In their words, with Crimson Hexagon’s Sarah Loeb

A few weeks ago, Sarah Loeb, Marketing Programs Specialist at Crimson Hexagon, published a blog post analyzing the social media buzz around the recent launch of the Keurig 2.0 brewer, noting that Keurig’s House Party campaign was the largest single driver of digital conversations about the brewer. We later sat down with Sarah to discuss those findings.

 

For those unfamiliar with Crimson Hexagon, can you explain what you do?

Crimson Hexagon is a social media analytics company. Powered by patented technology and an in-house data library of more than 500 billion posts, our ForSight™ platform delivers the industry’s deepest and most actionable insights from social media data to global brands like Starbucks, Microsoft and Paramount Pictures and leading agencies like Crispin Porter and Bogusky, Droga5, HUGE and We Are Social.Marketers and market researchers using our platform can analyze owned and earned media for competitive analysis, campaign benchmarking, brand reputation and crisis management, creative planning and strategic insights.

 

What changes have you seen in the way brands approach social media over the past few years, and what does that tell you about the future of such engagement?

We like to refer to social media as the largest set of unsolicited consumer opinions. Social media is the virtual water cooler; it’s a place where friends, colleagues and strangers discuss their days, their problems and the products they use. Social media makes it easy for a consumer to ask companies questions, request new features and air complaints — it’s a focus group that you didn’t invest in organizing. As social media use grows and technology evolves, brands’ ability to listen — by accessing, interpreting and affecting the word-of-mouth conversations happening on social media — will increasingly impact their success.

The future of social marketing follows a similar narrative. Brands are increasingly turning to influencers and advocates to help them share their messaging. We know that people turn to their friends and family for recommendations and advice (and even trust strangers more than companies); as more and more conversations occur online, those voices will become more powerful than ever.

In the next few years, social-marketing technology will continue to evolve to meet the need to identify, speak to and track the people with whom a brand chooses to engage (influencers and advocates) and those who choose to engage with the company (all constituents). So many marketers are already going beyond basic social media uses, like listening for owned analysis and basic consumer sentiment, and are customizing their analyses for specific business questions that yield actionable insights. At Crimson Hexagon, this means researching niche groups through precise custom segments and adding new content sources so users can analyze more online conversations. (For example, a recent blog post looks at how influencers shaped the climate-change debate.)

 

Here’s a basic question: why should brands care about word-of-mouth marketing (whether it’s online or offline)? What does it offer that they can’t get from traditional marketing tactics?

Word of mouth (WOM) is incredibly impactful as part of the larger marketing mix. A recent study from WOMMA, for instance, found that WOM is responsible for 1/3 of all of marketing’s impact on sales, driving $6 billion in annual spending.

WOM offers the credibility of people you know; it carries more weight because it feels authentic. It’s powerful because it comes from real people, not directly from a brand-orchestrated ad.

Simply put, brands should care about WOM for one reason: it works.

 

In your recent blog post analyzing the conversation around the new Keurig 2.0 brewer, you noted that Keurig’s House Party campaign alone generated more positive posts “than all neutral and negative posts [about the product launch] combined.” From your perspective, what value does advocacy marketing offer brands when it comes to driving and shaping conversation around a product?

Advocacy marketing can be as good as the effort you put into it. If you “shoot before you aim” as a friend once told me, your ROI may not be in the green. However, if you discover advocates who genuinely support your product and make them feel like part of your team, they can be powerful instruments for your brand. If you reach out to individuals who already like your product or company — and treat them well — they’ll feel valued and want to work on your behalf. Our Keurig case study is a perfect example of that.

 

If brands really want to drive authentic engagement in social media, what’s one thing they should be doing differently than they are today?  

Honesty, transparency and authenticity are fundamental. It has never been easier, or more important, to listen to customers and respond to their needs. Brands need to be genuine in their messaging and actions; they need to provide valuable, tangible benefits to those who agree to work with them; and they need to explain the rationale behind their business decisions whenever there is change.