Target hits the bulls eye using social media. A case for corporate social responsibility in a digital world.

     Welcome to the new business frontier. Thanks to social media the power of the consumer has  been unleashed in the digital marketplace. Gone are the days when the corporation crafted and controlled the message being conveyed to the consumer. Gone are the days of wanton profiteering at any cost. The corporation of today is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they must do business in an ethical and transparent way. There is a new social responsibility paradigm for business, a mixture of for profit goals and ethical values realized in a pro active way. ” Social media has begun to play a key role in how companies shape their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and present themselves as good corporate citizens.”

     Consumers can drive the conversation about a company’s ethical values very easily now through social media channels and reach a huge audience on a global scale.  Companies have taken notice. We have seen how social media can act as a pivot and change the direction of an entire culture or country. The Arab spring and other middle eastern revolts come to mind as an example. It comes as no surprise that socially responsible companies are not only using social media to expand initiatives in this regard they are also trumpeting their good works across the same channels. All of this, in the hopes of creating expansive networks of friends engaging in sharing content concerning the company brand and spreading the word globally. The world, it seems, is interested in sustainability, climate change, fossil fuel usage and depletion and green initiatives to name just some of the platforms from which socially responsible companies can jump off from.

     Let’s take the example of Target, a relative newcomer to the Canadian retail market but a retail giant nonetheless. Target is a good example of a company that is both socially responsible and a prolific user of social media. They have many socially responsible initiatives woven into their corporate culture. So many in fact, it would take several blogs to cover them. Here are just some of the highlights including the ones that use social media in clever and effective ways.

  • Increased packaging efficiency, decreasing size and material and replacing with recycled and renewable materials helping to reduce waste.
  • Finding vendors that are screened using certain criteria, i.e. who treat workers well, who obey the law and whose processes minimize their effect on the environment.
  • Target is against the use of conflict minerals such as gold and tin mined in African countries with poor human rights records.
  • Target has reduced the number of Bangladeshi factories making their products by nearly 50 percent while maintaining their overall sourcing volume from Bangladesh so that they could better monitor and manage safety conditions.
  • Increasing healthy, organic food choices in their stores.
  • Modifying shipping routes and distribution centers, in ways that save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower costs.
  • AS of 2014, 37 Target facilities are solar powered.
  • partnering with FEMA(Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross for multiple initiatives providing materials and fundraising help through social media channels. They have helped these agencies provide flood relief, tornado relief and the Boston bombing victims.
  • Huge supporter of schools and education in North America. Most recently, “Target partnered with Search Institute to develop the ‘Turn Summer Play into Summer Learning’ series on its Facebook page, which provides parents with fun, weekly tips to help their child’s mind stay active during the summer with research on how it makes a positive impact on child development. While demonstrating the company’s commitment to education, Target also created a local solution to a national issue by personally connecting with parents through a timely and innovative social media campaign.”
  • Target uses a mobile app to track its employees volunteer hours. In 2013, Target employees logged over a million hours cumulatively across all its facilities. A communications campaign was launched alongside the app reminding team members to log on and pitch in.
  • Citizens@Target.com is a company designed website. It is a site with an accompanying twitter account for people to learn about Target’s take on issues that impact its business, values and communities, and to get involved with their grassroots advocacy efforts in the area of politics, voting, health care, trade and political engagement.
  • Target is dedicated to having a strong and happy workforce and uses technology extensively to keep employees engaged in corporate communications and directives. They currently have an internal app catalogue with more than 34 new mobile apps to improve efficiency and collaboration for team members. Selections include apps for training programs, workplace safety, health initiatives etc.

     Target uses its many social channels including A bullseyeview, its YouTube channel to promote, through video, some of its efforts and campaigns with FEMA and the American Red Cross as well as for hunger relief etc. In addition, it uses its Target Facebook page(one of 3) to initiate conversations about some of its humanitarian efforts while also cross promoting with other socially responsible companies like Starbucks for any combined projects they may work on. From raising awareness, to connecting with consumers in the way they want to engage and seeding positive action, edging corporate social responsibility into the social media world can strengthen consumer loyalty and faith in the brand, encourage followers (and their friends) to take action and participate, and elevate a company’s status in the hearts and minds of the global consumer.

