Commentary: Social Media Part 2: Devices and their virture

If you've read part 1 of this series, you'll probably remember the picture I drew of the typical social media user: A woman, middle-age or approaching it, middle income, with at least some college education. You may also remember my pointing out that this is just the statistical picture, and that there's much more to this user than hard data suggests.

The emotional profile of the social media user is even more telling than the demographic. It is the why, when, wherefore and how much — the factors that reveal your customer's attachment to the brand. And it is the information you should be most focused on mining through social media, as it can tell you how to create, reinforce or reinvigorate brand loyalty.

So, you ask, why does it matter which devices customers use to access social media? The answer, dear reader, is immediacy.

In the beginning, social media users primarily used home computers to access sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and even Twitter. When these sites were just beginning to catch on around 2008 only one in 10 Americans had a smartphone.

So, say that your feature phone using-customer of 2008 discovers one day that your restaurant offers kids meals for a buck.

She wants to share this information with her network of friends, lots of whom have small children. But she won't have access to her home PC and Facebook account for hours. First she has to finish her shopping, pick up the kids from soccer practice, drive everybody home, put away the groceries before the ice cream melts and figure out what's for dinner. Then she might post the news on Facebook assuming that a) she remembers it; and b) she's still really excited about it.

Consider this same customer today. Now she counts as one of the 42 percent of Americans (according to the FCC) who own a smartphone. Nielson estimates that half of Americans will have one by Christmas of this year, and this number does not figure in broadband enabled tablets such as the iPad.

This customer stops by for workday lunch and notices your kids meal deal. In her excitement, she whips out her HTC Evo 3D, fires up the Facebook app, goes to "Places" and checks in at your restaurant.

Before hitting "Send" she adds the comment "OMG!!!! Bugtussle Burritos has $1 kids meals! How cool is that?" Within one minute of her discovery, this customer has shared her heightened brand enthusiasm with her 1,300 Facebook friends, many of whom will repost the good news in order to share it with their networks.

Still awash with enthusiasm, your customer might then decide to check out the Bugtussle Burritos Facebook page. She clicks "Like" at the top of the page and is added to your list of raving fans. While there, she sees the banner ad for your points program and decides she should sign up for that. Still using her smartphone, she goes to your mobile website and enters her name and email address on the loyalty program page.

Once registration is complete, up pops a thank-you and a note that she will shortly receive a coupon code for a free dessert via e-mail. She opens the e-mail program on her smartphone and sure enough, there's the bar code.

All she has to do is go back to the counter, choose her dessert (using your mobile website calorie listing, which she accessed by scanning the QR code on your four-walls poster about calorie counts) and let the cashier scan the bar code right from her phone.

While enjoying her dessert, she returns to your Facebook page to post on your wall. "Wow, free lo-cal dessert just for signing up for the Bugtussle Neato-Burrito program! You guys are awesome!" A conversation ensues among Bugtussle friends in which they discuss why they love your concept. This yields qualitative information you can use to shape future programs, offers and brand studies.

So, in one tidy sweep you have:

  • Advertised your kids meal.
  • Gotten your brand in front of thousands of pairs of eyes ... in the form of an invaluable customer endorsement.
  • Added a new direct email address to your database.
  • Created a new brand ambassador.Boosted enthusiasm among current fans.
  • And advertised your lo-calorie desserts.

That's what I'm talkin' about.

But beware -- because the same thing that can work for you can also work against you: Say your customer is in line at the counter and using the video camera on her smartphone, records one of your employees repeatedly wiping his nose on the back of his hand while rolling burritos. This image goes viral on Facebook. Then on YouTube, then on Leno. How do you deal with that?

Find out in a couple weeks when Part 3 of my series is posted.

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