Lessons in “LIVE” social media marketing and retail

I had the great opportunity to work on the Social Media launch of the new Outlet Collection at NiagaraIt was an adventure in live event social media management and marketing with many lessons learned.

The new outlet collection is situated at the center of the Niagara region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer and investor, focusing on high-quality urban shopping centres. The new Outlet Collection at Niagara is the flagship in the collection of future planned developments, and a shiny new attraction for the Niagara region.

Launching such a brand in social media channels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a labor of love for myself, and the on-property team, retailers and excited fans who made it such a success.

Lessons learned in social media for retail:
1. Choose the right Social Media communities to focus on and do it well:

We launched @OCNiagara on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2. Have a strategy – then prepare to abandon it:

Social media became the central point of integration for all of the grand opening events and media. A plan for hashtags and content was created and then it happened – viral word-of-mouth and buzz took over.
3. On the ground LIVE social media was key to leveraging all of the buzz surrounding a new mall and tourist attraction:

On-site content curation (the photos of retailers, new stores, shoppers and and ongoing monitoring and response times were critical in quickly building the communities and tracking what content was engaging – and it was fast!

#Selfies posted to Instagram and Twitter were most engaging, and had the most viral reach.  Of course any image of a cute child or pet always wins in social.

4. Don’t forget about Foursquare:

Those who shop use Foursquare and Instagram religiously it seems, followed closely by Twitter and then Facebook.

5. Followers and Fans like special deals just for them:

They like to be on the “inside” with special access to specials and promotions. Contests and giveaways worked, especially contest for gift cards awarded to fans and followers on site during the grand opening weekend.

 

6. Have a good solution for managing and reporting:

We used Sprout Social to manage and report on Facebook and Twitter.

The days around the grand opening of the Outlet Collection at Niagara were critical in launching a successful social media presence.  Key to this was leveraging the online and offline buzz, responding to accolades and criticism, and learning what content was resonating with the audiences on each social media platform (as well as re-sharing #selfies and giving prizes for posting them).
7. #Hashtags are cool. Don’t post on Instagram or Twitter without at least one (or 5) good Hashtags – just trust me.

From what I saw, there still a large gap in the integration of the offline shopping experience with the very engaged socially connected shoppers who are tweeting, posting, liking and sharing their experiences – and ultimately spreading the word and driving foot traffic.

A huge opportunity for retailers to embrace Social Media as consumer and retail shopping behavior will continue to converge with digital and social media.

And so it was that Niagara’s newest tourist attraction opened and blasted into the social media sphere with gusto and enthusiasm, and I found a way to combine two of my favorite things!

#Shopping + #Socialmedia @OCniagara = #Heaven 4 @acoupleofchicks

For more adventures in Social Media follow Alicia Whalen and A Couple of Chicks™ Digital Tourism Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lessons in "LIVE" social media marketing and retail

I had the great opportunity to work on the Social Media launch of the new Outlet Collection at NiagaraIt was an adventure in live event social media management and marketing with many lessons learned.

The new outlet collection is situated at the center of the Niagara region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer and investor, focusing on high-quality urban shopping centres. The new Outlet Collection at Niagara is the flagship in the collection of future planned developments, and a shiny new attraction for the Niagara region.

Launching such a brand in social media channels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a labor of love for myself, and the on-property team, retailers and excited fans who made it such a success.

Lessons learned in social media for retail:
1. Choose the right Social Media communities to focus on and do it well:

We launched @OCNiagara on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2. Have a strategy – then prepare to abandon it:

Social media became the central point of integration for all of the grand opening events and media. A plan for hashtags and content was created and then it happened – viral word-of-mouth and buzz took over.
3. On the ground LIVE social media was key to leveraging all of the buzz surrounding a new mall and tourist attraction:

On-site content curation (the photos of retailers, new stores, shoppers and and ongoing monitoring and response times were critical in quickly building the communities and tracking what content was engaging – and it was fast!

#Selfies posted to Instagram and Twitter were most engaging, and had the most viral reach.  Of course any image of a cute child or pet always wins in social.

4. Don’t forget about Foursquare:

Those who shop use Foursquare and Instagram religiously it seems, followed closely by Twitter and then Facebook.

5. Followers and Fans like special deals just for them:

They like to be on the “inside” with special access to specials and promotions. Contests and giveaways worked, especially contest for gift cards awarded to fans and followers on site during the grand opening weekend.

 

6. Have a good solution for managing and reporting:

We used Sprout Social to manage and report on Facebook and Twitter.

