Keeping consistent with the theme of March Madness, the popular website Mashable introduced a bracket-style competition among small businesses to determine which one is “America’s Most Social Small Business,” based on elements such as social reach and engagement, brand identity and interactivity. The first round of competition looked at facebook activity, the second at twitter activity, and the third focused on visual presence on sites such as instagram and pinterest. Here’s an what the bracket for the second round looked like:
For this case study, I will be focusing on Seregentee, a clothing company started by college students. What makes Serengetee unique is that the company travels to different regions of the world and collects fabrics and patterns native to the area. They then use these fabrics to create pocket t-shirts, backpacks, sweatshirts and other articles of clothing. When these are sold, a certain amount of the proceeds go back to the region from which the fabric was from, to a specific cause in the area. For instance, 5% of the purchase price of this patterned shirt, called Mokolo is donated to the TLC Children’s Home in South Africa. More information on the cause can be found here.
Currently, Serengetee has a strong presence on facebook, twitter, instagram and pinterest, with much of their success driven by the use of brand ambassadors. This semester, they hired around 1,000 college students from different regions of the country to participate in social media challenges, support the brand and share content on their own platforms to bolster awareness about Serengetee in return for incentives such as store credit and free merchandise.
Serengetee’s biggest following can be found on their facebook page, which hosts a little over 180,000 likes, with a nice diversity in what is being posted from week to week. Some posts highlight a cause and provide followers with more insight on the location and story behind the fabric. Other posts show the newest fabrics to be added to the Serengetee collection, and display models wearing the fabric. However, their facebook strategy is the most effective when it facilitates participation among users. With every “like” milestone (every 1,000 likes or so) they put forth a contest that encourages users to like and comment on a post in order to be entered into a raffle to win free merchandise. Serengetee also sponsors a “fan of the week” contest, where those that have ordered Serengetee products are encouraged to post pictures of themselves wearing Serengetee at locations all over the world. The winner is determined based on the number of likes each contestant gets on their own page, extending the reach of the Serengetee social presence. Almost all of the posts are unified with the use of their slogan “Wear the world. Change the World.”
Serengetee’s twitter presence is very similar to that of their facebook. Serengetee often holds “re-tweet giveaways,” where twitter users share the post on their own twitter page in order to be eligible to win merchandise. These contests are different from the facebook ones in the sense that they are sporadic, not based on specific quantitative information. With about 18,000 followers on twitter, Serengetee manages to keep up with most of the interactions facilitated by users, by re-tweeting pictures of them wearing Serengetee products, and answering any inquiries they may have about order issues or products. Serengetee also using twitter effectively to advertise flash sales they have, which usually requires users to act quickly in order to receive a special discount.
Instagram and pinterest are the accounts that are more visually oriented, and slightly less active in terms of daily activity. The instagram account usually posts once a day, with 21,000 followers. Scrolling through Serengetee’s instagram, the posts are dominated by images of the fabric and patterns, images of the celebrity endorsers and the locations the fabric comes from. On occasion there are giveaways for merchandise, where the users are asked to re-post the image on their account with a specific hashtag, however these are much less frequent than on facebook and twitter. Finally, the pinterest account does not sponsor giveaways, but still bolsters close to 900 followers, with 26 different boards ranging from a showcase of all the fabrics, to a lineup of all the different products offered, to pictures specific to certain regions.
Serengetee presents a social B2C business that connects users through a cause, and creates a sense of community with the company as well. There are a few tactics used by Serengetee on their social media that are cohesive with the ideas of Evans’ social feedback cycle model, which is similar to the consumer decision making process. In the consumer decision making process, the consumer discovers a need and investigates different options for satisfying that need based on information provided by marketing communications outlets. After the consumer makes a purchase decision, they evaluate that purchase, form an opinion on the product, and begin to spread that opinion to others. What differentiates Evans’ model form the generic decision making model is the idea that consumers are becoming more influenced by user generated information and content such, as product reviews, and less influenced by marcom strategies. Here is a visual representation of the social feedback cycle:
To focus back on Serengetee, their social media strategy often uses user generated content to engage other customers, build a brand image and bolster sales. The best example of this is the company sharing (facebook), re-tweeting (twitter) and uploading (instagram) pictures on the company page that users have submitted of themselves wearing Serengetee products around the world. In a way, this serves as a testimonial even though there aren’t any scripts or words, but the visuals are sufficient, for if an internet user within the same age group were to see this picture, it would likely resonate with them more so than seeing an image of a model wearing the products. The users submitting their pictures have evaluated the product, and were satisfied enough to associate their image with the company. In the context of the cycle, this then goes back to influence the consideration stage for other potential consumers.
The same idea can be applied to the fan of the week contest, where those who have purchased Serengetee post pictures of themselves on their own personal pages and compete for the most likes. After, Serengetee then shares the picture on their page. By sharing, re-tweeting and posting content that has been retrieved from personal pages rather than simply uploading the images only on the Serengetee page, there is a sense of credibility added to the testimonial provided. If a potential consumer sees that the content came from a personal page, they are less likely to think that there is a sense of false advertising produced by the company, or that the company is merely paying people to promote the brand, and this can affect their consideration stage in the cycle.
Serengetee also builds up a sense of community and engages interaction among customers with their friend referral program. If a consumer uses a certain link to get a friend to order from the website, they receive $10 credit towards Serengetee products, and the friend that was referred gets 15% off their order. This takes advantage of the idea that peer relationships are a great source of word of mouth, and provides incentives for satisfied customers to spread the word about the brand. The link can be shared on facebook, twitter, and through e-mail.
Finally, Serengetee seeks out suggestions about the company, for instance what type of clothing they should produce next. This allows consumers to feel as if they are contributing the to company, and creates a relationship between the business and the consumer. If a potential consumer sees this, especially if Serengetee is responsive to the suggestions, they will likely feel that the company is receptive here, but also would be with questions, concerns and other comments they may have in the future.
In terms of the social engagement process, Serengetee has achieved the highest level of engagement, collaboration, which consequently means that various users are also the levels of consumption, curation and creation. Serengetee has reached the collaboration stage because the users engage with one another, but also with the company while also generating, sharing and browsing content.
Many of the strategies used that influence the social feedback cycle are also what contribute to the collaboration level being achieved. Serengetee creates a community among their customers, which is facilitated by users uploading pictures of themselves wearing the product, and Serengetee sharing these pictures on their own page. Interactions between users are encouraged with the Fan of the Week Contest, and the friend referral program, and interactions between the company and the customers is generated with Serengetee’s social media approaches that are responsive to customer activity and support. In addition, the usage of brand ambassadors is another way that Serengetee really connects their business with loyal customers and fans.
All in all, I think that Serengetee was a great contender for the title of America’s Most Social Small Business, and their spot in the final four was wholeheartedly earned. Wear the world, change the world!