References

Tying Together Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility

https://corporate.target.com/_media/TargetCorp/csr/pdf/2013-corporate-responsibility-report.pdf

http://mashable.com/2009/11/06/social-responsibility/

Why Companies Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Their Social Responsibilities

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From Social to Mobile: Winning Mobile Strategies

Company: Blue Nile

Founded in 1999, Seattle based Blue Nile is an online retailer specializing in selling diamond jewellery. Diamond rings account for a large portion of its business. Blue Nile is an excellent example of a company discovering the need for, and then designing and executing an effective mobile strategy. The push to create a mobile strategy began after market research done for the company discovered a trend among the millennial demographic of 25-35 year old men. They were browsing the Blue Nile website on their mobile devices. The iteration at that time was a website designed for the PC and laptop user. Blue Nile realized the mobile user was set to encounter a less optimal user experience on their mobile devices. They subsequently invested in a mobile strategy that has proven to be extremely effective in raising their market share and increasing profits. They designed a responsive website that enabled mobile phone users who also have tablets and laptops to continue the shopping experience seamlessly across all platforms. They also developed an app for Android and iphone to target Smartphone users. Blue Nile also created a heavy social media presence that is blowing its competitors out of the water. Blue Nile has been using  social media channels Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest  and Instagram to start conversations around their products, and to understand the customers better,  while raising the value proposition of their products to consumers. The retailer uses social media marketing very extensively and uses the visual appeal of its products effectively to engage and attract customers. Blue Nile is also using new strategies to maintain its upward momentum by partnering with department store giant Nordstrom’s to offer a unique shopping experience dubbed “ bricks and clicks” The idea being that Blue Nile would showcase a cross section of their diamond collection in display case form and have a rep on hand with an ipad to direct and help shoppers to use the online functionality for purchase.

The Blue Nile mobile strategy is;

Effective

What makes a good mobile strategy? In-depth analysis and understanding of customer behaviour is another factor to consider. Within one year of the mobile website launch, “More than 20 percent of our shoppers are using the mobile site.”  says CEO Diane Irvine. The reason being is that it gives people the flexibility to shop wherever they are. “This will become the future of shopping.” Blue Nile has seen profits rise even in a recovering economy, in an intensely competitive market as a result of focusing on customer experience through a mobile strategy. Their unique online experience of educating consumers about diamonds and then offering a build your own ring interface that gives consumers more control over the product. Blue Nile also makes good use of mobile analytics to drive future strategies.

 Potential risks the company is exposed to through its strategy

  • Technology is an ever changing model and must therefore be monitored constantly and maintained with ever evolving strategies which could prove to be costly.
  • Vulnerable to security breaches: the whole shopping experience is done online and as such Blue Nile is heavily dependent on the technology working efficiently. Significant cost goes into maintaining security for customer information and credit card transactions as well as the fact that Blue Nile trades in precious stones and could be susceptible to sabotage more than the average website.
  • Online retail can reach a wide target audience and increase sales internationally, but this also means having to deal with international law, taxes and tariffs, customs, theft of product during shipping cycles, difficulty with different levels of e-commerce effectiveness, foreign currency exchanges risk and many more…
  • System interruptions mean a halt in business.
  • Many consumers have still not migrated to online shopping and as such an entire market is underutilized.
  • Government regulation controlling e-commerce could change at any time making it more difficult for online retailers.
  • Competition is fierce and other precious stones retailers are moving to mobile avenues for future growth.

