Dog with split personalities

The blessing and the curse of social media evolution for pet brands (PART 2)

This is the second part of a series about the evolution of social media and its impact on marketing communications. Today, we’ll talk about the benefits of using your channels to collect consumer insights and effectively reach your target audience. But beware: If you don’t use social media right, it can bite you! READ PART ONE HERE.

Like it or not, social media has evolved from a cute pastime for people with time on their hands into a vital tool that businesses must use if they want to effectively reach people with time on their hands. And people who are too busy to do anything but glance at the phone between at-your-desk bites of lunch. And everyone else. It’s everyone, basically. Everyone is on social media in some form — so your brand must be, too.
But this is a good thing! Because everyone uses some form of social media, that means that if you use your chosen platform effectively, you can not only reach a humongous audience but you can mine that audience for useful data.

Using social media to collect consumer insights

True insights aren’t easy to come by, but if you can sift the available data properly, you can uncover vital insights that would have been nearly impossible to crack just a few years ago. And social media makes a lot of data available to you, because your customers and potential customers are constantly talking. Even when they’re not directly speaking to you or about your brand, they’re talking. And whether they’re talking about your products, your industry, their own personal preferences or virtually anything else, just by talking they are providing you with a data stream. You can even use what they aren’t saying to learn something. But how do you turn all that information into something that will truly provide an unexpected outcome for your business? Hey, look, we tell you here. How synergistic!

The main thing to remember is that everything can lead to that one little nugget that tells you something new, and you should use all available tools to find it. For example, if your customers are discussing dog food options on Twitter, you can use monitoring tools to set alerts for mentions of your relevant keywords. Even if they’re not talking about your products, you can learn what they are talking about, and why. And if you combine that data with other streams and tools like your CRM, you can take a comprehensive look at what’s working for or against your potential audience. You never know what will lead to that insight, so you have to follow your nose like a hound dog tracking a scent. You’ll know that nugget when you see it. And then you can spin that nugget into a product improvement, a customer-service upgrade, or whatever else will differentiate your brand.

Using social media advertising to reach your target market

After you gain your insight (or even before, really), the most effective benefit of social media remains its reach; it’s basically a direct line to your audience. Every major platform has advanced targeting capabilities, so you can hone specific messages for specific people if you have the manpower to craft the messages and the budget to advertise. It’s pretty easy to find out what your audience likes, what they share, what they click into and what type of ads work, where they go when they leave social media, etc. It’s an information stream like we’ve never had before, and if you want to you can send a specific message to Joe CatGuy in Nowheres, Nebraska. Or, thanks to a nifty technology jumps like Facebook Pixel, you can know exactly what product page Joe CatGuy visited, and make sure that product stays top of mind as he browses Facebook and other websites.
Many of those tools are incredibly cost effective, too. The CPM of social media advertising can be more than 20 times smaller than direct mail or a magazine ad. What a time to be a marketer!

CPM of social media advertising vs traditional methods

An even more effective use of social media is to speak directly to influencers and let them do your work for you. Instagram in particular is great for hitting pet influencers. If you get them on your side to toot your horn for you, your message will be much more effective. And we have numbers to prove it! According to Nielsen, influencer marketing delivers an ROI that is 11 times more effective than traditional digital marketing. Twitter tells us that 49% of people say that they rely on recommendations from “influencers” when making purchasing decisions. Hey, we covered that, too!

Do it right or…nah, just do it right

Social media is a wonderfully useful tool for all brands, but for pet brands especially. Pet people love social media! But therein lies the danger. If you don’t pay close attention to your channels, your audience will notice. You have to post regularly and respond quickly to inquiries or comments. And while social media is cost effective, it ain’t free; you need to spend some money on paid ads or you’ll fall victim to the recent decline in organic reach.
Because of these potential pitfalls, there is strategy involved. It’s not just “Get on all the platforms and post away.” You have to consider your bandwidth and staff. Can you interact effectively? The cardinal sin of social media is to neglect social media. If the audience feels abandoned, you’ll feel their wrath — but maybe not until it’s too late, because you’re neglecting your social media! So figure out what you want to say and who you want to say it to, and choose your channels accordingly. If your customers are on Twitter, your attention to Facebook won’t help.
Social media is a powerful tool. It is a place where you can build insights and hear exactly what your audience thinks about you, and for free. But if you misuse social media, the ramifications can be costly.