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Get on the social media train … or get left behind

Following a meeting at the Facebook headquarters in California, Joe Stradinger sat down at his computer and implemented a new feature called Facebook Stories to the Viking Range fan page.

Following a meeting at the Facebook headquarters in California, Joe Stradinger sat down at his computer and made a small change to Viking’s use of feature called Facebook Stories.

Four days later, Viking had added more than 6,000 fans. At press time the company’s total Facebook following totaled more than 140,000. Not bad. Even better if you know they had about 1,000 fans less than a year ago.

Stradinger is Viking’s digital and social media strategy consultant. He is a Mississippi native and has been a serial entrepreneur since 1998, when he co-founded Musicforce.com, a contemporary Christian music store, that was later bought by Gaylord Entertainment for $30 million.

Stradinger preaches that all businesses need to “jump in” to social media, which includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Quora, blogs and other platforms, to stay viable.

“There’s a huge gap between the fast, changing world and CEOs and business leaders who only know what they know,” Stradinger said. “They have a full-time job, and they’re extrapolating by default their own behavior in making decisions for their business. The worst thing you can do is extrapolate your own behavior to make decisions today. …Businesses, I believe, as fast as it is going, if they don’t have someone focused in their business on just monitoring the fast-paced world, they’re going to be lost. They won’t exist.”

Trip to Facebook

Stradinger walked in the door at Facebook and instantly was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But he said it was just what he expected: Hundreds of young people, hip office. The lunch line consisted of “10 chefs giving you filets. Not kidding. I had a filet.”

“It was fascinating just to hear all the new things they’re doing. Both with Invovler (a certified Facebook developer) and with Facebook, what we’ve done at Viking has been just right on. They’re looking at using Viking as a case study, which is huge. We’re using certain features that very few people are using right now, like Facebook Stories,” Stradinger said.

Facebook ads allow a business to target people, for example, who live in a certain city, are 55 years old and female who like a certain kind of food. An ad will appear on the consumers’ page, but they have to option to opt out, or kill, the ad.

With Facebook Stories, “you can’t opt out of it. And it just says: ‘(Your friend’s name) likes Viking. You like it, too.’ So the story is that you like Viking, and that goes only to the existing fans. So there’s 140,000 stories going on, and that just grows virally. We made one small change to our Facebook Stories strategy on Saturday morning (Feb. 19). We’ve gotten 6,000 fans (Feb. 22) since Saturday morning,” Stradinger said.

Studies have shown that four-to-one, if a person’s friend likes a brand, that person will like it, too.

Modern marketing means engagement – with instant results

“What social media allows you to do is meet people where they are and to have a conversation. This is the first time you can have a conversation like no conversation you’ve ever been able to have before with a consumer,” Stradinger said.

“You’ve got to look at return on investment also as engagement as a metric. The goal is to get them to buy, but you’ve got to first start with conversation. The more that people are conversing, the more that people are engaged, the more people are going to be loyal, and the more people are going to buy.

“And there’s no better way to do it than with Facebook, Twitter, Quora, blogs. As a marketer, it’s way different than what you’re used to. But the key word for driving any business today is agility. It’s not speed and cost, it’s agility. And there is no other way to be agile than to engage in social media.

“I wake up every morning and see the results every day of what happened the day before. So I know when I look at my tool box – my Facebook tool, my Twitter tool, my YouTube tool, my Quora tool, my podcast, my blog tool – every morning I know what tool worked the best.

“I don’t have to wait for some print ad in third quarter to get results from my media buyer when I buy it all myself,” Stradinger said.

“At Viking we’ve got 140,000 people, 140,000 evangelists, that are a great focus group. We can ask them fun things, like, ‘What do you like on your biscuit?’ and get 400 responses. No lie. If we ask any question, we can get on average several hundred comments – not likes – we get people who write a comment to what LeAnne says.”

LeAnne is LeAnne Gault, Viking’s social media manager, and Stradinger is highly complimentary of her messaging ability.

Gault started out at Viking a couple years ago in public relations. Social media was just supposed to be a small part of her job.

“It’s 24/7. I always have my phone on me I’m always checking on it,” Gault said. “I love it. I love the people on the Facebook page. I love the recipes they share and the photographs. One of the guys on the Facebook page sent me some jerk seasonsing. So I made the jerk chicken and posted the pictures. He loved it.”
Gault understands “It’s about building relationships, too. It’s not just about commercials.”

“Viking was a closed brand before. We were up on a pedestal and just pumped out information. On Facebook we can deal directly with our customers. Every day people are identifying themselves as Viking owners and posting pictures of their kitchens. … We’re a lifestyle company, and that is more evident on the Facebook page than anywhere else because of the conversations. People want to be heard,” she said.

On the direct sales end, she uses Twitter to get the word out about special offers, like discounts on culinary products, the Facebook ad contest or the rebate program.

Facebook fans recognize Gault’s efforts. Lisa Laurito Jezek made this wall post: “Holy smokes! Who is doing this? You’re making your facebook wall all friendly, personable, and engaging! This marketing technique is brilliant! I actually like having you as a ‘friend’ and I own nothing Viking. Good work.”

Gault’s witty response: “Thanks so much, Lisa! You are welcome to praise me anytime!”

Marketing studies have shown that when someone like Jezek does decide to buy, she will be more likely to buy from Viking.

User-generated content

A way to increase web hits is to add videos. Not only will homemade videos do, they’re actually better. Viking has done this on its Facebook page with the “Viking Life” tab, where fans are invited to share their passion for cooking by uploading photos, videos or recipes for the chance to be featured in an upcoming Viking ad.

Users can watch fellow fans’ homemade videos about their favorite recipes and how they like to cook with their Viking ranges.

“At the end of the day, people want real, raw content. People want to see what a real person does when they go to a bank, they want to see a real person who cooks in their kitchen on a Viking Range…. That’s so powerful, that user-generated content. It’s free, by the way,” Stradinger said.

His favorite example of user-generated content is the success of 23-year-old art student Michelle Phan, who became a YouTube sensation by creating videos of herself putting on makeup using iMovie on a MacBook Pro.

Phan was hired by Lancôme in February 2010 to be the brand’s first-ever video makeup artist. According to the company, Phan’s how-to videos have been viewed more than 100 million times, and she has more than 750,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel.

Fewer people are going to visit your dot com directly

Websites used to be the main online presence for companies. Today, they’re still important, but few people still visit them directly.

In 2007, 30 percent of all online traffic was accounted for on 10 different websites, like Google, YouTube and Facebook, among others. In 2010, over 75 percent of all traffic went through the top 10 sites.

“What that tells you as a marketer: Fewer people are going to come to your dot com through the front door. You have to meet people where they are. So you need to go to those 10 sites. You need to have a presence on Facebook. Bottom line,” Stradinger said. “So you’ll still have a website, and it’s still a hub of information. But people aren’t going to come through that front door. They’re going to come in from another place.”


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About Amy McCullough


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