By now, regardless of industry, your company should probably have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. These profiles serve as reference points that anyone can use to find out valuable information about your business and for customer service. But as more and more businesses turn to social media for other purposes, from sales to hiring, they may need to look beyond Facebook and Twitter to connect with their core audiences.
Every business is different and even companies in the same industry might need to take a different approach on social media. But we’ve taken a broad look at major industry verticals, their audiences and goals, and have identified one social network organizations in each industry should be investing time and effort into this year.
Retailers already love Instagram. The visual social network offers them an opportunity to showcase their products in a place where shots of clothing, electronics and other retail items are the norm. Retailers did not have to fight to fit in on Instagram quite as much as they did on Twitter or Facebook; their focus on products made the photo sharing app a much more natural fit. The mobile nature of Instagram also made the social network a much easier option for smaller retailers. People on Instagram are more ready to accept photos taken from a phone or taken on the fly than they are when they’re looking at your website for example. The acceptance of lower quality means there’s a lower barrier of entry of small brands.
So if most retailers are already on Instagram, why should they focus on the social network in 2015? For this, we turn to Ikea.
In June of last year, the furniture giant’s Russian branch partnered up with an ad agency for an Instagram campaign that blew the doors of traditional retail applications of the app. Ikea launched its new PS 2014 collection using Instagram as a website. Stay with me here. If you follow ikea_ps_2014 on your Instagram mobile app, you’ll see only 12 images. Twelve images don’t make for an active account, but this campaign is far more strategic. Six of the 12 photos are represent categories of products, like benches and lights, with each item in the PS 2014 collection contained in the corresponding image. If you click on one of these images, you’ll notice that each of the products is ‘tagged.’ Clicking a tag will bring you to individual Instagram accounts for each lighting fixture, carpet or side table. Once there, you can see more photos of the product in question and get inspired on how to work it into your home decor. You can also click through to their actual website to buy it.
While this might sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple. Ikea turned Instagram into an interactive, mobile catalogue. Each product is showcased on its own account, where it can also be purchased. This innovative campaign took Instagram beyond the norm for retailers using the app. While so many businesses use Instagram to showcase their products, very few can actually say they tied their Instagram activity directly to sales. This is where retailers should focus in 2015.
Retailers should continue to highlight their products by regularly posting photos to Instagram. They should be active in joining popular hashtags and perhaps consider creating their own campaigns in order to encourage user-generated content (see Herschel Supply Co’s #WellTravelled campaign for inspiration). But all of your efforts should be tied back to your larger business goal of selling your product. Link to your online store in photo captions, and use links that are being tracked by Salesforce or another tool. This will allow you to see how many sales you’re generating through Instagram. It will also help you see what types of photos result in more sales. Consider offering people who participate in your Instagram campaigns discount codes. You can track the use of those codes to see if the campaigns drive sales as they drive brand awareness. Finally, keep your ear to the ground around Instagram advertising in 2015. As they begin to open up these tools to the public, they could present a fantastic opportunity to widen your Instagram audience.
Manufacturing is generally not a public-facing industry, which raises questions as to why these businesses should be on social media at all. Obviously being on B2B networks like LinkedIn can help them find and connect with prospects or clients, but should manufacturers really be on other social networks. We believe the answer to that is yes, and for one main reason: transparency.
People like to know where and how the products they use are made. It helps them in their buying decisions and alleviates any concerns they might have about the quality of the product or the labour conditions of those making it.
YouTube presents manufacturers with a major opportunity in meeting these expectations. Video is the best medium for showing processes, which is at the heart of manufacturing. Where YouTube is also advantageous is in the lesser expectation for regular posting. While YouTube is a social network like any other, and certain users expect regular updates for the accounts they follow, it is also a massive search engine. In the case of manufacturing, people don’t need to consistently see how products are being made. Usually they research it one time and are satisfied. In other words, manufacturers can post a small number of videos which have a long lifecycle, and only need to be updated as the production process changes.
This year, manufacturers should consider creating YouTube videos which illustrate the production process of their products. These videos are an investment, but will pay off in consumer confidence and social proof. Done right, this style of video can be very entertaining as well. Just look to How It’s Made for inspiration. Their popular show has also attracted 131,000 YouTube followers.
Media and entertainment
To say that the media and entertainment industry is undergoing major shifts might be an understatement. People are slowly but surely rejecting cable. The film industry had a terrible 2014. And every time they take down the Pirate Bay, hundreds of clones pop up. Businesses in the media and entertainment industry need to think outside of the box, because the status quo just isn’t working. And there are very few social networks more out of the box than Snapchat.
