries from a five part blog series called “From the Bottom of the Freezer to Top of Mind” that provides a social media case study for a national brand that entered the realm of social media in 2013 with no prior presence.

Michelina’s is a nationally-distributed frozen food brand based out of Minneapolis, but had no social media presence before coming to Spyder Trap in late 2012. Through a combination of new responsive website design, paid online advertising and organic social media engagement we were able to not only establish the brand on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, but were able to make the brand relevant in a crowded digital space.

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From the Bottom of the Freezer to Top of Mind: How to Take a Brand Online in 2013

  1. 1. FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER TO TOP OF MIND How to Take a Brand Online in 2013 By Steve Retka ****
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION This book collects the entries from a five part series called “From the Bottom of the Freezer to Top of Mind” that provides a social media case study for a national brand that entered the realm of social media in 2013 with no prior presence. Michelina’s is a nationally-distributed frozen food brand based out of Minneapolis, but had no social media presence before coming to Spyder Trap in late 2012. Through a combination of new responsive website design, paid online advertising and organic social media engagement we were able to not only establish the brand on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, but were able to make the brand relevant in a crowded digital space.
  3. 3. SETTING THE SOCIAL MEDIA TABLE: THE CHALLENGE WE FACED When Michelina’s came to us late last year, we knew two things. One was that they didn’t have a lot of digital assets or existing social channels being utilized. While Facebook pages and Twitter profiles seem ubiquitous nowadays, Michelina’s had no social media presence whatsoever. Two was that their traditional marketing efforts were also in more of an infancy stage. We knew that creating and optimizing those digital channels was a priority, but would also be a long process that we couldn’t launch overnight or without being part of their bigger story being told. Pro Tip: Involve your social media teams or vendors in any and all of your brand activities! One big piece that we felt was in our favor was Michelina’s had just undergone a complete rebranding that our social media team took part in. The rebranding covered everything from visuals to tone and brand positioning, with a focus on positivity and sentiment. This new branding would have to factor in heavily in whatever strategy we developed, but we understood it extremely well from being part of the process. MEASURE TWICE AND CUT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY ONCE Before jumping in and creating the social media strategy, we had to take time to research the brand and answer three questions initially: • Where is the brand at online? • How do they measure up to competitors? • What is the brand looking to achieve with social media? After an exhaustive digital audit, we discovered that a lot of social conversation was already happening about Michelina’s product online, and those conversations were not being leveraged at all. We also found that much of the conversation was very polarized, with large numbers of positive and some negative sentiment across Twitter and Instagram especially. Lastly, while Michelina’s was new to social media, the same could not be said for their competitors. All of their top competitors had very established audiences on Facebook well before Michelina’s had even claimed a Facebook page. Twitter was slightly less competitive, though most of the other brands had Twitter profiles with thousands of followers.
  4. 4. CREATING SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY WITH A HOLISTIC APPROACH After taking the time to research how Michelina’s stacked up online and finding that they were behind their competitors, we set to work creating a social media strategy for them. We knew that this was going to require much more than a Facebook page and some tweets. Social media may be an valuable part of a brand’s online presence, but it can’t be the focal point of your digital strategy. With that in mind, we took a holistic approach to the Michelina’s digital strategy, taking into account everything from email marketing and community management to search engine optimization and paid advertising. Our research, planning and discussions led us to build a social media strategy around building brand loyalty in an industry lacking it. Social media would help Michelina’s connect one-on-one, amplify existing advocates, create new advocates and build brand awareness. With the strategy created, we then set out to leverage the following tactical components to deliver on this: • Design and launch the new Michelinas.com using responsive web design • Establish Facebook and Twitter profiles • Launch paid advertising effort to build audience and awareness • Revamp the email marketing strategy • Integrate all digital tools to support and benefit each other A WEBSITE REDESIGN FOR ALL First and foremost was creating a new Michelinas.com website that would encompass that new branding we were given, and serve as the central hub for our other online efforts. The old site had many flash elements, so iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone left the user with a giant hole in their web experience. The new website was redesigned using responsive web design to create an engaging website for all users on any type of device. ESTABLISHING SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES Social media profiles were also created for Facebook and Twitter. However, because it is 2013 and Michelina is a common first name, the username “Michelinas” wasn’t available. Instead, we moved forward with “Mama Michelina” as our social media username and persona that would be used across all social media channels. This not only allowed us to have a consistent username between Facebook, Twitter, and any future social media channels, but provides ample opportunity to make the brand more personable by making Mama Michelina the focal point during our community management.