Company: Starbucks

Starbucks has been very successful at creating a “bricks and mortar” operation that spans the globe. “Starbucks will have more than 20,000 retail stores on six continents by 2014”  Coffee, always a daily staple to so many people once was thought of as an inexpensive and perfunctory experience not requiring any of the bedazzlement of today’s coffee enterprises. I wonder at times how a company like Starbucks has managed to take a relatively mundane drink and turned it into a plus 5 dollar a cup for a “latte” industry. Their habit of creating a successful enterprise has migrated to the mobile web and its mobile strategy has duplicated its past successes.

Mobile Strategy approach: Increase User Engagement

  • Using MRAID for ad campaigns on the mobile web. “Mobile Rich Media Interface Definitions. This means ad units not only expand to fill full mobile screens, but they incorporate the unique mobile features of swipe, tap, and shake for users to engage with their brand and then share within their social sphere.
  • Mobile Payments & Transactions: Starbucks recently launched its newly enhanced payment app for iPhone where customers just need to shake their phones for the payment barcode to display. It also launched the digital tipping option where customers can tip their barista through their phones. As a result the company drove over $1 billion in mobile payment revenue in 2013, according to estimates from Business Insider’s research service, BI Intelligence.
  • My STARBUCKS rewards earn points if you use the mobile app (incentive)12 million active monthly mobile users as of July of this year and growing.
  • Loyalty programs play a critical role in retailers’ success. The Starbucks app captures all of your purchases, gives you points and advances you to tiers where you can get promotions and offers, which ultimately attracts you back to your nearest Starbucks location. free Wi-fi in their stores, one of the first to do so.
  • Free Wi-fi in their stores, one of the first to do so.

Effectiveness

Starbucks has an overall effective mobile strategy.  Aside from offering a convenient and easy way to purchase coffee while engaging mobile users Starbucks offers a high functioning mobile app as well as virtual giftcards and coupons. Starbucks is effective at enhancing the customer experience beyond the point of sale with its loyalty programs. They have identified and purposed ways to attract a tech savvy clientele while at the same time making the in store experience more efficient using mobile devices alongside its app. The unique approach of having a mobile experience simultaneous with an in-store experience is a huge driver for continued market dominance and future growth.

Potential risks co is exposed to through its strategy;

  • Competition is fierce and Starbucks must be vigilant in order to stay on top. Cheaper alternatives and new competitors offering the same product for less are in direct competition with Starbucks and as such the mobile strategy and rewards program could prove costly to support if any shifts in the global coffee market cause prices to go any higher.

Company Name: Target

In this analysis I had decided to pick three very different companies with innovative or industry leading mobile strategies. Blue Nile is an almost exclusively mobile company. Starbucks is a basically a premium fast food company and finally Target is a huge department store chain. Three very different retailers with one thing in common; strong marketing strategies. Target is an excellent example of a large department store executing an effective mobile campaign.

Target maintains one app across multiple platforms, android, ipad and iphone. It is a mobile web app with a responsive design architecture. Target not only has an app for Smartphones and the iPad, but customers can also sign up for monthly text coupons. Engaging consumers is also helped along by a diverse offering within the app and not just online shopping. Even games are available on the apps. They use text alerts once a month that will link consumers to a web page of coupons that can be used by simply showing the cashier the phone screen. Target will also send any weekly alerts to an email address given by the consumer accessible through mobile.

Target focuses on using social channels as well. Target put quite a bit of effort toward cool and unique Instagram videos and generated massive buzz from that.” Target used social channels to support its “Give with Target” program that invites consumers to vote for a school to help Target allocate $5 million in donations for schools. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr and Linkedin are used for marketing and social engagement. Target’s mobile strategists are realizing young people especially were more likely to share, tweet or comment on content created by the retail giant.

Social Channel saturation:

Twitter 6 accounts, 939752 followers

@Target-product promotion

@Abullseyeview-promo for each Twitter account

@Targetstyle-new styles, trends and cosmetics

@Targetcareers-hiring, interview and career tips

@Asktarget-customer service, feedback, questions

@Targetdeals-promotion of deals

Facebook-3 accounts/pages,  22,314,716 likes

  • Target-fans engaging and sharing content with Target
  • Targetbaby- a page for families with infants and young children
  • TargetStyle- discussing fashion trends etc

Youtube , 18979 subscribers

  • 3 channels- Target, Target careers, a bullseyeview (videos about brand, commercials, styles etc)

Instagram, 131518 followers

  • 4 accounts

All this creates a large amount of content for social channels.

