By Carissa Gingras
In the spring of 2013, I wrote to you about selling and marketing to Millennials – that group of current and future customers born between 1977 and 1995, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2013. These are folks who will make up one-third of homeowners by the year 2030. And, a group that is responsible for a whopping $200 billion in spending power. And in a mere two years, the Millennial generation (a.k.a. Generation Y) will outnumber and outspend Baby Boomers (individuals born 1946-1964), making this a significant group of future customers. So now that you understand how important this group will be to your business, how do you find them?
Reaching this constantly evolving demographic isn’t impossible, but successfully marketing and selling to Millennials involves a shift in delivery. In the past, it was enough to be located on a busy street corner. Location, location, location was the age-old saying when it came to the success of a business. The same strategy holds true today – you need to be where your customers are. But today, the location has changed and your customers are online, and specifically, on social media platforms. At Briggs & Stratton, we recognize that this group is critical to our future success. We have dedicated resources focused on increasing community members, as well as engagement with those members, on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Before we put our plan in place, we asked ourselves a few simple questions: What is social media? Which social media platform should we focus on first? And how can we participate in a way that is meaningful?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Social Media includes forms of electronic communication…through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” The key to understanding social media is in the delivery of the message – where you used to market one-to-one to your customers, social media involves marketing one-to-many. This can include messages that you send to the community, as well as messages, images and even opinions, that a social media community shares with others. That can be kind of scary stuff if you don’t understand the value that social media can bring to your business.
Which social media platform should you use?
Start with Facebook
Facebook is the most popular social media platform in every demographic. It has 1.35 billion worldwide monthly users – or 73 percent of the U.S. adult population. While there have been signs of decreasing popularity among younger Millennials, the fact remains that Facebook is by and large the most widely used social media platform. With Facebook, you have the ability to create two-way communication by providing company information, assisting customers with questions, positioning yourself as a resource, and sharing fan stories. At Briggs & Stratton, we learned three tactics that quickly helped us grow our Facebook “likes” from 20,000 to 120,000. First, we followed a regular posting schedule; we post once a day, Monday through Friday. Second, we recognized that our followers are loyal Briggs & Stratton owners, and as such, they have a lot of great comments, and great pictures, to share. On a weekly basis, we post fan share pictures, usually of legacy engines that owners have maintained for several years. Third, we made sure to respond to our community. Oftentimes, companies make the mistake of uploading posts, and then virtually “walking away.” In the meantime, the community is actively involved in conversation about the post. It’s critical to jump into that conversation and recognize active members.
* Create a consistent posting schedule. It could be every day or three times a week, but make sure your posts aren’t random.
* Facebook posts with a photo generate 120 percent more engagement than simple text.
* Posts shorter than 250 characters have 60 percent more engagement than longer posts.
* Question posts have double the engagement of non-question posts.
* Remember that the purpose of Facebook is to engage, so make sure you are responding to your followers.
The 140-character “World of Twitter”
Twitter has expanded beyond its original purpose for users to answer the question, “What are you doing?” Twitter is now a viable social media tool for providing followers with useful tidbits of information, for posting content about sales promotions and deals, and for linking to newsworthy articles that are posted on the World Wide Web. Those who use Twitter, use it more frequently than other platforms, with 46 percent logging in on a daily basis. Twitter users have a higher tendency to follow brands than they do on any other platform. Users are on the site more to listen and learn, and to keep up-to-date about what’s going on. At Briggs & Stratton, we also use Twitter to follow social influencers and key media partners. For example, when a story is published online about Briggs & Stratton, we “retweet” (the process by which Twitter users share content with their Twitter followers) the story to our own community to keep them informed.
* Including a picture in your Tweets increases engagement. Studies have shown an 89-percent increase in Favorites with images over those without, and a 150-percent increase in retweets.
* Post informational or educational content to credible links to become a go-to resource.
* Link back to information on your own website to increase your web traffic.
* DON’T over post! While it can be hard to cram all the information you want to share into 140 characters, you must be conscientious not to inundate your followers, especially with repetitive or irrelevant information.
* One to three tweets a day is adequate.
* Remember that Twitter’s purpose is to inform, so make sure you are providing relevant and meaningful information.
This platform is the fastest-growing platform in popularity amongst Millennials, probably because its primary objective is to entertain. In just four years, Instagram has grown to 300 million accounts, with more than 70 million photos and videos posted each day. The most important factor for Instagram marketers are the age demographics. Although only 17 percent of U.S. adults are on the site, a full 43 percent of mobile owners aged 18-29 are on the site. The image is everything on Instagram. Your pictures need to be engaging and creative. We recently re-invigorated our Instagram program, with resources dedicated to increasing our followers and sharing fan pictures. We are excited to watch our presence on this newer social media platform continue to grow.
* User-generated content gets better engagement than content generated by businesses. Try hosting a photo contest, which is a fun way to engage your followers and generate user-driven content to use in the future.
* Instagram is focused on following trending topics, so capitalize on current events and holidays if possible.
* Have a healthy balance of fun images and business pictures.
* The purpose of Instagram is to entertain, so don’t use this as a sales vehicle. Understand you are building relationships and engagement with pictures.
How to leverage social media
Word of mouth in the Digital Age
Word of mouth is just as important as always, but with social media, word of mouth is amplified beyond a one-to-one conversation, and instead becomes a conversation broadcast to a much larger group. Millennials are in constant communication with their peers and family via social media. With each user having a large community network, companies can use this connectivity to encourage their customers to share – share product purchases, share favorite brands, share experiences, and share their opinions. Host a sweepstakes where your customers share pictures of themselves using your products, or visiting your store. Have your customers post a comment on your social media pages, talking about their experience with your dealership. And reward customers who share information, either by liking, commenting, or retweeting.
Engage with users
To be effective and to grow your online community, you should engage with your followers by starting and participating in conversations. With social media, you can find fans, connect with the brand enthusiasts, and drive more traffic to your website just by liking photos or commenting.
Gather feedback and respond
Social media is inherently used to share experiences and opinions. You will never have to wonder what your customers think about your service or product — it will be posted for all to see on your social media platform. Keep an eye on what people are saying about your name, company or brand online — and fix any problems promptly. Make sure you take the opportunity to respond to your followers within the social media platform, and let them know you care.
Become a thought leader
Become a useful resource for customers. Whether through blogs or how-to content, position yourself as a resource for customers by providing educational content. In the future, customers will seek your company out not only for assistance, but also advice on what service to use or product to purchase.
By finding the social media platform that makes sense for your business, and following some of these tips, you will have the ability to reach, and more importantly to engage with, your customers — customers that are living in today’s social media world.
Carissa Gingras is marketing director of consumer engine and service with Briggs & Stratton Corporation. In her current role, she focuses on developing communications for dealers and consumers in the outdoor power equipment industry. She has more than 20 years of marketing experience working with both national and global companies, including General Electric, Honeywell, Ashley Furniture Homestores, Bridgestone/Firestone and Bon-Ton Department Stores.