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Social Media Strategies for Strengthening Brand

It’s funny as I began to think about this blog thought it would be a no brainer. After all, it’s about branding in the digital age. I’ve been in digital since the first banner was sold. Technically, I was in it before.

I am a brand loyalist. If I have a personal affinity to a brand I tell everyone online and offline. When I think about the brands I love the most, many are digital: Google, Facebook and Twitter. The other brands I love are Apple and Starbucks. Oddly enough I don’t visit the brand in a social media environment.

If I had to pick a brand based on these guidelines I’d choose Starbucks. As most know, Starbucks is always listed as one of the top ten brands using social media effectively.

A recent post in Social Media Today delves into Starbucks surprising Facebook page. The page was created in 2008 and has grown. It has close to 30 million “likes.” It has the typical corporate content that covers products, new products, promotions and the like. The Starbucks page is also a hot bed for controversy from fans, customers and Starbucks itself.

During the last few months the Starbucks page has been laden with political speech. Two controversial topics brewed (no pun intended): Starbucks’ explicit endorsement of the marriage equality bill in its home state of Washington, and a boycott organized by the National Gun Victim’s Action Council to protest Starbucks’ policy of allowing customers to carry guns in stores when and where it’s legal. (Social Media Today, 2012)

So to answer the question, “How has the brand’s presence in social media strengthened the brand,” I scratch my head a bit. I think it has strengthened the brand to its passionate loyalists. Just read the page and you’ll see many accolades thanking Starbucks for staying true, being supportive and not backing down.

This Valentine’s Day a bunch of people negatively posted that they were planning on boycotting Starbucks if the company did change its point of view on guns. Equal or greater than the negative comments was an influx of positive comments supporting and applauding the brand.

Branding Personality reports that in the past 3 years, Starbucks has grown its “Facebook Fan” count to over 27,600,000 Fans! Making it number 33 on the All Facebook Stats Facebook Page Leader Board.  This number is absolutely off the charts for a consumer brand product. In fact, Starbucks Facebook Page comes in at number 2 for all consumer brand products, according to All Facebook Stats. (Branding Personality, 2012)

Starbucks has a Twitter page with 2 million followers. The company responds to followers every day. It’s amazing how they truly interact with followers. I keep watching its growth and admire the company for listening, responding and engaging. Isn’t that what everyone says they’ll do vis a vis social media? And isn’t that where they fall short.




Gembarski, R. (n.d.). How Starbucks Built an Engaging Brand on Social Media | Facebook for Businesses and Social Media by Branding Personality. Facebook for Businesses and Social Media Personal Branding by Branding Personality. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from

Online Marketing Trends: Top 15 Globally  Most Active Brands  Using  Social Media. (n.d.). Online Marketing Trends. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from



Social Media Differentiation.

When I think of two companies in the same industry that use social media I immediately think of Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. Of course each company rivals the other. They are considered competitors.

However, when you look at the lifestyle of a Starbucks consumer s/he is most likely urban or traveling to an urban area for work or school. They tend to be more educated and affluent.

Walk into any Starbucks and you’ll see a warm, comfortable atmosphere with ambient lighting, comfy chairs and free WiFi. Watch as people enter in droves only to wait in line for their beloved Grande non-fat latte or half Cap with soy.

Dunkin Donuts prides itself on offering a good hot cup of coffee. It appeals to the average working American. The stores are brighter with limited seating and not the place where one lingers. They have more of a rush-in-and-get-out feel. Not to mention Dunkin Donuts as many drive thru windows. As big as the line of cars get, the line typically moves fast. The company has a slogan, “America runs on Dunkin.”

Starbucks has been widely recognized in the social media sphere. Technorati calls Starbucks the Nation’s most socially engaged company. IN fact the company is said to be one of the fastest brands to respond via social media. I have heard different stats but the turnaround time is a mere half hour or so.

In a post on iDigitalTimes a few days ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz announced the launch of the newest campaign called Indivisible. It is designed to encourage average citizens to voice their opinions on social media sites across the Web to let politicians know what they want from their government. Shultz hopes that the campaign can help “put citizenship over partisanship.” (iDitialTimes, 2012)

Just as their stores are different so is their social media presence. Dunkin Donuts brand identity is carried out successful via social media. The company is active on Facebook and Twitter as well as mobile devices. Much of the content is supporting local sports teams like the Boston Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins.

Its new social media campaign is called, “Get Dunk’d.” Dunkin Donuts is launching promotions to get customers tweeting and Facebook chatting about the brand.

