Marketing with these fast-moving platforms is no easy feat. Here are five Oregon firms that are #winning.
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Social media has grown from a place for individuals to post fun photos and snarky opinions to a serious business tool. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter allow companies to share core values, engage with communities and bolster their brands. This intense level of engagement represents a sea change from old-school marketing efforts. Less about the hard sell, social media are evolving into communication tools that create and strengthen relationships between people.
Navigating this relationship presents a challenge. Companies have to find their voice, set an appropriate tone, and know when to jump into a conversation and when to steer clear. Oregon Business asked social media experts which local companies are doing it right. Our judges: Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Media and one of the founders of SEMpdx; Siouxsie Jennett, CEO of Mambo Media; Noe Baker, VP of public relations/chief communications officer, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Portland chapter, and Tracey Lam, APR, chief advocacy officer of PRSA, Portland chapter.
Why it’s super: “They use funny memes and gifs,” says Noe Baker. “And they do a great job of showing the other side of players by having them take over their social media accounts.”
According to NBA analytics, the Portland Trail Blazers rank third for fan engagement on social media; no small feat considering the winningest teams in the league, Golden State and San Antonio, are Nos. 1 and 2. While it’s too late for the team to catch up on the court, executives are proud of its successful social media standings. They speak to the hard work the company put into finding its voice. “We wanted a personality that matched a rabid fan,” says Dewayne Hankins, senior vice president of Brand Strategy & Digital.
This rabid fandom is best experienced on game night. Hankins and his four-person team take to Twitter creating posts, retweeting others and “meeting the conversation,” according to Hankins. Their tone walks the line between blind Blazers love and respect for opposing players and refs with a fair bit of playful back and forth. Hankins has a goal for all this activity. “If we are filling your feed with updates, you’re more likely to tune in to the game,” he says.
While he’s not above getting more eyeballs on game night, Hankins warns that posts are never about the hard sell. “Fans smell inauthenticity or a sell message and don’t respond,” he says. Considering Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithms reward likes, comments and shares by moving posts up in peoples’ feeds, alienating fans is the last thing a social media manager wants to do.
The Blazers may have a unified voice, but the team’s 15 players are free, and encouraged, to be their authentic selves — with caveats. They receive intensive social media training every spring, educating them on dos and don’ts. “Tweets last forever,” says Hankins.
Why it’s super: They have the ability to fill a feed with eye-catching heat-capture photos,” says Kent Lewis. “And they do such a good job of balancing fun feature content.”
On August 21, 2014, social media marketing manager Vatche Arabian caught lightning in a bottle. That day, right before the start of racing season, he posted a 38-second video of Red Bull’s Formula 1 car “Tearing it Up in Infrared,” on YouTube. The footage, which splices video from FLIR’s infrared and thermal cameras, garnered a million views in two weeks, was picked up by Gizmodo and Wired magazine and cemented FLIR in racing fan’s minds as a cool company.
Of course heat-capturing cameras are pretty cool to start with, but FLIR Systems’ social media program balances the business case with playful add ons. The company will run links to serious articles on thermal security cameras along with a St. Patrick’s Day post that shows what a cold Guinness looks like in infrared.
“Social media is more relaxed, which allows us to go deeper,” says Arabian. For instance, footage of grinding coffee beans filmed with a mid-wave, high-end science camera sure looks neat but really doesn’t fit anywhere in traditional marketing. Posting it on Twitter and attaching the hashtag #MondayMotivation inserts FLIR into a wider conversation, introduces their product to a new audience and engages with their customer base who tweet back at them.
A 10-year veteran at FLIR, Arabian predicts the social media department will grow, especially as company executives support it. Right now, however, it’s only him. Along with planning and producing posts, Arabian spends a chunk of time on customer service, tweeting with past and potential buyers. “They are always surprised when I tweet back at them,” he says.
“More live video, now that Facebook has unveiled live-video capabilities. We’ll start seeing more sponsored content on social media sites and from brands as well, since organic reach keeps declining.” — Noe Baker
“We’ve seen the growth of SnapChat and WhatsApp, but we’re just scratching the surface of what these platforms can do. Google and Facebook have a dominant presence in social media but struggle to maintain the lead over organically grown apps. Consumers want to connect directly to each other, and occasionally brands they love, but on a peer-to-peer level versus the broadcast model of Twitter or even Facebook — outside of Messenger, of course.” — Kent Lewis
“The first trend is live-video streaming. Periscope and Meerkat really kicked things off last year, and now Facebook is introducing its live video streaming feature. The second big trend is messaging and chat apps — like WeChat, WhatsApp and Slack — that take conversations out of your email inbox and into a forum that allows for easy back-and-forth conversations.”— Tracey Lam
“Social media takes on the workplace! Apps like Slack and Yammer will establish dominance as organizations see the benefit of taking a “social media mentality” to organizational communication. Real-time messaging, file sharing and, yes, even emojis are all important aspects of our daily personal lives. So why not bring those activities into the workplace to enhance modern communication and mimic what we are all doing anyway?”— Siouxsie Jennett
Why it’s super: “Travel Oregon has beautiful, eye-catching images; short, to-the-point headlines; and information that I care about,” says Tracey Lam. “On Facebook, its social media manager appears to do a good job of responding to comments, which, of course, is what makes social media social.”
