“Social Media Link & SipCity: Lessons from a passion-centric non-paid consumer advocacy community”

 

Seth:

We’re here with Susan Frech, Co-founder and CEO of Social Media Link – a company recently featured by O (The Oprah Winfrey Magazine) and Entrepreneur – to take a look at what we’re seeing in the world of community building and consumer advocacy, and why organizations like Beverage Marketing Association are stepping up to help build such a valuable ecosystem for their industries. (Please feel free to chime in with your own questions, and reach out if you’d like some info about how you can get involved with SipCity or Social Media Link)

Sue, thanks so much for joining us today!

Susan:

Hi Seth – Happy to be here!

Seth:

Sue, many of us in the marketing world agree that what you’re doing at Social Media Link is taking the idea of social influence to another level through passion-centric, non-paid consumer advocacy. Basically, you’re helping brands find their fans and give them more than just a voice…all while owning the relationship AND the data. Not surprisingly, this is quite popular among brand marketers. Can you tell us a little about your vision for community building at Social Media Link and why it’s something you believe so strongly in the efficacy of?

Susan:

When you look at the ways marketers are communicating with consumers today, the top channels that come to mind are CRM and emails, social media, loyalty programs and paid media. While all these channels are important, we’ve heard from our clients that gaps still exist across each. These channels offer limited conversations with little to no emotional connection, lack consumer advocacy and limit access to first-party data and personalization.

When brands build a community, instead of treating each of these channels separately, we bring these channels together into one place, enhancing current strategies and enhancing relationships with current audiences to maximize engagement. Working as an omnichannel experience for consumers, brand communities allow brands to take back consumer relationships, build brand loyalty and increase efficiency across all marketing operations.

Seth:

Can you give us an example of both a wholly-owned community (where a brand founds and owns their community) and a mission-based project (where brands tap into existing communities) that have produced incredible results?

Susan:

One of our most successful brand-owned communities is hello product’s hello friends community. The community launched in October 2017 and has more than 38,000 active members. The hello friends community has been extremely successful because their team does a great job at targeting members and offering personalized offers. For example, a member who is a mom interested in healthy parenting will receive an offer for hello’s kids’ toothpaste. A Millennial who is interested in teeth whitening will receive an offer for charcoal toothpaste. They use these personalized offers to amplify social advocacy and brand loyalty.

On the other side, we have seen incredible results from campaign-based projects through our own Smiley360 community, especially when it comes to driving ratings and reviews and increasing in-store purchases. For example, we’ve run several campaigns with Snapple Straight-Up Tea. During the most recent campaign, we drove members into Target store with a 10% off coupon. The brand saw a 34% redemption rate of the coupon, as well as 19.3 million consumer-generated impressions.

Seth:

Quite excitingly, you and your team at SML have partnered with us here at Beverage Marketing Association to build SipCity, the exclusive destination for beverage enthusiasts…and, of course, beverage brands looking to share in such a community! It’s so clear to me that our industry is craving opportunities like this to meaningfully connect with their fans in a way that removes barriers to authenticity (like ad). What are some of the primary objectives you feel this can help address for drinks brands?

Susan:

1. The SipCity community brings a consumer-centric approach to engagement. SipCity creates an engaging environment for consumers to communicate with brands they are passionate about and are interested in engaging with on a regular basis. Brands can activate those members in a variety of campaigns from driving trial and awareness, reviews and recommendations or in-store purchase behaviors, generating authentic user content.

2. The SipCity community will allow marketers to achieve personalization at scale. Each unique consumer target requires tailored messaging based on their needs and wants. Because marketers can gather deep, first-party consumer insights, SipCity ensures relevant, one-to-one communication and engagement across thousands of consumers.

3. The SipCity community will enhance the emotional connection between brands and consumers. SipCity offers a channel to build brand loyalty by strengthening the emotional connection consumers have with brands. When brands build a strong emotional connection with consumers, consumers are more likely to go out and advocate for the brand.

Seth:

I’d love to help folks get a clear picture of how something like SipCity works. So, let’s say I’m a beverage marketer, and I’d like to engage with the SipCity community. Can you walk us through that experience? What are the steps/how do we ensure success? And what are some deliverables I can expect?

Susan:

When a brand comes to the SipCity community, our team works with them to ensure alignment on all steps of the process.

1. We first understand exactly who is the brand’s target audience to qualify and activate the right beverage enthusiasts.

2. The brand then delivers a customized experience to the members – this could be a free sample, a coupon, some piece of exclusive content – anything that will get the member excited to engage.

3. From there, we ask members to share their experience with the product and brand on social accounts, retail websites, in-person with friends and followers, etc. On the back-end, our team is monitoring content to ensure it aligns with the brand’s goals and objectives.

4. At the end of the campaign, we deliver full results, with actionable insights, feedback from members and recommendations for the brand.

Seth:

Finally, Sue, you’ve built communities for brands and industry groups in nearly every corner of the business world…and all signs point to this accelerating, not slowing down. Why are brands and industries so thirsty (sorry, had to) to move beyond simply buying Google and Facebook ads as a strategy for reaching their consumers over digital mediums, and where do you see this trend leading us over the next 5 years?

Susan:

We believe that Google and Facebook are still valid mediums for brands that are trying to build brand awareness. However, while these channels will likely never go away, the way consumers engage with brands over these mediums has changed. Brands no longer own the relationship with consumers on these channels, and they don’t have access to critical consumer insights, making it difficult for brands to create personalization at scale. We’ve also seen that impressions from branded content on Facebook specifically have plummeted with continuous algorithm changes.

When brands engage with consumers through a branded community, they have unlimited access to their consumers. Marketers can collect data from who they want, when they want, and on what they want to ensure every engagement is meaningful. This type of engagement prompts consumers to become brand advocates and authentically share on social channels, pushing past the branded content clutter and generating real impressions that will make an actual impact on ROI and sales.

Seth:

Thanks so much for chatting with us today Sue – we are so excited to help bring such a valuable community to the industry (SipCity) and are honored by your partnership in the process!

 

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