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.

What’s your Twitter handle?

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Perhaps you don’t have a good handle on what Twitter really is and all the ways to use it?  (it’s ok really…we are all still learning).

 

Twitter is above all else a communications tool, a vehicle for any business or person to build buzz, discuss topics of interest with like-minded people, a place to engage in a conversation with your customers and colleagues, a customer service tool – and a way to increase reach much quicker than traditional media.

Unlike Facebook and other Social media channels, Twitter is about forming new connections with people you don’t necessarily know (or will ever know) in person.

Twitter can be used to push out content (new blog posts, articles of interest, photos and videos), to stay up to date on trends, and to drive awareness to brands and businesses, and most importantly – the people behind the brands.

Twitter’s greatest power, once you have developed a twitter tone, a good following – and you have figured out how to provide your followers with valuable, engaging content – is its ability to communicate quickly to large numbers of people.

Twitter is a great tool for crisis communications, live event, or CRM, for extending customer service online, and above all, a great tool for building brand personality and credibility.

Not a place for pushed out marketing messages, Twitter allows you to communicate and engage with your target audiences. Use twitter to draw attention to other places where your brand lives such as a company website, or Blog, or even your company Facebook page where there is more room for expanded messages.

You will need time and resources to set up and manage a good twitter account, and not having a Twitter strategy will certainly lead to poor ROI and possibly some mishaps along the way.

Twitter Tips:

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Make sure your Twitter handle – your Twitter name – mine is @Alicia_Whalen_  is reflective of your brand, and ensure the bio is more personalized to the Tweeter

Pick the right image for your profile pic.  This becomes how other Tweeter’s will recognize you in the newsfeed.  Brands should use Logo’s.

Be strategic when developing your tone – be conversational and add value to the ecosystem

Share and RT (re-tweet) newsworthy or quality content. It is a good practice to “return the favour” with re-tweets and thank those who RT your content

Use @username (the Twitter handle!) when referencing another person in Twitter

Alicia_Whalen_

Mark positive feedback as “Favorites” by clicking the heart in Twitter, and retweet (RT) good content.

• In general, follow people who follow you – but not always. It is not about how many followers you have on Twitter – tweeters will look to who you follow as an indication of who you are.

Tweet interesting news and info related to your company and industry, and follow colleagues, industry associations and even competitors.

Twitter lists allow you to categorize Tweeps (Twitter people) and better organize how you follow their content

Use Hashtags # to index and label your content in Twitter. ie. #TwitterTips and #Socialmedia for this Blog post will ensure that this content will appear in a Twitter stream of content related to using Twitter – and may then be seen by more people

Set-up scheduled updates and manage your Social Media postings through tools like www.hootsuite.com or Sprout Social – or even through the Twitter APP.  You can manage comments and messages directed to you on the go easily with the Twitter App.

Monitor. Use tools like Sprout Social and Hootsuite.com – Twitter also now has analytics that show you the reach of your posts.  Deeper analytics are available for Ad posts or promoted posts within Twitter.

Twitter takes time and commitment but can open you up to brand fans, brand champions, and new customers far beyond traditional marketing communications channels.

Summary:

Be authentic, show some personality, don’t sell, make sure to drive traffic back to your transaction point (your website, a phone number, email sign up, Blog etc) use Twitter as a part of your overall marketing communications strategy – and have fun – it is ‘social’ media after all!

 

About:

Alicia Whalen  is a Speaker, Blogger, Entrepreneur  and Co-Founder of Hashtagio.com – The platform that harnesses the power of social and user- generated social content.  

 

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Chicks…and Butterflies?

As Week #1 as the newest Chick comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the irony in being asked to write a piece for the official Chick blog on the topic of “The Social Butterfly”.  While I‘m typically more of a behind-the-scenes kind of gal – the opposite of a social butterfly in the traditional sense – just thinking about writing a Blog is actually causing me to have butterflies; huge-winged moth-like Jurassic creatures are literally wreaking havoc on my insides.

Can I write anything of relevance using more than 140 characters? (I’m a seasoned Twitter-er.) What if no one reads this?  What if everyone reads this?  Do I have anything important to say?  What if there is criticism, and I‘m attacked by the grammar-hammers?  And, more importantly, what if The Chicks think I suck???  Lot’s of what-if angst…

[insert deep breath here]

In Chick-dom we refer to “The Social Butterfly” as most commonly found between the age range of 15-25 and being big influencers on buying decisions.  Social butterflies “fly” or “flit” from site to site based on popularity or what’s cool amongst their peers – wherever the nectar is the sweetest.

Butterflies are sharing their experiences through sites like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.  This group has grown up online and is comfortable sharing personal information and interacting with other online users.  I know this from personal experience with having a 15 (going on 25) year-old; as I’m constantly amazed at how they can chat, text, take photo’s and video’s, and put together a Christmas list (with links to the products and their websites) – all at the same time (yet the simple task of cleaning her bedroom is simply overwhelming!).  This is the same kid who put together a Powerpoint presentation at the age of 12 on why she should be allowed to go to a bon-fire party with no parents.

My point being that butterflies are multi-taskers and have a zero-tolerance attention span.  They do their research online and value the opinions of those within their online community through ‘word of mouse‘.  As marketers to said butterflies, we need to go where they are.  Must-haves include the capability for uploading media, personalizing their space and being able to invite their friends to visit; we need to accommodate the thirst and inherent need to socialize.

In January 2010 a Facebook Fan Page for “If you remember the L’OrealKids FISH SHAPED SHAMPOO BOTTLE” was created and to date there are almost 1.2 million fans.  Fans have uploaded pictures of L’Oreal products, and pictures of themselves holding L’Oreal products.

The page does not look like an official L’Oreal page, and the page creator goes by the name “Tanner Be”.  Tanner Be might be just a highly creative teenager with a lot of time on his hands, or he/she might just be a cleverly-disguised digital marketer (hey…we do what we have to) for L’Oreal.

This is a perfect example of a brand “being social”, whether intentional on the brand’s behalf or not.  This also illustrates the glaring fact that you need to brand yourself, or someone else will most certainly do it for you.

Get your butterfly nets out, and remember to have fun along the way!

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

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