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10 Digital marketing lessons from top social media brands

Written by Andrew Tipp on 25 March 2013

With the social media landscape changing all the time, many companies and brands are leading the way in how they handle their online marketing. Learning from those trailblazers is a wonderful way to plan your own self-promotion, PR and customer service practices online, and avoiding the mistakes that others have already made will hopefully help you to avoid falling into the same traps.

1. Like KLM, manage customer service enquiries

Customers expect quick responses to any questions they pose to a brand, and increasingly they are using different social media channels as a way to approach companies. Ignoring this desire will lose you customers, as well as risk your reputation online, so look to businesses that do a great job for inspiration.

One of these is KLM, whose Facebook Page is full of customer service queries, and timely responses from the company. KLM has been highlighted by Social Bakers as a great example because it responds to 97.39% of its customer questions, in an average of 41 minutes. As you can see from the screenshot, they deal with, and reply to, queries in a variety of languages, too.

2. Like O2, keep a good sense of humour

When one of the UK's major mobile phone networks had a massive service outage, it was inevitable that their customers would take to social media to complain. What differentiated O2, the service in question, from the majority of similar PR disasters is that they retained their sense of humour and sent witty responses to some of the abuse they were receiving.

It is important to take care with this approach. If your customers feel you are making light of their genuine concerns then it could backfire spectacularly. However, showing a glimpse of something other than a faceless corporate entity can prove incredibly popular with consumers, and ease tension during difficult times.

3. Like IKEA, keep it simple

Rather than falling into the trap of overthinking it, sometimes the simplest approaches are the most effective. On their True Blue Pinterest board, IKEA curated a visually appealing collection of images which have a clear theme and really catch attention. This shows a good understanding of how Pinterest works and what is likely to be effective on this medium.

4. Unlike Donald Trump and Burger King, don't get hacked

Keeping your password and account details secure is more vital than ever, as hackers and spammers are in a constant state of readiness to take control of other people's accounts. In the last week, Burger King's Twitter account was hacked and their logo changed to a McDonald's sign, and Donald Trump seemingly posted a lyric from a song: both quickly blamed on hackers.

Keeping passwords secret and limiting the number of people who have access to an account is important for account security on social media. But your brand isn’t just vulnerable on social networks, so make sure your business security software is regularly maintained as well to avoid things like phishing scams and malware.

5. Like Lady Gaga, show appreciation to your fans

Lady Gaga is a massive success in the pop world, and the Gaga brand is immense. She leads the way in regularly acknowledging and thanking her fans for their support, never letting them feel taken for granted. When the people following you on Twitter or “liking” you on Facebook are also the ones who buy your products, making sure they know you appreciate their support and dedication is a sure-fire way to increase their sense of loyalty to your brand.

6. Like KitchenAid, apologise quickly and directly

Many businesses are struggling to adapt to the social media world, where PR disasters are shared at astronomic speed. Whereas formerly, taking a week to issue a public statement in response to a scandal was perhaps normal, these days it is entirely unacceptable, as Findus found to their cost during the recent horse meat scandal.

Consumers now expect swift and decisive action, so when an offensive tweet was posted to the KitchenAid Twitter account during the American presidential election, they removed it and apologised to all involved very quickly. There was still negative coverage due to the mistake, but this was at least not exacerbated by consumers and press having to wait for an explanation, or receiving a non-apology apology.

7. Like Oreo, capitalise on the zeitgeist

The marketing spend on the Super Bowl is immense, however this year the undoubted winner of Super Bowl publicity was Oreo, thanks to an incredibly fast and humorous response to an unexpected power outage. Despite the millions spent by advertisers, when the power went out at the Super Bowl, Oreo – within a matter of minutes – released an image with the caption “You can still dunk in the dark”. Its timeliness during a tense moment meant that its followers rewarded it with over 16,000 retweets, and it is the marketing moment that everyone is still talking about.

8. But unlike American Apparel, don't misjudge it

While Oreo succeeded in capturing the spirit of the moment, other brands have tried this and failed. During the hurricane attacking the East coast of America, American Apparel sent out a tweet, saying, “In case you’re bored during the storm, 20% off everything for the next 36 hours”. The backlash was immediate and prolonged, so while leaping to take advantage of something time-sensitive can work well, doing so during an unfortunate event can generate incredibly negative PR.

9. Like Bodyform, don't take yourself too seriously

When Bodyform got a tongue-in-cheek complaint from a young man who felt disillusioned that the promises made by feminine hygiene products throughout his youth did not come true when he finally found a girlfriend, they responded in kind. In the video, 'Bodyform Responds: The Truth', a fake Bodyform CEO pokes fun at the overriding themes which have appeared in sanitary product ads over the years. With over 3.7 million views, this response was met with overwhelming praise, and went viral.

10. Like Missing People, tell people what you want them to do

This UK charity which helps to find missing people encourages their followers to take a particular action when they see their tweets. Regularly asking, “Please RT” when they announce details of somebody they are concerned about, they increase the reach of each message, and their brand overall, which improves the likelihood of the vulnerable person being found.

Every business is different, and what works for one will not necessary work for another. However the general principles of responsiveness, openness, care over business security and displaying personality will never fail where social media marketing is concerned. Adapting these ideas and incorporating them into your brand's digital marketing and PR planning will help you to prepare for every eventuality and reduce panic or bad decision-making in a crisis.

Author bio: Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He's been published on a range of sites, including The Huffington Post. He mainly writes about technology, business security, marketing and branding, as well as social media, web trends and pop culture.

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