Missy Maio, senior field marketing manager for Dunkin’ Brands Inc. told Diect Marketing News,  “We are really looking for ways that we can connect our brand with the people who want to be connected with us in a nontraditional manner… and we want to give back to our loyal customers who have signed up for our social media pages.”

A far cry from discussions and banter related to politics, the environment and social and political issues. However, when all you want is a good cup of joe who needs all that?

Social Media Implications, Cultural Anthropology and Technology

Social Media Implications, Cultural Anthropology and Technology

When I think about implications I look through the lens of a media gal. That’s how I grew up in the business. Social media is a channel. Perhaps it’s a bigger microphone? I think it is tied to a lot of offline behavior as well as online experiences.

Consider this, I wait for a reservation at a hot new restaurant. My friends and I all Facebook each other to coordinate plans for the dinner. We plan. Our friends “like” our status and comment saying to let them know how it was or that they wish they could get in. when we finally get together that night we take pictures as we always do with our iPhone and upload them to Facebook. We tag each other. Then the server pays no attention to us. The food doesn’t come out on time. Mine is undercooked. I politely send it back. The server begrudgingly takes it. One of my friends already posts of Facebook. Skip to the next scene, the night got worse and we decide to go to a bar to meet more friends. When we get there we tell them. Then we post a rant on Yelp for all to see.

Herein lies the bad offline experience with the online and social media virality. It spreads like a firestorm and there’s no going back. This happens today. It happens all the time. It has become a way of life for many including me. There are huge implications.

In fact, two days ago Altimeter Research released a new study. Findings clearly show that most companies lack a formalized process –and even out of the advanced, only 76% had a process in place (Altimeter research, 2012).

The way I see it too many brands think about a social media strategy with their defensive guard up. They ask themselves “what if” someone says something bad. What if it spreads and cross-pollinate to other platforms. Will it have a shelf life? How can I be prepared to defend my brand?

Truth is, the best social media is offensive. It’s open-ended and two-way. It is a bigger microphone and maybe it amplifies. Don’t let it break the sound barrier. Have a conversation. Create a dialogue. Temper the rant. Respond as quickly as you can; figure out a way to do it. Maybe bring it over to email or provide a phone number where they can call customer service. Listen. Listen and listen more. Try and turn it around. Ask for a second chance. It may not always work. It may not actually be worth it.

Kimberly Whitler wrote an article the other day for She brings recognition to the fact that many CMOs make some pretty big social media mistakes. She defines them as: 1) failure to understand how social media links to the broader business strategies, 2) failure to develop a really strong content plan, and 3) failure to seed a discussion and instead focusing solely on self-promotion (Forbes, 2012)

In social it’s almost be-careful-what-you-wish-for. You want to grow a fan base, build a community, and have a constant flow of communication outbound and inbound. Did you ever think beyond that? What if you really do get an army full of fans or a gaggle of likes and a buzz of tweets and retweets? Or maybe your brand gets tagged and pinned all over. What next? What’s the new new? That to me is the biggest implication.

It loops off of technology. A brand needs a way to monitor conversations and track sentiment. It also needs a way to efficiency steward messaging. However, it is not a pure-technology play. There needs to be a tone, some solid writing and some feeling of authenticity. Good communication is not an auto response.

Social anthropology shows us that ranting and raving is the socialsphere is more mainstream than not. Heck just think of the Facebook user base of 900 million active people. It’s as big as a small country. People have something to say and believe that they should be able to say it.

Millennials who grew up with technology throw just about everything out to the digital and mobile world. Quite frankly much of this demographic feels more comfortable online than off. They like to toggle between an online identities to anonymity. Often they script, story tell and gossip as a mere handle not a person. Strong brands know this and see past it. They embrace it and don’t slow down.


Breakdown: Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage | Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing. (n.d.). Web Strategy By Jeremiah Owyang: Web Marketing, Social Media. Retrieved September 1, 2012, from

How CMOs Can Avoid The Common Social Media Mistakes – Forbes. (n.d.). Information for the World’s Business Leaders – Retrieved September 1, 2012, from

Headhunting, Job Hunting and Social Media


It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that we all had a polished electronic resume, bio and headshot ready to go.

Soon after, we learned of business social networking site Linked In and new times were changing. We joined the site, built our profiles, reproductized our resumes and started reaching out to our network to “link in” to us.

Then we found that we needed recommendations from our network. So we solicited our referrals from our mentors, peers and employees.  

