Archive | February 2012

General Mills Socializing Social Media

General Mills has world-renowned brands including Betty Crocker, Cheerios, Gold Medal, Haagen-Dazs, Pillsbury, Totino’s, Yoplait, and much more. Their brands include ready-to-eat cereal, refrigerated yogurt, frozen vegetables, Mexican aisle products, grain snacks, ready-to-serve soup, dry packaged dinners, refrigerated dough, dessert mixes, frozen hot snacks, and fruit snacks. Each of those ranking number one or two in the US Retail market (General Mills Inc., 2011). With world-renowned brands however, General Mills must live up to the standards of quality all consumers expect of the brands. That now includes communicating to consumers through social media. It was difficult to find an exact list of what type of social media sites General Mills uses, but from my research, I found they use Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, and a General Mills blog.

  • Twitter included thanking people involved in events and for support, as well as post on food trends and staying healthy.
  • YouTube includes interviews and videos promoting products such as Wheaties.
  • LinkedIn is used for networking with business professionals at General Mills.
  • Flickr includes pictures of new designs for their products, events and promotions where General Mills was a sponsor.
  • General Mills blog includes nutrition and health trends, events, company innovations, information about the company, and much more.

As with any company, switching to social media and having to think about marketing on there is always a struggle, but the important thing is to have a presence online where consumers can communicate easily and efficiently with a company. Last year, Mark Addicks, Chief Marketing Officer for General Mills, sat down for an interview with Minnesota Public Radio and spoke about social media marketing. Here is what he had to say: “And so one of the things that you really need to do is let go and really encourage your marketers and your teams to go out, it’s a social atmosphere, and experiment. Learn quickly. The great thing is, they can now raise their hand. They can give you really instant feedback. They can volunteer and help you, which they couldn’t before” (Hobson, 2011). “One way General Mills gets the conversation going is by saying to consumers, here’s why we created this product, here’s how we think it works, tell us what you think.  Feedback can be in different forms, including video, and the ensuing dialogue provides rich insights for the product developers and food experts” (The Social Media Soapbox, 2009).

“To help track what consumers say about its products on social media websites and blogs”, General Mills hired an Atlanta, Georgia based company, Sentiment360 (Beasley, 2010). They look at what the trend is, how they’re doing against the broader competitions, and even how they’re doing with the category. They try to find answers by looking through social media sites. They even introduced a product, Fiber One Bars, specifically through social media without any advertising in traditional media and it was a success. The success of which was measured through sales. “And what was beautiful about this was that there really wasn’t anything else and we could actually track the daily sales to some of the postings that people had done” (Hobson, 2011). There was in fact, a nearly exact correlation between online postings and sales of Fiber One Bars. The chart below shows this. “It’s the kind of chart you can take to management to prove the value of consumer participation in the development and launch of products through social media tools” (The Social Media Soapbox, 2009).

In today’s world, it seems that you must have a presence online, but also use social media tools appropriately by communicating with consumers. And in turn, you must be able to measure and track social media sites in able to measure the success of social media marketing. It seems as if General Mills has a pretty good thing going for them when it comes to social media. They not only have world-renowned products, but they’re also gaining success by being online.

What kind of social media presence have you noticed from General Mills? Do their presence online make a difference for you when choosing brands?

 

Beasley, D. (2010, June 14). General Mills hires Atlanta company for social media research. Retrieved from http://www.globalatlanta.com/article/23997/.

General Mills Inc. (2011). Annual report 2011. Retrieved from http://generalmills.com/~/media/Files/2011_annual_report.

Hobson, J. (2011). General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks on how marketing can make a better world [Radio series episode]. In Bright ideas: Fresh thoughts on big issues. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved from http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/01/20/bright-ideas-with-mark-addicks–.

The Social Media Soapbox. (2009, October 25). General Mills goes social [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://socialmediasoapbox.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/general-mills-goes-social/.

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What’s All The Buzz About QR Codes?

So what’s the buzz all about QR Codes? Here you’ll find out what they are and the best ways to use them for any business.

A QR code is a 2-D barcode that can be scanned by a smart phone camera. Once the picture is snapped, it will automatically take you to a website or even make a phone call for you. In order to scan one though, you must have a QR reader which is generally free. These are some recommended sites for QR readers:

However if your business wants to incorporate QR codes into their marketing plan, then all you need to do is generate a QR code using QR generators:

So now you have a QR code for your business, but how do you go about implementing it into your marketing campaign?

