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Are you helping or hurting your natural brand on social media?

Are you helping or hurting your natural brand on social media?
It's every social media manager's dream to boost their brand's reach overnight, but few social media campaigns deliver those statistics. If it's not your brand, could it be your message? In fact, could you unknowingly be alienating your audience on Facebook or Twitter?

Gail Davis, the social media community administrator for So Delicious Dairy Free, knows a thing or two about keeping fans happy. Under her management, Facebook analytics show 75 percent fan engagement on the brand's page (50 percent fan engagement is considered an excellent benchmark). So Delicious serves passionate fans coping with various food sensitivities by sharing recipes. Some of the recipes they post get 1,000 clicks. 

But it was what happened this time last year that's so remarkable for the brand. In March 2011, So Delicious Dairy Free saw a huge boost in their social media following, surging from 5,000 Facebook fans to 70,000. How did they do it? At Natural Products Expo West, Jillian Michaels helped the brand run a social media program called So Delicious 100 Days of Change, which gave away a prize every day for 100 days.

The program, created by Sterling-Rice Group in Boulder, Colo., allowed Jillian Michaels to promote the contest to her roughly one million fans. What’s truly remarkable about this campaign is that So Delicious experienced no attrition once the contest ended in May 2011. In fact, when they thought their program peaked at 50,000 fans, they soon gained an additional 20,000 fans without any promotions.

Besides promoting their brand and growing their customer base, Facebook and Twitter have become an enormous customer service tool as well. Here, Davis shares some of her observations and lessons learned as a successful social media administrator.

newhope360: What are some bad practices in social media that could hurt my brand? 

Gail Davis: Veering away from the attitude that the customer is always right. There used to be a time when customer service was handled privately via a toll-free telephone line, and customers could count on being treated as though they are valued and their concerns really matter. This is no longer the case. Great customer service is becoming a lost art.

People no longer have the expectation of being treated fairly and respectfully, and as a result, more and more frustrated customers are voicing their complaints publicly via social media. But you simply cannot get snarky or difficult with a customer complaint. You can take complaints offline and converse more privately but always need to remember that any customer at any time can return to the public forum. I believe in treating customers the way I would wish to be treated. So it is important to always handle customer comments and complaints with thoughtfulness and grace.

newhope360: What are examples of tweets or Facebook posts that could provoke ill-will in an online community?

GD: We have to be very aware of the different reasons people come to be fans and consumers of our brand. Some arrive because they are lactose intolerant, others are vegan, others have allergies, others have a family member with a food sensitivity, and others simply love the taste.

But we have to stay true to our heritage. Our products are always vegan—which means that all of our ingredients are always plant based. We recognize that many of our fans may have dairy restrictions but are not restricted in other areas of their diets, so many eat meat. We view vegan eating as all-inclusive–in other words, all of our fans can (and do!) eat plant-based foods.

But not all of our fans will eat foods made with animal products, and many would find photos or recipes with animal products offensive. (On the other hand, we've yet to encounter anyone who was offended by a fruit, nut, or vegetable-based dish!) So we never post recipes unless they are vegan. We allow our fans to share recipes that are not vegan, but we only promote plant-based foods and recipes.

newhope360: What are the fastest ways to lose followers, fans and friends?

GD: Promoting yourself all the time. I heard this once and it is so true. Nobody wants to talk to the guy at the cocktail party who talks all about himself all the time. You would walk away from that guy at a party.

Well, walking away from a company that talks about themselves all the time is really easy to do on the Internet. There used to be an 80/20 rule—share cool, interesting, provocative content 80 percent of the time and share promotions and company info 20 percent of the time. I think that is really 90/10 now. Know your audience and what gets them excited and share information like you are their friend. Engage them. Ask them questions. Find your brand personality and voice. If your brand has a sense of humor, then show that online.

Join Gail Davis for the Natural Products Expo West education session, “Boundaries in Social Media: Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts” on Thursday, March 8 at the Anaheim Marriott, Platinum Ballroom 6.

More Natural Products Expo West coverage

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