Social media is a great way to promote your business, engage directly with your customers and boost sales. An increasing number of your current and potential Canadian customers have accounts on a number of platforms, especially Generation Y and millennials, yet around half of Canadian businesses are reluctant to exploit this popular medium as part of their marketing mix. Follow the example of some of Canada’s fastest-growing companies that have fully embraced social media to reach their target audience and turn individuals into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.
Mini Mioche: Targeting the Influencers
Alyssa Kerbel, CEO of Toronto-based clothing retailer Mini Mioche, almost doubled sales to her U.S. customers by exploiting Instagram. She noticed that a Mini Mioche cap sold out online immediately after an influential photographer shared an image of his young son sporting the cap to his 60,000 followers. By offering free clothing to influential parent bloggers and users of Instagram in return for them posting images of their kids wearing the products, she was able to reach a greater target audience. Kerbel quickly realized that people trust and believe in other people rather than a company’s hard sell.
While some business managers fear that social media can be time-consuming, Kerbel estimates that she and her social media manager spend around six hours each week searching through Instagram feeds to find people with the style and attitude that best match their company’s ethos. This relatively small investment brings about excellent returns.
Kerbel’s understanding of social media is comparatively rare among Canada’s CEOs. Nearly half of all Canada’s top CEOs have no social media presence, and of the 53 percent who do have a social media account, only 16 percent use two or more social networks. With such a lack of engagement from the top, it’s no wonder that some marketers are wary of fully embracing this form of marketing.
Sports Systems: Telling a Story With Video
Jeff Hurrle is the vice president and general manager of Sports Systems, a company that builds and installs sport equipment. Hurrle found that posting videos on Facebook and YouTube was key to growing sales leads. Aware that the younger generation is more likely to engage and interact with video and live streaming, Hurrle focused his social media strategy on posting videos produced in-house, both professionally and filmed on cheaper cameras or phones. For example, his time-lapse video of building the grandstand at Ottawa’s Carleton University which he filmed on an inexpensive camera encouraged a large number of requests for quotes.
Hurrle’s successful use of social media demonstrates that you don’t need to invest much money in equipment or specialists to run your own campaigns. Social media accounts are free, and he films and uploads videos using phones and inexpensive cameras.
Molson Coors Canada: Promoting National Pride
Molson Coors Canada regularly features in annual lists of top Canadian social media campaigns. Its award-winning campaigns combine the effective use of video with a sense of national pride. Its video featuring branded beer fridges left in random locations across Europe that dispensed free beer to anyone opening them with a Canadian passport added around $6 million to the company’s bottom line without any increase in marketing budget. Savvy marketers successfully tapped into the growing sense of national pride emerging in Canada and topped this with the feel-good factor of getting something for free.
Supplement King, Canada: The Soft Sell
Roger King, president of Supplement King Canada, was keen to avoid using hard sales tactics on social media. He developed a relationship with followers by encouraging them to share their fitness goals, offering valuable advice and information such as recipes and exercise videos that helped to showcase the products subtly. By engaging with followers and using the soft-sell approach, his company became a trusted brand, and customer loyalty grew along with sales.
WestJet: The Feel-Good Factor
Low-cost Canadian airline WestJet boosted its popularity with a feel-good Christmas marketing campaign that went viral in 2016. WestJet’s video showed highlights of a huge party it arranged for the people of McMurray, who had suffered a devastating wildfire that year. Families enjoyed food, drinks, entertainment, and gifts, including free flights. There was no attempt to sell anything other than the company’s good name and reputation, but people buy into an ethos and a culture. With so much choice in terms of air travel, a mom is more likely to entrust her family to flying with a caring carrier such as WestJet.
With these and other success stories, you might wonder why some Canadian small businesses continue missing the social media boat. In addition to the lack of support from many CEOs and concerns about the added costs of time and resources, there’s still a general lack of understanding about social media. Many entrepreneurs believe it’s primarily a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and they prefer to use traditional marketing methods. They have yet to appreciate the business advantage gained by engaging with current and potential customers online, finding out what they want and need. They may also be unaware of the readily available free tools and insights to help track and analyze followers, and evaluate the success of a social media campaigns in terms of engagement and sales.
Social media is the key method through which people connect, communicate, learn, and share information. Generation Y and millennials in particular are prolific users of the various platforms and are also the group with the main spending power over the coming years. As successful companies show, making social media a key part of your marketing strategy is essential for survival in a competitive business world, turning followers into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.