Fair Trade Takes On Facebook

It is no surprise how fast social media has become an important piece in every company’s marketing plan. However, what may come as a surprise is how the success of the plan is estimated to change. How many likes or followers a company has no longer automatically grants social success. The relationships built between the customers in terms of “comments, shares, downloads, retweets, subscriptions, lead generations, or anything else that prompts human beings to take action” are beginning to show a company’s true success.

Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms with over 1.15 billion users. It is an important platform to take advantage of because it “provides an excellent means by which a company can not only demonstrate their expertise in any given area, but they can actively create a brand personality”. One company that has been successful, but could still use some improving on Facebook is Ten Thousand Villages (TTV).Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.20.18 PM

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade, independent nonprofit, charitable organization (501(c)3) that is dedicated to offering unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories. Each item sold at TTV helps to improve the lives of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans that represent the diverse culture in 38 countries including Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. (Ten Thousand Villages, n.d.).

 

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Ten Thousand Villages joined Facebook in 2009 and as of December 2014, they have 42,682 “likes”. Since Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade company, the majority of the posts discuss the countries they work with or highlight the artisan groups that make the products. They also include information and links to articles when the store is mentioned in the news. Each posting has a picture included, which helps draw attention to the information being presented. The company puts a lot of emphasis in educating consumers about its mission and what their purchases mean for the artisan groups.Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.17.23 PM

They also offer sales promotions on a regular basis, which include discounts, sampling, and occasionally a sweepstakes or contest that the customers can enter. The discounts are usually 20% for a specific country or artisans group and can only be used online. Ten Thousand Villages also includes links to its official website and to its other social media sites to make it easier to connect with customers on each page. The company has also incorporated Instagram on its official Facebook page.

Ten Thousand Villages has also created several other pages for its individual stores. These pages do not have nearly as many “likes”, but it is an easier way for the customers to connect with their local stores. These pages do not post every day, but they tend to include more pictures of items available in the store in addition to the posts about the countries and artisan groups they work with.

Facebook Improvements

Ten Thousand Villages has done a great job managing Facebook, however, they are not currently taking full advantage of the platform. TTV is very active on Facebook, but the Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.16.06 PMcompany does not post every single day. It is very obvious that this store is well liked because it has hundreds of positive reviews. However, the majority of the reviews are only “liked” by the store and the responses are very professional instead of personal. If a customer posts a specific question or concern on the store’s wall, TTV does a great job of addressing the question or concern, but does not try to continue the conversation. When customers comment on a post, the store likes the majority of the responses, but does not engage with the customers unless they have a question. All of these improvements could significantly enhance the traffic to its sight and improve customer relationships.

The psychics at Verticalresponse have created a pocket guide for companies looking to improve engagement and break through the social media clutter. Ten Thousand Villages could benefit from adapting some of the “do’s” such as responding within an hour and removing some of the “don’ts” like ignoring its audience.

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Longevity, Safety, Versatility and Adventure. Why do you love your Subaru?

Digital storytelling is a fascinating concept because it goes beyond a typical advertisement. According to Ignite Social Media, “today, instead of talking at the customer, companies are successfully talking to them, and customers are talking back. Advertising has left the rarefied atmosphere of one-way communication and entered the public arena. Companies who manage to harness the power of the public meet roaring success. The key: Company image and actions must meet the standards of the brand story. Today’s customers demand truth, and companies that can’t deliver are crucified across all platforms of social media.”

A great example of a brand that does digital storytelling well is Subaru. In 2009, Subaru collaborated with Carmichael Lynch, an advertising agency, to create the Love campaign. “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” became the new tagline and the company still uses it today. Carmichael Lynch has seen a lot of success with the campaign and stated that, “since beginning our Love campaign, Subaru has tapped into powerful human emotions to double market share and surpass eleven other car makers on America’s list of best-selling auto brands”. With the Love campaign being received positively by consumers, Carmichael Lynch decided to expand the campaign and introduce Dear Subaru. This campaign also began in 2009 and encourages Subaru owners to share their photos and stories about why they love their vehicles. Dear Subaru was launched as a multichannel campaign, however, even after the paid media ended, its owner-centric Facebook app continues to function and serves as a story hub. Readers can scroll through various stories, filter the stories based on themes, and view the ads that were created based on customer stories. Several stories from Facebook are also uploaded to Subaru’s main website. When the campaign first launched, over 150 to 200 Dear Subaru stories were uploaded each week.