  5. 5. Finding the Voice of Mama Michelina: The Value of Tone and Content Strategy Tone was a major part of the new branding we were given, and had to be incorporated our social media plan and our content strategy. Our content strategy was two-fold. First, the tone of our prewritten content matched the new branding and reflected the language on the website. Important themes were positivity and life enthusiasm, as well as warm and wholesome language. Pro tip: Consistency is as crucial for social media profiles as it is for your website! Second, because one on one community engagement was a key part of our early outreach plan, the tone on Twitter was adjusted to better fit the channel. The way many of the users who were talking about Michelina’s on Twitter were tweeting didn’t provide as many opportunities to use the warm and wholesome branded tone. To counter that, we introduced more humor into our community engagement for broader appeal, while keeping the overall positivity in tone.
  6. 6. THE IMPORTANCE OF AN AGILE SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY Even with a social media strategy in place, which leveraged a holistic approach that encompassed everything from email marketing and community management to search engine optimization and paid advertising, we knew that executing that social media strategy was even more important than the digital strategy itself. We understood that the Michelina’s brand may have been slow getting into social media, but we were determined to make them fast once they arrived. Social media was completely new ground for the brand, and we weren’t sure how their user base would react to our various digital tactics. This meant that we would have to be nimble and work quickly to make changes to our social media strategy after launch. WHEN A GOOD SOCIAL MEDIA POST BECOMES GREAT Our social media content, as well as our social media advertising spend on Facebook and Twitter, were influenced and adjusted based on the popularity of posts and what our users were responding to. One particular post was the first in a series of posts called “Mama’s Words of Wisdom” that played heavily to the new branding that Michelina’s had implemented, with a focus on the life enthusiasm that the branding embodied. The picture was originally posted in June, and immediately began to gain strong initial traction with our audience. Seeing this as an opportunity, we got the client’s approval to shift some of our Facebook advertising budget to promoting the post. Our strategy was to capitalize on the early organic success of the post and get the content in front of an even larger audience. Pro tip: Monitoring your social media strategy and making small adjustments can save time over completely overhauling a failed strategy. This combination resulted in the post getting nearly 19,000 likes and over 500 shares, despite an initial audience size of only 1,000 fans.
  7. 7. SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING DOESN’T STOP WHEN THE RESEARCH DOES A key aspect of our social media strategy for Michelina’s was listening and responding to consumers. While we had already spent time listening to existing social media mentions during our initial research phase, we understood that monitoring that social media conversation couldn’t stop once we had our initial data. Community management for any brand requires ongoing listening and monitoring in order to fully have a sense of what your online audience is thinking. COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT IS NOT JUST A BUZZWORD After establishing that conversations about the brand were already occurring on Twitter and that those users would require an altered approach in tone, the real community management work began. However, there are many misconceptions about community management. Many brands believe that scripted and prewritten content is all that’s needed to effectively manage your social media audience. While that planned and scheduled content is still useful, their needs to be flexibility with your content calendar. Social media moves fast, and as a brand you need to move just as fast in order to stay current with the online conversation. This means that effective community management requires daily attention to watch for brand mentions and user comments. You can’t respond to the mentions if you’re not watching for them. Pro tip: Social media monitoring can't stop after the initial research phase. Despite the amount of work involved, community management can be a great way to enhance and supplement your social media strategy. With the listening campaign we set up on Twitter, we were able to find existing conversations about Michelina’s that were already taking place. These untagged mentions were people talking about Michelina’s with no idea that the brand was now on Twitter. From a community management standpoint, engaging these users was a no brainer. This was taking advantage of low hanging fruit by reaching out to people who were already saying positive things about the brand. BUILDING THE BRAND, ONE TWEET AT A TIME This community management strategy became a grassroots effort to build rapport with users. It also allowed Michelina’s to build their following organically without having to rely solely on Twitter paid advertising.
