In a recent study by Google, 94% of consumers search for local information on their smartphones and 85% of those people take action based on the search results – meaning they’ll visit a local business or call a sales professional. As the buyer’s journey has largely shifted online, it is increasingly important for companies, especially trust-based companies within the financial services and insurance industry, to connect with consumers where they are researching, seeking advice, or contemplating a purchase.
In our latest ebook, Making the Shift from Corporate to Local Marketing: Five Ways to Maximize Advisor Success in the Digital Age, we outline how financial services companies can leverage new technologies to engage clients and prospects at the local level. Download the ebook to learn how to leverage local marketing tactics into your overall marketing strategy by:
Aligning your corporate brand with your local presence
Localizing your advisor and agent websites
Creating and maintaining easily shareable and accessible content across all digital channels
Enabling deeper client relationships through personalized communication
Integrating social media into your local events strategy
Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih, originally appeared in Advertising Age.
Long before the digital age, all business was local and social. Customer engagement was paramount. Shopkeepers, barbers, and Avon ladies alike intuitively knew that their ability to connect with customers would often determine whether or not a purchase would be made. They also understood that investing in building long-standing relationships with customers would result in repeat visits and loyalty.
For many successful proprietors, this meant knowing customers by name, remembering their likes and dislikes, and being on hand to answer product questions. Years before founding Walmart, at the age of 26, Sam Walton put these principles to work as a variety store manager in Newport, Arkansas.
On stage at fMC (Facebook’s marketing conference) earlier this year, Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn hearkened back to this bygone era:
“If you went back 120 years ago, a retailer would be a pillar in the community. [Retailers] would know not only everybody, but their likes, what they thought was interesting, what new products they might be interested in.”
So, what happened to the shopkeeper who cared about customers? The answer is very simple: technology.
Technology has enabled two of the biggest changes to sweep across retail: national mega-chains and more recently, e-commerce. Both have played key roles in driving down prices by introducing greater transparency, efficiency, and economies of scale. But this has come at a cost: the customer experience now feels “mass produced.”
In his eloquent foreword to my book, The Facebook Era, 1-800-FLOWERS founder and CEO Jim McCann captures it perfectly:
“Past technologies helped drive down costs, improve reach, and grow the business, but in the process we lost something very important: customer connection. I have missed the direct customer dialogue I had in our retail flower shops. The digital age has felt largely transactional in comparison.”
A central theme of fMC last month was how social media provides a way to put a human touch back into business. Several Facebook executives, including David Fischer, Mike Hoefflinger, and Chris Cox, took the stage at various moments to explain how Facebook’s new Timeline redesign provides businesses with an opportunity to “reintermediate” a human touch in their online interactions with customers. Less advertising, more engagement. Less cookie-cutter, more authentic. Less corporate, more local.
Slowly but surely, even the biggest retail organizations around the world are awakening to this sea change. Quinn and his team at Walmart have recommitted to a “social-local strategy” that I think would have made Sam Walton proud.
Walmart has launched thousands of Facebook Pages, one for each of its brick-and-mortar stores. Designated store employees who have received special training on social media are responsible for maintaining the pages, such as by responding to customer questions and issues, sharing targeted local promotions, and discussing town news or events, such as the local football game. Quinn says social media is enabling Walmart to “go back to the future” by providing an authentic local customer experience, but at scale.
Walmart is not alone. A growing number of brick-and-mortar retailers from Lululemon and Home Depot to 24 Hour Fitness and Quiznos are embracing social-local. According to a report published last month from Mainstay Salire, local Facebook pages already outperform corporate pages by a factor of 40 (Download the report here.)
Disintermediation is fine for highly commoditized brands and products, but if you want to build brand differentiation and customer loyalty, there are no shortcuts to authentic engagement. Certainly, social-local requires greater coordination than having brand pages alone, but like anything, what you get out of social media is proportional to what you put in.
Retail e-commerce sales topped $61.8B in Q4 of 2011, but this still amounts to less than six percent of total retail sales. Embracing a social-local strategy allows retailers to capitalize on the shift in consumer behavior toward digital, social, and mobile technologies at the store level where most of the transactions are still taking place, even while investing in growing e-commerce channels over time.
It turns out shopkeepers, barbers, and Sam Walton had it right all along. Customers want to be treated like real people, not an audience segment. Having 20 million fans secures bragging rights for any brand, but from the perspective of the fan, it’s generally far more engaging and rewarding to be part of a smaller, more intimate community.
Today, social-local is a really good idea. As more of your customers get smartphones, check in to your store locations, and begin demanding authenticity with a human touch, it will soon become mandatory. In my next article, I will discuss how retailers should go about establishing and operationalizing a social-local strategy, as well as why I believe brands have no choice but to do this. Please stay tuned.
Watch Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn talk about his social-local marketing strategy below:
Earlier today, independent research group Mainstay Salire released a white paper comparing the fans of corporate and local Facebook pages. According to Mainstay’s data, the typical Facebook post from a local Page reaches five times the percentage of fans as a corporate post, and eight times as many of the fans reached will engage with that post. (Engagement could mean anything from viewing a photo or watching a video to clicking a link, liking, commenting, or sharing.)
Combining those two factors—five times reach and eight times engagement—Mainstay concludes that a local fan is 40 times more valuable than a corporate fan on Facebook.
This new data confirms what has been reiterated time and again both by Facebook (as evident in this fMC conversation between Facebook VP David Fischer and Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn) as well as Hearsay Social, where making the enterprise successful on social at the local level has always been our top priority.
Our design team whipped up an infographic to visualize exactly how this plays out when you trace the path from a Page post to actual engagement on the user level:
What else can we learn about the benefit of local pages? Depending on your social media goals, there are benefits across the board, though it’s clear now that just accumulating as many fans as possible shouldn’t be the end goal.
1. Getting more link clicks
We know from our research that a large portions of posts on social media contain links. Most people post those links in hopes that someone will click them, but are people more likely to click links from bigger or smaller pages? As it turns out, smaller pages see higher clickthrough rates per fan. Not only do more fans see the link, but more of those that see the link are likely to click it.
2. Using more effective media types
Not all post types are equal. We looked at this before but it is even more obvious when comparing corporate and local pages. Looking at “People Talking About This” (PTAT), which is a count of everyone that has commented on, liked, or shared your post, we can see that certain types of posts get more traction. For local pages, photos are the most effective form of media, followed by status updates, videos, and, last of all, links. Interestingly, photos are the second most effective media type for corporate pages, trailing videos. My take is that large corporate pages videos get the most PTAT/Reach because corporate has a bigger budget and thus higher production value on the videos they produce and post to Facebook.
3. Avoiding negative feedback
Not everyone is aware of the negative feedback metrics on Facebook but they are very important. When your posts appear in someone’s News Feed, the user can choose to hide the story or to unsubscribe from your page’s posts completely. In either instance, you would lose the opportunity to reach that person with your content. Looking at the percentage of fans reached who submit negative feedback, we found that larger pages are more likely to elicit negative feedback. This could be caused by many factors, but it most likely comes down to lack of interesting, original content from corporate.
To conclude, we cannot say enough how important it is to make sure you update your Facebook timeline with unique, timely, and relevant content to the user. And, for large enterprises struggling to engage with individuals across social, the key lies in unlocking the power of local.
Feel free to share in the comments any trends you’ve noticed on your own social media pages! And be sure to download the Mainstay report, The Power of Going Local: Comparing the Impact of Corporate vs. Local Facebook Pages.