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Strategies for Grabbing Attention on Social Media

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Two family-run convenience retail businesses — one a single-store operator, the other a chain — have social media success commonalities that they learned through trial and error. 

Anthony Perrine, president of single-store Lou Perrine’s Gas and Groceries, which has been in business for 60-plus years in Kenosha, Wis., and Ariel Rubin, director of communications for Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go LC, with 400 stores in 11 states, shared their different-in-details, but similar-in-theory social media stories during the recent NACS Crack the Code Experience.

Perrine said it took him about three years to get well-known in Kenosha on social media, trying out all the different platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) and many different scenarios.

What first stuck with his audience was when he transformed himself into a social media “persona,” simply by donning sunglasses and one of his store’s hats backwards, and boasting out his name, “It’s your boy, Anthony Perrine…” and doing a “schtick like the ShamWow guy,” he relayed.

Then, two years ago, fate intervened. A thief, determined by Perrine not to be an employee or customer of the store, robbed the hotel next door to Lou Perrine’s and was caught on camera wearing one of the store’s hoodies, where it was written on the back: I (Heart) HO HO CAKE.

Local news anchors started making a joke on the air, “What’s a Ho Ho Cake?” So, Perrine took to Twitter to explain. Mama P’s Ho Ho Cake was created by Perrine mother for his eighth birthday; it’s a chocolate cake with a white cream middle layer, topped with fudge frosting. It’s become an icon of the store.

Working with local authorities, Perrine offered a “sweet reward” for whoever could turn the bandit in — free Ho Ho Cake for a year. The story went viral, “and the rest is history,” he recalled. “That’s how we came to social media fame in southeast Wisconsin.”

The way Perrine sees it, social media is just telling a story and, unlike other forms of media, you get to interact with your customer while doing it. “It’s not about being super creative, it’s about reusing what’s out there,” he said. “Everything we do has to fit what we’re doing and what we’re about. It’s also about being culturally relevant and edgy, being fun and informative. It’s a constant bombardment on social media to stay on top of their mind. We try to create ourselves as a unique destination of a place.”

Case in point: For the store’s 64th birthday, Perrine dreamed up an idea with his friend who owns a tattoo shop. For the first 50 people who got a tattoo of a Ho Ho Cake or the store’s logo, Perrine’s would pay for the tattoo and give the tattooed customer a free Ho Ho Cake every time they came into the store.

“I thought it would be a bust. I thought people would say I’m silly,” said Perrine.

But on 5 a.m. the Monday of the promotion, he received a call from his tattoo-parlor friend who told him, “You’ve got to get here, cars are lined up everywhere.”

Because 150 people showed up, Perrine extended the promotion to the first 100 people.

“I’m a big brand guy and I consider this a success because you don’t see a lot of people with Sam’s Club logos tattooed on them or Kwik Trip,” he said.

Learning From Your Mistakes

Perrine admits that he sometimes has a tendency to “go a little bit too far,” but says he has learned great lessons from his mistakes.

For instance, at Christmastime, he came up with the “25 Days of Christmas” promotion featuring Little Lou, the naughty elf. “I had a genius idea for World Orgasm Day, December 22. I decided to get elfy to promote condoms and promote the day,” Perrine said. “It went well everywhere but Facebook; a group of Catholics were offended and came after me. It became a war on social media.”

He immediately reacted by responding publicly to the complaints even though he left the image up. He reached out personally to the woman who spearheaded the protest, inviting her to meet with him on Christmas Eve, which she did.

“I gave her the time of day. I told her I was sorry and didn’t mean to be offensive, and that I wasn’t going to take the post down, but I’d listen to her and would take down the posts from people who criticized her,” said Perrine. “And of course, I gave her Ho Ho Cake. Now, she comes in all the time as a customer.”

Moving forward, Perrine said he’s vowed to “run everything through my wife and manager first.”

He also came to realize that ideas like World Orgasm Day play well on Instagram and Twitter because of their younger-generation audience. “Facebook is an older generation who didn’t appreciate it,” he said.

Where the Conversation Is Happening

At Kum & Go, social media is now “where the conversation is happening,” according to Rubin.

“It’s a fascinating space to really engage with customers,” he said. “You can put anything on there and find out immediately what’s working and what’s not.”

Until recently, Kum & Go didn’t have a real voice on social media; the retailer merely used the platforms for marketing and advertising. But in 2019, Rubin said they went in a different direction, using A/B testing and then in 2020, they “ran with it,” partly in the form of merchandise giveaways.

“I can’t express enough how merch takes the online experience offline and lets people own a piece of what you do,” he said, noting that these giveaways are in the form of low-cost backpacks, fanny packs, sunglasses and visors. “You get people to advertise your business for free.”

The company also decided to use social media as a way to “stand up” in a difficult year. “Culture is happening every day and we want to put Kum & Go at the center of cultural moments,” said Rubin. “It’s the job of a good social media professional or team to insert your brand into that conversation.”

The numbers don’t lie — Kum & Go went from 19,000 followers on Twitter a year ago to more than 42,000 today, and from zero followers on TikTok to 66,000 followers currently.

Rubin offered up 10 tips for fellow retailers looking to truly expand their social media conversation:

  1. Use influencers to build long-term partnerships. Influencer collaboration can work if it is a well-matched influencer to your brand. You also must consider the platform being used.
  2. Consider celebrity engagement, especially celebrities near your brand. “We send our swag to famous people strategically — those who we like and who like us. We send T-shirts; they tweet about it or use our name in a podcast. They are a friend of the brand. It’s all free and it builds goodwill.”
  3. Make the merch work. Kum & Go’s philosophy is “make cool merch, win cool customers.” Giveaways inspire social media conversations and build loyalty. Kum & Go recently gave away a needlepoint with the inscription: “Tis better to have kum and gone than never to kum and go at all.”
  4. Test new and emerging platforms like TikTok. To capture and connect with 16- to 22 year-olds, Kum & Go hired a 19-year-old Gen Z specialist to manage platforms like TikTok.
  5. Tweet to the next level. Kum & Go uses humor and storytelling on Twitter to win over both new associates and new customers.
  6. Go offline. It’s not all about online conversations. Kum & Go brings the same “digital hype and energy” to its store openings, with 100 fanny packs typically given out by 7 a.m. Kids camp out for the openings.
  7. Stand for something. “We use our social platform and privilege to amplify marginalized voices, be loud allies, and support causes that matter to us,” said Rubin. “When we have something important to say, we find a fun way to say it. People really engage with this stuff.” Recently, Kum & Go posted: “we don’t mind if you want to laugh at our name. we get it. kum. but one thing we won’t tolerate on our platform is rape apologist language. any slut-shaming, sexism, or misogyny in the comments is going to get you blocked. love, kum & go.”
  8. Engage in a deeper way. Kum & Go believes that if you help people get through something important to them, they will become a fan for life. And so, the retailer believes in deepening its relationship with its audience. According to Rubin, “not only are we communicating with our audience, we are also listening, incorporating their ideas into fun campaigns and giveaways.”
  9. Promote chainwide and local happenings. Kum & Go utilizes social media to promote its business as it evolves offerings and operations, such as curbside delivery or gas-pumping service.
  10. Make mistakes. This is the only way you’re going to find out what’s working and what isn’t. Try things. They won’t always work, but this is how you find your voice and ultimately build your audience. “You have to be willing to screw up. Trust your social media people. Let them make mistakes. The failures are just as informative as the wins — maybe even more so.”

The NACS Crack the Code Experience was a five-week digital event that brought together convenience store industry retailers and suppliers virtually in lieu of an in-person NACS Show this year. It ran from early November to early December.

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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