LinkedIn began to offer users the opportunity to set up professional groups. Some are designed by invite only while others are click-to-join. I joined several and at first was a bit of a voyeur.

Although I try to stay up with it, I don’t use the site as often as I should. I admit I regularly look to see who’s hiring. It helps me stay up to date on the landscape. I also pay close attention to people’s status updates. I’ve linked my account to my Twitter account. I also read my feeds.

However, I don’t read my email there all that much. Sometimes I don’t check to see who’s requesting to be a connection. In fact I just saw an update email from a colleague. It was two weeks old.

As much as I am steeped in social media, I find it hard to keep up with. I’m on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Oftentimes, I go to Facebook to email a professional contact because I’ve lost track of their work email. I wish I could streamline my contacts better.

I was excited to see Pinterest http://www.pinterest launch a few months ago. I think the site is beautifully designed. I love the “invite only” approach. Like a lot of other social media, I have watched more than participated.

One thing I saw coming was people using pins for promotional messaging. Many are using it to display their work experience and job-hunting goals. Makes me think, the old MS Word document is de passé in our field. It’s now about pinning, posting, linking in and sending short messages across social networks to solicit our wares.


When researching the subject, I stumbled upon how people are using Twitter for job hunting. I thought most people Tweeted a link to a URL that had their resume, bio and other accolades to promote their experience.

Turns out, there is a hashtag #twesume. It’s an opportunity to condense your experience into 140 characters or less. The best part is, you can always change it and update it. You can Tweet it, email it, put it in your signature files…the list goes on.

I’ve spoken with headhunters and recruiters. All say they build lists of candidates via social media even before they have a position they are trying to fill.

I recently spoke with a friend in HR for an international tech firm. She said her team uses such sites to “size people up” after they’ve applied for an open position. She told me they would call the candidate in if they liked what they saw about them in social media channels.

My friend is not alone. According to RezScore, 89% of companies used social networks for recruiting in 2011.

Bullhorn surveyed its 35,000 recruiters to learn how social media influences recruiting efforts. I’d suggest you read the full presentation as its chock-full of information

<;. The company predicts growth in what it calls the “big three” networks: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It says recruiters could quadruple their size of their Twitter netowrks and potentially add 1,000 connections to their LinkedIn networks by years’ end.

My prediction is that Pinterest will be added to the list. How do you think social media will change job hunting and recruiting?



Social Marketing Brands and Risk

When asked to talk about the challenges and risks of a brand associated with social media (SM) I immediately thought of epic fails. You might remember the Kenneth Cole hoopla about a year ago?

Evidently the designer Kenneth Cole (himself) is active on Twitter. Well last February he hijacked the hastag #cairo. Yes, the same one that was used to report the troubled news in Egypt. He sent out a Tweet that said, “”Millions are in uproar in #Cairo.”

He did this to promote a new Spring fashion collection.

This set the Twitterverse abuzz with lots of protesters saying the fashion designer was insensitive to real issues in the world: People dying in Egypt.

Many debated whether or not the Tweet that came from a Blackberry and was tagged with a “KC” was written by Cole himself. Or was it someone on his team? Did it mater?

Indeed there was an apology Tweet that went out a day later <!/KennethCole/status/33206062215598080>

“Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment –KC”

Perhaps there should have been a hyperlink to a more formal, polished apology? They didn’t. They did launch another Twitter handle @KennethColePR was established to help put out the fire. It doesn’t seem like many accepted the apology.

Sure it makes sense for a designer to be active in SM. When this happened, the company had Facebook and Twitter pages. Prior to the incident, the Twitter account seemed to connect with KC customers. It posted events and sales and responded to Tweets.

The brand was also all over traditional media from billboards to print mags and transit ads. The campaigns were integrated. Thematic elements were consistent with a blend of beautiful photography and art direction.

Whether online or offline media, the ads were always controversial <;.

“Over the years I’ve used my brand platform to raise awareness about vital social issues to remind people that it’s not just what they look like on the outside, but who they are on the inside; and not just what they stand in, but what they stand for,” says Kenneth Cole. “When I first started out, the means of communicating we have today didn’t exist. So in this new age of social media, I wanted to use this campaign to re-energize a debate with customers and like minded individuals around certain provocative, and at the same time, defining social issues.” <;

So what went wrong? Well it is clear to me that there was no overall SM strategy in place. Not to mention, it didn’t seem as if there was any type of crisis prevention in the loop until it happened (or it never would have).

