Social Media Analysis
Snow Sports Brands are Digging Deeper into the Numbers
Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak, Lkdcom@visi.com
Social media platforms have become an integral part of many snow sports brands’ marketing efforts. Facebook reports that more than 1.1 billion people post on the site every month. According to eMarketer, Twitter users post 55 million messages every day. “Social media is here and not going away. The exciting thing is watching how the platforms evolve. There are always new things happening every day,” reports Ashley Williams, VP Marketing, Amer Sports Americas.
Ski equipment and apparel brands have used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest marketing initiatives to build communities, create brand champions and drive e-commerce sales. The North Face has attracted more than 3 million Facebook fans that follow the activities of more than 70 sponsored athletes and 15 expeditions in the field. “Social media plays a critical role for us. It’s a medium we can use real time,” says Aaron Carpenter, VP Marketing, The North Face. “Social media provides a window into the lives of our athletes. YouTube allows us to show a three-dimensional view of the lives of our athletes and expeditions.”
As social media has evolved, brand managers have become more interested in determining the effectiveness of these online marketing tools. Analytical tools from Google, Facebook, Twitter and other sources deliver quantitative measures like audience size and page views. But measuring success by the number of “likes” is no longer enough to justify the expense of managing online marketing. While raw numbers are important, managers are looking for deeper insights.
“Brands will pay a lot of attention to creating the messages they want to tell but give very little attention to what messages their community wants to hear,” reports Kristel Hayes, founder of Mesh Marketing Creative Group, LLC, and Community Manager Social Media strategist, Buff, Inc. “Analytics can really provide insights about what your community wants. Analytics is the first step, then strategy, then posting.”
Williams notes, “Engagement is key for us. It’s less about size of audience. Our interest is really about how much engagement is going on. How many people are commenting or sharing our information?”
Since snow sports retailers are also seeing success with social media communications, platform tools are helping them compare investments in print and online advertising. Tracy Gibbons, co-owner & COO, Sturtevant’s uses Google Analytics to monitor and track website traffic. “We were investing $1,000 to run a 3×5 ad in local newspaper. What is that getting me?
As the Internet has become more intertwined in the lives of outdoor enthusiasts, brands are becoming more aware of the need to monitor what consumers are saying about their products across a broader spectrum of online sources. The quality of comments is becoming even more important than the quantity.
Although The North Face pays close attention platform analytics, the numbers don’t tell a complete story. “A lot of the built-in tools in platforms like Facebook don’t take into consideration sentiment and context. That’s the tough part with social media because we need to factor that in,” explains Carpenter. ‘If you are seeing negatives you have to understand what is driving that. Is it a public relations, marketing or product issue?’
Channel Signal is a social media reporting and analytics platform that delivers insight and analysis on what consumers are saying about brands and products online. Carson Stanwood, chief operating officer Channel Signal explains, “Consumers are writing online, right now, about what they want, what they bought, and how it’s working. They’re praising and complaining about brands, products, events and causes, including yours, on Twitter, blogs, product reviews, chat rooms and Facebook. We collect, aggregate, organize and analyze online consumer conversations. This creates an opportunity to gather these direct, unfiltered opinions and learn what your customers want.”
“Channel Signal allows us to see how our messages are resonating with our audiences. The reports gives us an indication what’s happening the online world,” notes Williams. “You have to take this information into consideration. That feedback ultimately helps you shape your marketing strategy.”
Hayes notes, “More and more brands are engaging with this kind of analytic information. Brands see how that affects what they are doing and how social media marketing evolves. This information is something brands should spend more time studying.”
In addition to social media postings, comments about brands come from forum posts, reviews from media, retailers and consumers. Channel Signal collects these opinions, sorts them, tags them, identifies their source and notes whether the consumer comment is positive, negative or neutral. “Then, we analyze the trends in easily understandable briefs that outline what’s driving the consumer buying decision,” explains Stanwood. “These conversations are full of valuable information for departments throughout your organization: sales, marketing, product development, customer service, research and strategic planning, but until now, gathering and especially analyzing those conversations has been difficult and expensive for companies.”
Channel Signal is now collecting over 3 million posts a month from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, reddit, Flickr and other sites. New tools like geo-location, commenter Klout scores and online comments in 140 languages are in place.
Carpenter adds, “Channel Signal scours the web and looks at how many times our brand is mentioned and in what context. It’s a combination of digital tools and a filter of human eyeballs.”
In general, social media platform analytics tracked what’s happened in the recent past. With more qualitative information like that provided by Channel Signal, brand managers are using the information to uncover emerging trends. Channel Signal serves as an online early warning mechanism so we can spot trends in the market that are specific to our brands,” reports Williams. “We pour over the monthly reports and react accordingly. Tools like Channel Signal can help brands stay on the forefront to spot trends and taking them into consideration for developing strategy.”
As social media platforms become a more important part of a brand’s marketing communications strategy, measuring the influence and effectiveness of online initiatives will help shape the way messages are created.
“New ideas for measuring these tools seem to pop-up every week,” notes Hayes. “With existing tools we can examine where people are going when they visit the site. We can understand what people find interesting and what are they engaging with the most. If it’s working, do more of that. If it’s not, let’s get rid of it.”
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples. Lou Dzierzak has written about these topics for over a decade. Best Practices will shorten the learning curve by offering case studies, resources and how-to tips from experts in specific fields. If you have suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact Lou at Lkdcom@visi.com.