  • “Additionally, the retailer continued to fine-tune its mobile apps and Web sites while pushing forward its mobile video, location-based, content, advertising and couponing efforts.”
  • “Target is also leveraging Pinterest witha new microsite that merchandises products with the combination of top-pinned items and best reviews on Target.com. Target was one of the first brands to incorporate Pinterest’s new API to create a custom microsite.”
  • “With in-store shoppers increasingly using their mobile devices for assistance, Target updated its iPhone app to improve navigation and make it easier for users to engage with the app from inside one of the retailer’s stores. The move followed the launch of free Wi-Fi in all Target stores in late 2012.”
  • To support the Wi-Fi initiative, Target rolled out in-store signage encouraging shoppers to download the Target iPhone or Android app to help them find what they are looking for.
  • Connecting online to other retailers like Pandora. Cross promotion.
  • Online magazine

Effective? Yes.

Increase in engagement with consumers by using coupon text alerts and apps has driven a positive lift in a very competitive market. Increasing engagement leads to an increase in loyalty amongst customers which is vital in the area of big box retailers.

Potential risks

  • Cyber theft and security breaches.- at the end of the 2013 shopping season there was a data breach that affected some 40 million customers. In fairness this was not a mobile breach per se it doe however put target on high alert for any future breaches mobile or otherwise
  • Negative word of mouth across social channels could spread fast through viral avenues knocking the company off kilter.
  • Shipping or out of stock issues depending on distributors could discourage consumers from using mobile channels.

References

  1. http://investor.bluenile.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1091171-14-14#NILE-12292013X10K_HTM_S75C6102C0B321BE25D3B9816B396C075
  2. http://www.voziq.com/social-media-analytics/social-media-dominance-of-blue- nile-an- analysis/
  3. http://mashable.com/2013/12/15/blue-nile-metrics/
  4. http://marketingland.com/coffee-mobile-king-starbucks-serves-mobile-strategy-98823
  5. http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/starbucks-looks-share-its-app-payment-system-other-retailers-159100
  6. http://www.reciprocatellc.com/marketing-strategy/internet-marketing/what-you-can-learn-from-targets-mobile-strategies/
  7. http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/target%E2%80%99s-social-strategy-stands-out-for-driving-mobile-engagement
  8. http://www.slideshare.net/ZainHaider6/target-power-point-31127384
  9. http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/target-is-2013-mobile-retailer-of-the-year

The Importance of Social Media in Communications

  1. How has social media impacted the traditional communications industry?

The Internet has heralded many societal innovations over the last two decades. It has revolutionized information sharing in a way that can be compared to the first printing press and mass produced periodical. In recent years it has proven that it is the glue that holds our global society together and further to the point social media has had a tremendous impact on all our lives and also traditional communications. Print journalism, public relations, telecommunications etc have all seen dramatic adaptations. Here are some ways in which social media has impacted traditional communications;