Social media maven Jeremiah Owyang shared some great insights and tips about crisis planning and preparing for social media attacks.

<;. Although he wrote in a couple years ago, the advice is still critical:

  • Companies must have a community strategy –don’t jump without a parachute.


  • Hire seasoned community managers –don’t relegate to PR intern.


  • Plan and practice for the worse –yet live for the best.


Social media can be the best and worst thing that’s happened to a brand. What do you think Kenneth Cole should have done about this? Have you seen more recent epic social media fails? If so, share them here.

Coffee Companies Creating Social Buzz

Simply put, coffee is social. It has been for years. So it’s no surprise that large coffee retailers like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have been early adopters of social media.

Think about it, if you are in New England you are either a Starbucks person or a Dunkin Donuts person. It’s some of the most brand loyalty I’ve ever seen.

I’m a tried and true Starbucks gal. It’s certainly not hard to find, the stores are on just about every corner as I walk into work. I have the Starbucks mobile app. The Barista scans my phone daily deducting the money for my Grande non-fat latte.

If I need to add money to it (which I often do) it takes a matter of seconds. Not to mention they are accepted at over 1,00o locations (including one nearby me in a Target Store)

You’ve probably seen Starbucks QR codes in print magazines, newspapers and transit ads. Although I’m not a big fan of the technology, I see more and more people scanning them with their Smartphones

Starbucks is all over Facebook with over 62 million “likes” and 763,000 people talking about the brand

Of course the company is active on Twitter @Starbucks as well with over 2 million followers.

Although I’m not a Dunkin’s gal per se, I have great respect for the local brand. It too has had one of the most successful social media campaigns called “Create Next Donut” <>. Consumers got to create a menu item. The stats were impressive with over 130,000 submissions, and 174,000 registered voters to determine a winner.

The company also ran a clever promotion to promote the “mixology” potential of its Coolatta drinks, Dunkin’ Donuts asked fans to collaborate on a playlist of summery songs that would go well with fan’s favorite Coolatta flavors. According to a Mashable article, Dunkin’ Donuts asked fans to collaborate on a playlist of summery songs that would go well with fan’s favorite Coolatta flavors.

The campaign netted 300,000 new Facebook fans while over 40,000 Pandora users added “The ultimate Coolatta summer music mix!” to their list of stations and spent nearly 14,000 hours listening to the station.


Dunkins is also active but not as successful on Twitter @Dunkins with close to 130,000 followers.

As far as Facebook, it has 5.8 million “likes” and over 114,000 people talking about the brand.

Both brands have been active on FourSquare and Google Places. Just look around and see who’s checking in.

What I liked best is Dunkin Donuts combines offline media, online media, social media and street marketing here in Boston. You can follow, Tweet, like, check in or show up at a shop and be selected by a brand ambassador to win Red Sox tickets. There’s nothing better than coffee AND free tickets. I wish Starbucks would do that.

So tell me, have you followed, friended, liked, Tweeted, scanned a QR code or checked in to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts via social media?

Being Social Media


I’m happy to see that according to the 2011 Social Media Examiner Report,

marketers place a high value on social media. In fact, 90% of marketers surveyed said social media is important for their business.

Other top line findings include:

Online Retailers did, however, point to a number of benefits (to using social media), such as building brand awareness and improving customer service:

  • 90% said search-engine marketing was the most effective source used to acquire customers last year, and they see social marketing strategies as experimental and needing further exploration.
  • 82% said they’re pursuing social networking simply to learn more about what it can do.
  • 62% said their return on investment was either unaffected by social media or that the benefits remain unclear.
  • 61% said they see the primary ROI from social marketing as “listening to and better understanding our customers.”
  • 52% said they’re participating because they don’t want to be left behind.
  • 45% cited the tremendous buzz about social networking as reason to participate.
  • 37% said they’re participating because it’s inexpensive to do so.


So when I was asked to think of industries successfully using social media I immediately thought of online retailer Zappos The company sells shoes, clothing and accessories online.

Since joining Twitter a few years ago, I immediately learned of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay)!/zappos.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Tony (then 24 years old) sold the company (he cofounded) Link Exchange to Microsoft for $265MM USD.

Tony joined Zappos as an advisor and investor then CEO. He brought the company from close to no sales to about a billion dollars in gross merchandise sales annually [Source:].

Toward the end of 1999 Zappos was acquired by for about $1.2 billion USD. Tony is still the CEO.