With a brand-new campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, Travel Oregon’s message embodies the #humblebrag. Juxtaposing magnificent visuals with the low-key, “We like it here. You might too,” Travel Oregon hits the folksy, approachable sweet spot without selling the attractions short. This message is managed by Emily Forsha, part of a five-person integrated marketing team.
Using primarily Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Forsha tailors the message to the platform. “‘Content is King’ has turned into ‘Context is King,’” Forsha says, explaining that even the best message, video or photo will get lost if not presented correctly. “Our product is our storytelling.”
While social media moves fast, Forsha doesn’t try to jump onto trending hashtag bandwagons. Instead, she and her team stick to a plan but admit that “with social media you are constantly making tweaks and adjustments.” The team was planning on assessing the new brand campaign after one week of messages.
Social media also lets Travel Oregon respond to questions and comments, linking users to knowledgeable volunteer ambassadors or answering questions themselves. “Everything we do is cross promoting,” says Forsha.
Of course, as a semi-independent government agency, Travel Oregon has its share of trolls. For the most part, Forsha and her team overlook ugly comments unless they point directly at them. Those cases might call for an internal discussion and further action, but for the most part they “do a lot of ignoring. People recognize trolls now, and it doesn’t reflect poorly on us to not respond.”
Why it’s super: “Jacobsen is doing a great job showcasing the beauty and diversity of their salt on Instagram,” says Siouxsie Jennett. “The brand publishes engaging photos to inspire foodies and pictures of the Oregon Coast to remind their followers about the authenticity of their product.”
When Matthew Domingo joined Jacobsen Salt Co. 18 months ago, he asked for a copy of the marketing plan. Surprise! There wasn’t one, at least nothing formally written down. So Domingo created a plan fitting for a nascent company with limited funds that’s part gritty maker, part elegant lifestyle brand: Rely heavily on social media.
He got the product, hand-harvested finishing salts, in front of important chefs and food influencers with large social media followings and let them take it from there. Their posts and reposts bolstered the brand, turning it from a small company that puts out 360 pounds of product a year to a 30-employee firm that distributes 12,000 pounds a month globally. Clients include chef-owned restaurants, Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma and hometown favorite Burgerville.
Domingo admits growing Jacobsen to a national brand in the old, pre-social media days would have cost more and taken longer. “I don’t know what we would do without our Instagram handle,” he says. “Last year we had 6,000 followers; now we have 22,000.”
His Instagram goal for this year is between 50,000 and 75,000 followers. Domingo also plans a big push on Pinterest, where users can easily navigate back to their website. While he admits that he’s a “generation too old to quite get it,” he’ll also have a presence on Snapchat by the end of the year. His biggest challenge now is coming up with fresh content for the one to three pictures he posts a day. He plans to continue to rely heavily on social media influencers who post between “five and six photos a day, 365 days a year.”
@TillamookCounty Creamery Association
Why it’s super: “It’s been on top of its social game from the very beginning,” says Noe Baker. “Their Love Loaf tour is world famous and completely integrated with social — it’s their main media outlet and No. 1 resource for promoting the tour. Their recent #ForRealFood campaign is awesome.”
Tillamook does more with social media than share photos and respond to consumer comments, says Laura Schatz, digital marketing supervisor. Instead, the team uses various platforms to have “real conversations with… consumers.” Their goal is to “spark debate around what people eat, share inspiration on how to eat real food and build relationships with users.”
This back and forth with Tillamook fans lets the co-op go deep. Much like their factory tour opens a literal window into their operations, Tillamook’s social media strategy goes behind the scenes. sharing information on how products are made, the craftsmen who make them and the farmers who own the co-op. The strategy is multi-platform based. “Using videos to share stories, being able to show what we stand for as a co-op, has been a powerful tool for us in hosting real, open conversations with consumers,” Schatz says.
Schatz predicts social media will get more and more visual with the development of live-streaming platforms like Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube Connect. She also sees it becoming more personalized with GIFs and a variety of reactions.
Those individual reactions, along with old-school likes and shares, mean that the line between marketing and IT and even personnel is blurring as her team gathers and analyzes information, Schatz says.
Is there an uncomfortable back and forth with “anti-dairy trolls?”
“The majority of the time it’s overwhelmingly positive,” says Schatz. “Sometimes we do hear from people who choose not to eat dairy, and that’s fine. We always welcome suggestions from consumers. At the end of the day, we work for dairy farmers, and sometimes we have to remind folks that’s our business model. Tillamook is not going to be the right fit for everyone out there.”
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