  8. 8. This one-on-one engagement was not only important for our social media strategy, but was a low risk/high reward opportunity. Because messages were only going to one user at a time, a tweet that wasn’t well-received wasn’t likely to cause a larger issue. This gave us more creative freedom to come up with more interesting responses to users’ untagged mentions. What we found was that these response messages really resonated with users. Users were favoriting and replying to our responses, and were retweeting them out to their own audiences. Even more interesting was how often other users would retweet and favorite our responses. This meant that these conversations, which started between our brand one other user, were being noticed and appreciate by others. With so many brands using Twitter and Facebook solely as a vessle for customer service or to broadcast product information, we were able to offer something unique for our audience. Humor and engagement became our distinguishing factor from competitors, and that approach has been validated by our fans.
  9. 9. BEYOND SENTIMENT: HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN IMPACT YOUR BUSINESS As an agency, we are often asked about the “ROI” of social media marketing. And while much of our social media strategy has focused on tone and changing the public’s perception of the Michelina’s brand, the real impact of our social media marketing efforts is more than just new branding and witty responses to users. Tone and content are important, but businesses need more than those qualitative upgrades and require actual numbers that influence sales. This is why goal-setting is crucial in the early stages of developing a social media strategy. Pro tip: Setting trackable goals provides benchmarks to quantify the success of your social media strategy. Determining what metrics you need to track is the best way to quantitatively judge the success of failure of everything you’re doing online. SUPPORTING YOUR WEBSITE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA The trackable goals that are set for your social media strategy have to extend beyond audience size. Sure, having a thousand or a million Facebook fans is great, but what is that user base doing for your company’s bottom line? For most companies, that bottom line begins and ends with their website. Websites are the hub that connects all of the other digital channels being utilized. They are the source for e-commerce revenue, the primary option for information, and the go-to channel for customer service inquires. That is why referral traffic is one of the most important metrics that we track to gage the success of our social media strategy. Tracking website activity and how social media is driving traffic to it is not only helpful in understanding user behavior, but provides concrete numbers that you can measure and benchmark. For Michelina’s, we saw significant improvement in website traffic. Overall website traffic has more than doubled since the full-scale digital launch of the new website and social media channels. Additionally, the new social media presence has been effective in contributing to this increase in traffic, sending over 2,300 visits and counting between Facebook and Twitter. Again, this was website traffic that wasn’t being leveraged at all before the creation of the Mama Michelina social media channels.
  10. 10. DON’T FORGET ABOUT EMAIL MARKETING Another avenue we implemented into our social media strategy was email marketing. And although we’ve discussed email marketing at length, many brands seem to think that it’s no longer an effective digital marketing channel. However, this simply isn’t the case. There is still a large contingent of users that rely on this often overlooked medium. Michelina’s had an existing user base, but hadn’t sent any newsletters in years. Also, because their email marketing strategy had gone unattended for so long, the database they had was filled with wrong email addresses and users who were no longer interested in receiving emails from Michelina’s. After an extensive cleanup, we were quick to launch email newsletters and re-engage with the audience. Besides new email engagement, our social media strategy also allowed us to grow that email database with new users who were interested in Michelina’s and wanted to hear from the brand. We started by linking to the newsletter page on the Michelina’s website on both Facebook and Twitter. Also, we launched a paid campaign using Twitter Cards, which allowed us to promote the Michelina’s newsletter and let users submit their email addresses through an embedded signup form. Even something as simple as linking to the newsletter page is a microcosm of our holistic digital approach. The Facebook and Twitter posts were on social media channels, which then sent users to the website. From there, users could sign up for the newsletter or click through to other pages of the website, including product pages or the coupon download page. Then, users would receive emails from Michelina’s, which would drive visits and clicks back to the website and Michelina’s social media channels, thus completing the cycle. CONCLUSION In this “From the Bottom of the Freezer to Top of Mind” series, I’ve deconstructed how we developed a complete social media strategy. We utilized a holistic digital approach that leveraged a new website design, the creation of social media channels, strong community engagement, and email marketing that allowed every medium to supplement and strengthen each other. This combination of online marketing tactics is how we we’ve been able to take Michelina’s from the bottom of the freezer to top of mind with consumers.

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