It is no doubt the company is steeped in social media. On its Facebook welcome tab it says, “Let’s be in a like-like relationship.” The page encourages fans and has open dialogue with customers.

After a fan “likes” Zappos on Facebook, they are asked to join an email list. And so the relationship continues. Each offer disocunts, news about new products, exclusive content and videos.

To further enhance to social experience there are custom widgets that fans display their comments and accolades to name a few.

In an interview by Cliff Michaels,

“Tony has not only created a paradigm shift in corporate culture, he’s delivering happiness to thousands of employees and millions of online loyalists through “fun, change, and a little weirdness.”

As Tony says, “Your culture is your brand. Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” [Source:]

So has social media efforts been successful? You tell me.


The Value of a Friend, Follow or Connection?

Social media usage, activity and revenue are on the rise. No matter what the stat, fact, figure out there, Facebook dominates the social media (SM) space.

As you know Facebook finally filed for an IPO this past week. To no surprise it’s predicted to be one of the biggest tech IPOs of all time. Pundits are saying it’ll be about a whopping $100 Million USD. This 800 pound gorilla in the social media (SM) sphere claims 800 million active users that have made over 100 billion connections with people in the network. The average FB user has 245 friends and growing. Half of all users go online daily.

Facebook had profits of $1 billion on sales of $3.7 billion last year. Its money is mainly made from ad revuenue. CNBC referenced web measurement leader ComScore in a recent article As ComScore simply dubbed it, “Facebook’s winning in the battle for display advertising dollars.”

According to the company’s findings:

Facebook accounts for 15% of total (ad dollars) spent online (Google and Microsoft are at 10% each)

It is responsible for 28% of all display ads seen online in the US  (that’s up 5% from last year)

ComScore reveals online advertisers on Facebook:

  • Telecom giant AT&T spent 25% of all its ad impressions on Facebook last year (10 billion impressions)
  • Experian Interactive, which markets financial products like and with 18.5% percent of display ad impressions
  • IAC had 33% of impressions
  • Walt Disney Company had 28%
  • Google came in at 19%

Of course the appeal of Facebook ads is sheer reach. In a traditional digital display environment, only the big spenders can get a share of voice (SOV). Well on Facebook, the ace-in-the-hole is that more than 61% of Facebook ads come from advertisers outside the top 1,000 (ComScore 2011).

Of course, lest we forget the long awaited big tech IPO of the professional networking site LinkedIn last year? According to an EWeek article LinkedIn went public at $83 May 19, 2011, and shocked the high-tech world by soaring to $122.70 before closing at $93.86 (today its at $72.)

The company is still hot. It boasts that every second two people are creating their professional networking profile on its site. There are 135 million members. The company said its revenue is $139 million USD.

LinkedIn makes its money selling Premium Subscriptions ($28.4 million), Hiring Solutions products ($71 million) and Marketing Solutions products ($40.1 million) <Source:>.

The company continues to offer new products and features. One is called Classmates that allows users to connect with fellow alumni. It also redesigned its mobile offerings.

What will be the next big tech IPO? Many say microblogging platform Twitter. In fact, Twitter was rumored to IPO in 2011. Reuters valued the company at $7.7 billion USD.

The company has successfully garnered 500 million active users globally. There are over 200 million Tweets sent out daily.

Twitter has been scrutinized by being too slow to roll out its ad platform. However, last year it ramped up Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts. There is also a way advertisers can push Tweets regardless if the user is a follower or not. It is also working on a revshare deal with third-party developers serving Promoted Tweets in their Twitter apps. It’s no doubt that we will see an increase in US revenue from political advertisers.

The company launched a photo sharing service last August. In less than six months it became the largest surpassing social media veteran company Flickr founded back in 2003 and sold to Yahoo for about $40 million USD in 2005.

All Things D asked real-time search engine Topsy to pull numbers about photo sharing on Twitter from the past year. Twitter users shared 58.4 million photos in December, and the number of photos shared grew 421% over the course of the year. <Source:>.

As an online marketer I am impressed and admittedly a bit blurred by the sheer numbers. On one hand it is my dream come true: to see such engagement and loyalty. On the other it’s a bit of careful-what-you-wish for.

So if you don’t know them already look at social media monitoring companies like Radian6 owned by Salesforce http://www.salesforce. The company is one of several that monitors whats being said and done on the social web.

In the meantime, I’ll be trending and tracking as I steep in the social web. I’ll leave you with a question, how do you value a friend, follow or connection?

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