The days around the grand opening of the Outlet Collection at Niagara were critical in launching a successful social media presence.  Key to this was leveraging the online and offline buzz, responding to accolades and criticism, and learning what content was resonating with the audiences on each social media platform (as well as re-sharing #selfies and giving prizes for posting them).
7. #Hashtags are cool. Don’t post on Instagram or Twitter without at least one (or 5) good Hashtags – just trust me.

From what I saw, there still a large gap in the integration of the offline shopping experience with the very engaged socially connected shoppers who are tweeting, posting, liking and sharing their experiences – and ultimately spreading the word and driving foot traffic.

A huge opportunity for retailers to embrace Social Media as consumer and retail shopping behavior will continue to converge with digital and social media.

And so it was that Niagara’s newest tourist attraction opened and blasted into the social media sphere with gusto and enthusiasm, and I found a way to combine two of my favorite things!

#Shopping + #Socialmedia @OCniagara = #Heaven 4 @acoupleofchicks

For more adventures in Social Media follow Alicia Whalen and A Couple of Chicks™ Digital Tourism Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

the evolution of an online marketing agency

Reflecting on the past 6 years, it is amazing just how much the online world has changed. When Patricia and I started A Couple of Chicks eMarketing over lunch in September 2005 (now that is another story!), we were inspired by a great idea and a passion for sharing what we knew about how the internet was changing how we reach our customers.

It was our mission to make sense of how the internet was going to change marketing and distribution, to demystify online marketing, and to provide a fun and non-intimidating approach to educating brands about the power of the web.

At the time, our primary focus was on developing strategies for marketing websites, and above all for making sure that websites could be found in the search engines.  It was all about search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (PPC), and website usability – and specifically about showing marketers how to leverage this new powerful distribution channel to reach their customers.

Today, 6 years later we are living in a world where consumers are not simply going online, but living online. The pace of change has been fast and new media has pushed marketers to keep up in an ever evolving online ecosystem that now includes Social Media, Wifi Mobile access from devices such as smart phones and tablets, Cloud computing, instant messaging, Video sharing, VOIP technology and so much more.

It has been quite a ride! On behalf of Patricia, and our entire team of 14, thank you for sharing in our adventure – and specifically thank you to all of our clients who have allowed us to share in their growth and success.

We look forward to what the next 6 years brings!

The Earthquake felt through Twitter

If this experience does not illustrate the power of social media and how it is changing the way that we experience our lives, consume our news and share information – I don’t know what is. There was an Earthquake in Ontario just now that I did not feel – but heard about via Twitter only seconds after it happened.

With Twitter connections all over Ontario and the world commenting about their experiences, using a Twitter hashtag #earthquake created within seconds after the tremor – and a minimum of 100 tweets per minute coming in with accounts of the tremor experienced from Montreal to Buffalo and beyond – I am getting breaking news not from traditional news outlets but through the twitterverse.

The act of ‘tweeting‘ 140 character soundbites and Social media in general are rapidly affecting the way that we interact, and consume overall media and there is no debating that. I still hear many complaints that there is no measurable ‘ROI’ on spending time building and managing Social media spaces – but I would say specifically using this example to illustrate the way in which communications have changed that we have no choice but to embrace the medium.

Specifically, traditional media and PR professionals must adapt to using channels such as Twitter to gain back lost readers who would consume news traditionally through print, TV and radio. Also – media must participate to stay in the know of breaking news.

Journalists must also be aware of who the ‘influencers’ are within social media spaces – and they need to embrace Twitter as a way to guide the conversation and become the offical ‘voice’ around any major breaking story and not so much report it.

The Globe and Mail and CTV – both major news outlets in Canada were quick to jump into the conversation about the Earthquake – but they were no longer the source of the breaking news as it would have been in the past for news outlets such at CNN.

Many Canadian news giants engaged an already active Twittering community to gather newsworthly insights and facts as to how wide the Earthquake impact had been felt, its scale (reported at 5.5).   Globaltvnews even “twe-ported” (just made that up…sounded good) a mapping depiction of Tweets sent within 30 min after the quake was felt – and the tweet ‘report’ came in only 35 min after the quake.

News outlets making news of Twitter as a source for breaking news – how ironic is that?

I will continue to follow the #Earthquake hashtag as a trending topic now for the next few hours to see where the conversation goes from here – but I would guess that the very way in which the quake was experienced accross Ontario and into New York state via Twitter will be the real story told in the weeks to come.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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