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It is widely known that Subaru owners are passionate about their cars and are loyal to the brand. “If you ask a Subaru owner what they think of their car, more times than not they’ll tell you they love it,” said Alan Bethke, director of marketing communications for Subaru of America. The Dear Subaru platform provides owners with a fun way to interact with the brand and share their passion. What I liked about this campaign is that Subaru took the stories and used them within its own advertising. What better story to tell than one from a loyal customer? The stories include how the vehicle saved lives, took them on adventures, helped them plow through snow, and much more. Subaru prides itself on the longevity, safety, versatility and adventure its cars can offer a consumer. These stories continue to strengthen the company’s reputation and encourage conversation about the Subaru brand. Owners are sharing their stories on the site, but often the conversations will extend from online to offline.

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I think Subaru’s use of user-generated content through the Dear Subaru campaign is fantastic. Subaru is providing its owners with the opportunity to tell the brand’s story through photos and personal testimonies. One Spot posted a great infographic that takes a look at the science behind storytelling. Dear Subaru does an excellent job of showing and not telling its compelling content and its digital story.

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“Unofficially” Beneficial.

Many brands are continuously looking for ways to engage with its audience, including hosting its own official company blogs. These blogs allow the companies to interact with consumers while also controlling the timing and topic of brand messages. With the rising popularity of official blogs, consumers have joined in on the conversation by creating their own “unofficial” company blogs. When searching for unofficial blogs, a wide array can be found and each author decides what they want to focus on.

Target Addict is the unofficial blog for Target and is written by a devoted shopper that claims her obsession with the store is about the Target lifestyle, as well as the products. This blog focuses on all things Target and includes information and reviews on the latest in-store products, such as clothing, shoes, home goods, make up and new product lines that are being introduced. The Target Addict blog also makes it a priority to post links to current Target promotions, coupons, and Internet deals, serving as a one-stop shop for Target consumers. The running theme of the Target Addict blog revolves around providing shoppers with useful information.

Target has several official blogs, but the content in Target Addict is comparable to the official Target Style blog, “On the Dot”, because both focus on informing readers about product reviews and promotions of current items in-store and online. However, it’s fairly easy to tell which one holds the “official” title. The Target Addict uses Target’s iconic red and white colors throughout the site, but appears to be less professional and more pieced together without a cohesive branding element. Target’s “On the Dot” blog is hosted on Tumblr and is more aesthetically pleasing and professionally designed with pure Target branding elements. Besides the layout and branding on the blogs, one noticeable difference is that the official blog focuses more on incorporating retail industry trends, while the unofficial blog relies on providing her personal recommendations and opinions about the products she reviews.

The information from the Target Addict blog that could be useful to the official company blog is what consumers truly think about the products and promotions offered at Target. Target could take the reviews and comments that are posted on the unofficial blog and incorporate them to add a more human element to the brand. I think it would be beneficial if the official blog allowed Target Addict to have guest posts so that way it has consumer and branded content at once. The author of the unofficial blog has announced how much she loves the brand, so Target would only be promoting its brand more by making its shoppers aware of the unofficial blog. According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are playing a large role in consumers purchase decisions. The report even stated that blogs and influencers rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence. (Technorati, 2013). I think seeing all of the promotions and positive things about Target could easily influence someone to remain a loyal customer or even begin to shop there.

The report created a chart showcasing online services that are most likely to influence a purchase:technoratis-2013-digital-influence-chart

 

Here is a sample from the blog:

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I’m a pretty devoted Target shopper, but I wasn’t aware that items sold only online were automatically discounted and put back on the sales floor when returned. I liked how she explained how the discount worked and also provided her own review of the quality of the product for those still considering purchasing it online. This is the kind of information consumers are looking for and is just one example of how the Target Addict can add value to the Target brand. I will be checking Target Addict more frequently now to keep up-to-date on all things Target.

 

Does you rely on an unofficial blog for information? Does that blog influence your purchase behaviors in any way?