  • Social Media has changed the old one-way model of newspapers, corporations, governments, or other types of leading organizations giving out information as they saw fit at times they saw fit. Social media has given rise to audience participation and readers choice. It has given more power to the audience in what they see, how they see it and when they see it. Organizations are compelled to seek an audience based on what they think the audience wants versus what they want the audience to see.
  • Traditional news sources and digital marketers must link to social networking sites in order to remain viable both financially and through audience numbers.
  • The traditional communications industry focused on a one way model of information transformation. Social media is a two way model. Further it is two way communication in real time. Again, this is a representation of the target audience driving the conversation as opposed to the messenger.
  • Now everyone with a message can be heard. Social media gives the individual the power to reach the masses in the same way an international media conglomerate does. There is no restricting the participants or censoring and filtering the message.
  • Instant feedback means the speed of business, the speed of communications has reached a real time status.
  • Advertising budgets are shrinking as businesses can steer away from traditional forms of communicating messages through print, television and radio. They can now push their message on social media properties and potentially reach many more clients that way.
  • Communications between audience/customer and business/government can now be a conversation in real time. A results based system not relying on tedious and outdated methods.
  1. What about social media has been a positive influence for communications?
  • Increasing the speed of communications to a real time environment has had benefits for people’s personal time. We are a busy culture/people and time is important, and we require information and communication to accommodate us in this fashion. Communication can be tailored to deliver the best and shortest message to one or any number of potential viewers as required quickly and efficiently.
  • The world is a smaller place figuratively speaking due to social media and this has a positive influence on how business is done and how people interact. There are few industrialized places around the globe that cannot be reached by the Internet and subsequently social media sites. Friends who have moved away, family living in another country, businesses requiring up to the second stock information from other countries are just a few examples highlighting the need for social media and the positive effects these properties have on business and on the individual. Distance and time are issues social media sites are continually working to overcome.

3.  What should a social communications plan include?

A good social communications plan should include:

  • A purpose for your social media strategy at the outset. A collections of requirements and values designed to give your social communications plan a viable direction. What goals do you want achieve with it? What content you will share? What social media properties do you want your audience driven toward? Who is your audience?
  • A viable scheduling format. Being aware of a global presence on your social media platforms requires an organization/individual  to be time sensitive about their offerings to said audience. Time differences in different countries for example. Topical and appropriate content aimed to engage and compel the audience to participate and share.
  • A solid plan for customer interaction. Those in different locations may have different needs, speak different languages, or follow different trends. “You’re going to want to optimize your searches and filter them by language to help you curate relevant content for different demographics.”
  • A well defined keyword list to maximize the organizations SEO.
  • Clear expectations for what your social media campaigns will be and then solicit aid from your team of people. The idea being a collaborative effort will be much more effective than a single person offloading content.
  • A strategy for gathering viable metrics must be in place as well. An organization can benefit greatly from information and feedback about social media strategies and whether or not they are working properly. Determine what analytics software will be the best fit for the business. Use it to drive future budgets and plans.
  • Keeping apprised of changes in the social media universe. What’s new on the horizon? What social media platforms best work with the organizations needs?
  1. How has social media changed the press-to-PR professional dynamic?

Public relations is an industry that has had to adapt its practices to match the changes in social media. Practitioners seek to communicate with, and hear from consumers, as well as using social channels to share information with key audiences.

  • Public relations pros can no longer simply trumpet a message out to the masses. Social media has paved the way for two-way communication directly with the consumer. Real-time feedback is a by product of two way. The live interaction allows for ongoing refinement and improvement to make a deeper connection with the target audience. A human connection is made and the customer feels less like a sales target.
  •  The speed of information sharing is faster than ever before and PR professionals have access to a wealth of content that can be shared with consumers seeking solutions to a problem. This forces them to be even more proactive in developing ways to reach the audience they are targeting.
  • Social media has also positively changed long-standing dynamics of the PR/Journalist relationship. Journalists seek information and sources online and PR professionals have benefited from the added access available thanks to social media. Some reporters maintain blogs and others are active on Twitter but gathering information about potential stories is significantly easier than the days of heavy, out-of-date media guides.
  • With the advance of social media, there is an expectation from consumers that they will not be subjected to mass, non-targeted information and any concerns will be addressed quickly and personally. In essence the focus has pivoted from the source to the audience and both the press and PR professionals must be adept at managing expectations directly from the consumers of content.

 

REFERENCES

http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/02/social-media-changing-pr/

http://www.brandignity.com/2012/10/how-social-media-affected-marketing-communication/

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/positive-impact-social-networking-sites-society-opinion/

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/best-practices-solid-social-media-strategy

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/build-solid-social-marketing-plan-21494.html