In a widely circulated post on how teenagers actually use social media, college student Andrew Watts wrote that Snapchat was “quickly becoming the most used social network” among his peers — a very important audience for this vertical. As to why it’s so popular, he highlighted the lack of social pressure, since you’re not constantly striving for likes or comments on everything you post. That same approach can easily be applied to a business. Imagine working on campaigns where you don’t have to worry about likes or metrics. The success of a Snapchat campaign is really in the buzz it creates, and media and entertainment brands can create more buzz than just about anyone.
To promote their new season, hit TV show Pretty Little Liars paired up with Audi to share exclusive content with Snapchat users. Audi sent out behind the scenes footage and bonus content from the show’s stars in real-time during the premiere. This campaign acted as a second screen, and another incentive for fans to watch the premiere.
Incentives are important, especially on a more intimate social network like Snapchat. The Montreal Canadiens use Snapchat to connect with fans of the hockey team residing in other cities using incentives. They snap a photo of a certain location to followers and anyone that finds them before the game is given certain team-related prizes. This type of “scavenger hunt” model can be replicated by most entertainment brands.
the ouija thing on snapchat makes me want to see that movie SO BAD someone come w
— Farah Alkurdy (@Farah_alkurdy) October 18, 2014
Healthcare, finance and other regulated industries
When you work in healthcare or finance, you’re far more restricted in how you interact with your clients or consumers than in most other industries. From compliances to privacy issues, these restrictions affect your ability to simply jump on tech trends and participate as many other industries might.
With that in mind, more and more social networks are emerging that are specifically catered to the needs of regulated industries, and the regular people that interact with them. In healthcare, for example, seniors can join Connected Living, a private social network available through seniors homes and assisted living institutions. Breast cancer patients can join CureDiva in order to connect with other patients and survivors and shop for products that meet their needs. Meanwhile, health care professionals can use a service like Doximity to network and connect with colleagues and also send secure faxes and reports.
The same type of catered social network has emerged for financial services. Take StockTwits, a communications platform for the finance and investing community. The social network allows you to organize streams of informations on stocks and markets and garner insights used by investors and analysts. This information contained in these streams comes from the users themselves, who include investors and public companies.
All this to say, professionals in healthcare, finance and other regulated industries have a growing number of options when it comes to social media. This year, find the social network that caters to your needs and see what opportunities it provides your business.
Last June, the CIA joined Twitter. So far they’ve even done a good job of it, posting interesting imagery and using humor where appropriate. If the CIA is on Twitter, there’s no longer any denying the place of government bodies on social media. And many bodies have recognized the power of social, especially in using Facebook and Twitter to broadcast important information to the public.
So where should government organizations focus on in 2015? Why not Instagram? Instagram is an opportunity for government bodies to connect with young voters and non-voters. Presenting government news in a visual way is a smart way to add appeal and potentially attract a new audience. Imagine a small town government promoting local events with well shot Instagram photos, or a public transit organization sharing information about delays with weather photos. Instagram will force governments to get creative, which is a positive thing.
The US Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is actually one of the best sources of inspiration for this purpose. The body in charge of airport security is using Instagram to prove that there’s a good reason they scan all of our bags. Their feed is a gallery of weapons, drugs and other items people have tried (and failed) to get past security. These range from the friendly fireworks of your childhood to live grenades and batarangs! This odd assembling of objects has earned the TSA over 200,000 Instagram followers and counting.
Whatever comes next.
This might seem like a cop out, but hear me out. Unlike other verticals, in tech there’s an expectation among tech-savvy consumers that these businesses will be on top of tech trends, and consequently social media trends. If you work in technology, you should be on top of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even Instagram and Pinterest, because this is where your main consumer groups are active.
And this expectation doesn’t just apply to the popular consumer tech companies like Apple or Amazon. Look at General Electric. A big brand, for sure, but one more known for jet engines and fridges than anything teens might be interested in buying. GE is without questions one of the best brands on social media. In the past few years they jumped on new social networks rapidly and with commitment, quickly becoming one of the most popular brands on both Vine and Instagram.
The success of GE on these emerging networks is the perfect testament as to why tech companies should strive to jump on whatever comes next in social media. In doing so, you not only connect with the tech-savvy consumers who jump on these trends, you also emerge as a leader in the industry. Don’t brush off the next Snapchat or YikYak. Embrace it. It might not amount to anything, or it might become your next major source of marketing opportunities and leads. That’s a risk worth taking.