Image Courtesy: http://orangeqr.com/

QR codes can be placed almost anywhere: packaging, ads, posters, billboards, business cards, stickers, and your website. In New York City, they are seen “on bus shelters, phone kiosks, drug store signage, cocktail napkins and sporting venues” (Donnelly, 2010). Wherever you want someone to see your product, service, or business name, place the code there to generate business.  Know where your target market is and place QR codes there. Many people probably still don’t know how to use a QR code so informing them will be helpful as well. Simply put the steps next to the code to tell users what to do and how to access the information. Where have you seen QR codes being used?

“The key is to be ready on the other end of the code with some content that actually intrigues the user, and makes them get out their phone and scan” (Donnelly, 2010). When a customer scans these codes, they want it to take them so they will get useful information, be able to interact, or even be able to contact someone. The point is to not JUST bring to your website, but make it worthwhile for the customer. They need to be able to interact in some way. Some ideas:

  • Online registration
  • Video message or demo
  • Coupons
  • Recipes, nutritional information, cooking tips
  • Fashion accessories to go along with a shirt a consumer is buying
  • Contest or sweepstake online entry
  • Like or Follow Facebook or Twitter page
  • Contact information to be added automatically to phone’s contacts
  • Email subscriber list
  • Even make a phone call

Another tip to remember is that this information has to fit and look good on a small phone screen. Keep videos short to hold the consumer’s interest. The possibilities for QR codes are endless, but it may help researching them and your audience to make sure it’s a fit for your company.

Track Your QR Codes to Measure Your Success

In order to ensure the success of QR codes, there are several ways to measure and track this information. You can track how many scans you receive, the location of the scans, and even the time of day. This information will help you develop your QR codes better in that you may learn new places to put them, if you’re receiving feedback at all such as Facebook Likes shortly after scanning, and much more can be learned from tracking QR codes. Several software is available for tracking these codes. Here are just a few:

In order to tell the whole story behind a product or service, consumers need a supplement to what they see in an ad, billboard, etc, and QR codes can help with that. “QR codes can provide additional information, including photos, reviews, directions and event date and times. There’s a certain amount of fun and surprise with QR codes” (Brooks, 2011).

Do you scan QR codes? Where have you seen them? Share where and how you’ve used QR codes.

See the largest QR code here:

Check out my Facebook page:

Brooks, R. (2011, January 24). 13 creative ways to use QR codes for marketing [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1720193/13-creative-ways-to-use-qr-codes-for-marketing.

Donnely, T. (2010, December 16). How to use QR codes to market your business. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-use-qr-codes-to-market-your-business.html.  

 

Social Media in the Education Industry

Social media is everywhere…as most of us know! One area where you may not expect to see it and hear professionals using it is in education, every institution from K-12 through colleges. Of course without social media and the study of it, the class I’m taking now would not be possible! When I graduated from high school five years, social media was just starting to be “popular” so many of my teachers and classmates were either just starting to use it or didn’t know what it was yet. But things have changed a lot in the past five years, so just how is social media used in education today?

Many colleges use the common tools of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. However I’m sure there are several other tools used by other universities. What have you seen with other schools? How do they utilize social media? My undergraduate school used social media as a tool to build a community with students. It was all about community for them. So that included interactive Facebook pages where students could comment, post questions or concerns, enter contests and trivia, and find out about the latest happenings at the university. Twitter was utilized in much the same way. YouTube featured several professionally-done videos highlighting departments, people, and the campus. LinkedIn is used for those just starting in the workforce, where they can follow the university’s page and ask for help with resumes, interviews, and even get recommendations. These social media sites are not just for current students, it’s also used as a marketing tool to attract future students to the university. So in today’s world of teenagers using social media, colleges need to make sure they where the teenagers are as well. Here is an interesting infographic from Sahil Shah’s post about social media in education (see it here, bigger version: http://www.penn-olson.com/2011/04/10/social-media-education-infographic/):

Of course, social media isn’t just used in higher education, K-12 educators are using as well. According to a survey, 61% of educators in K-12 reported they had joined a social network (Software & Information Industry Association, 2011). The survey also reported the main purposes of those schools using social media were to build brand awareness, increase the loyalty of customers, general knowledge, and to create support groups. In fact, “Facebook has made serious efforts to try and ensure they reach out to parents and the education community, addressing concerns regarding the use of the platform by children and teens. They have created a resource for teachers that answers some common questions such as what to do if you suspect abusive behavior on Facebook, how to hide your personal Facebook profile from yours students and how to report underage users” (Peyton, 2011). Do you think K-12 educators should be “friends” or “follow” their students on social networks?

