Breathing digital into your co-op: key tips from Zoe Lawrie

Going digital can help co-ops listen, respond and engage with their customers or clients

Successfully engaging a digital audience requires understanding of human behaviour, Zoe Lawrie from the Co-operative Bank told delegates at the Practitioners Forum in Manchester.

With 90% of adults in UK having an online presence, going digital can help businesses listen, respond and engage with their customers or clients, she said.

Digital marketing has an advantage over traditional channels because it is not limited to a geographical area, which means that local co-ops can run national campaigns and have a 24/7 online presence.

“From a business point of view, social media is crucial but it is not a shop window – it is an opportunity to have a dialogue and learn from people,” said Ms Lawrie.

She argued that the key to a successful approach is taking into account the fact that people buy benefits, not products. Digital marketing also enables co-ops to track the success of their campaigns, measuring impact with analytics tools from search engines and social media platforms.

Produce videos

New technology has brought new ways to present information, and Ms Lawrie said co-ops should produce videos for promotion on social media – making sure they are pinned posts.

“Video far exceeds engagement more than anything else – if you are not filming stuff do it,” she said. It is predicted that 80% of all internet traffic will be video in the next two years.

Choose appropriate channels

Choosing the right platform for each promotion is crucial, said Ms Lawrie. Engagement on social media and responding to customers helps to boost a post shared on Facebook, she said, while effective use of hashtags and tagging key people can bring more retweets on Twitter.

“Followers and those commenting on posts become advocates for you,” she said.

Retailers can also use Instagram to share visual and user-generated content, which will also attract bloggers and influencers. LinkedIn can help co-ops engage more formally with executives, other businesses or potential employees.

This year, the Co-operative Bank designed a Snapchat featuring one of the Manchester bees it had sponsored. The filter was used by members and employees to promote a marketing campaign. The Bank does not have a Snapchat account but spread the message through the filter.

Improve SEO results

Another marketing challenge is search engine optimisation. Ms Lawrie advised co-ops, when considering this, to type searches for the things they want to be known for, the things are interested in, and the names of their competitors – and then to study the results of the search to inform their own web presence.

Giving away something for free boosts search engine results and so does registering the business’s address on Google.

Another way to maximise online presence is to encourage members and customers to write reviews of the business and its services. And having their business listed on Google will help it get more reviews and  be found more easily.

“You can include photos, how the business looks, what you sell, add videos and people can post reviews that you can respond to, thank and share,” said Ms Lawrie. “You can ask people to post reviews and give them vouchers.”

She explained that being relevant and unique, having other websites linking to the business and being active on social media could all help bring a business higher up in search engine results.

Start blogging

Blogging is also an important method of promotion; posts can be used to share skills, insider tips, member stories and recipes.

“Give something back – don’t start by expecting members, communities and customers to contribute and buy something from you. Give them something first,” said Ms Lawrie.

“Ask your communities and network to write for you and use those on your blogs. Get in touch with people who have content and who share each others. You have a community of like – minded people. Build it. Exploit it. Use them.  Get involved in videos, share value. Add value to people’s lives. Remember we want people buying into better versions than themselves. How can you help them do that?”.

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