I work for a school district’s community education department and we manage the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. We primarily use it as an announcement factor where we update users of events or important information for parents and students. Some school districts even have a blog by the superintendent. How have you seen K-12 social media being used? What do you think are the benefits of it for those age ranges and their parents?

Peyton, L. (2011, Septemeber 14). Breaking down top Facebook pages for the education industry. Retrieved from http://socialfresh.com/facebook-pages-education/.

Shah, S. (2011). How social media is changing the education industry. Retrieved from http://www.penn-olson.com/2011/04/10/social-media-education-infographic/.

Software & Information Industry Association. (2011, June 8). Survey: Social media rising in education industry. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/article/51300.

 

What’s the Best Social Media Site For Your Business?

There are so many social media tools out there for businesses and consumers that many just don’t even know where to start, especially from a business standpoint. So if you’re just starting a business, how do you know what social media sites will be best for you and your customers?

I have a list here of a few sites that are tailored to either businesses and consumers or just business. I will then list features or benefits to businesses.

  • Facebook: Most people know about Facebook and what you can all use it for. So this social networking site can be used for both business and consumers. A business can create a page that includes photos, videos, updates, etc about products or services offered to consumers. It’s a fairly easy and quick way to communicate with customers about any problems or questions they may have. It’s also a good avenue to promote products or special events to consumers.
  • Twitter: Twitter is a social networking and microblogging tool. This site again is extremely popular and can be used for both consumers and businesses. The “tweets” are very short, only 140 characters so you have to be creative in the way you want messages brought out to consumers. But this is again a great way to promote and update consumers about products and services.
  • WordPress: Well it’s a blogging site, obviously, what we are all using now. This again is business and consumer related. For businesses they can blog about current events, specials, promotions, their company and what they offer to consumers. It’s another great avenue for consumers to give feedback and make comments.
  • LinkedIn: This is a professional social networking site used by consumers and businesses, but because of the type of networking, I’m classifying this as business related. To me, I consider this site to be a “professional Facebook”. In that you can build profiles about yourself and include a picture, but then your information includes past jobs, experience, your resume, and whatever else you need to include for future employers to learn about you. Businesses can post job openings and search for potential employers through this site.
  • YouTube: Most of you, again, know about YouTube, but it is a video sharing site used by businesses and consumers. For a business, they can use it to post videos displaying ads, virtual tours, and other promotions. I find that
  • Ning: This site is a custom social networking site used by businesses. Here businesses can create their own social networks instead of using one such as Twitter or Facebook. It’s a better way for them to customize the site to what their business offers and brings to consumers.
  • Mynewsdesk: Mynewsdesk is a news exchange site used by business professionals. News releases and public relation materials are available on this site for businesses, journalists, or bloggers. This site provides quick and easy access to relevant press releases and news related to a business or company.
  • Sitetrail: This site offers website analyses for businesses. This shows specific news related to a company’s website and tracks any websites, where companies can view related analytics. They can also view the analytics of competitors’ websites.
  • SimplyMeasured: This is a business platform used for social media analysis. So instead of tracking the analytics of a company’s website, this site tracks the social media sites being used by the company.

When I worked for a university’s marketing department, we used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Because our audience was college students, we knew that these sites are what college students are using today. That’s another important feature of picking a social media site. Find out what sites your audience is on and target them through those sites.

With the hundreds of social media sites available, starting somewhere is all you need to do to get the word out about your business and products. Although these are just a few social media tools, hopefully this provides a little more detail on what certain social media sites can do for businesses! What sites are you using and why do you find them beneficial to your company? Please share any experiences you have with choosing a social media site for you business. Online tools are meant for feedback and any business out there will appreciate feedback that will help them be successful as well.