Hearsay Social VP: Local Dramatically Increases Social Engagement

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Brands like social. And consumers like brands on social media. Take Google Plus. In January alone, the number of users who included one the top 100 brands on the four-month-old service rose 1400% to 3.1 million. Now, switch over to local. An estimated 60% of small and medium-sized business use Facebook and spending by SMB’s on social media is set to increase sevenfold over the next four years. The issue, as far as the hyperlocal space is concerned, is getting national brands to engage locally, and enable them to do it at scale.

Enter Hearsay Social, an enterprise social media software company co-founded in 2007 by ex-Salesforce AppExchange director Clara Shih. The company works with national brands like Farmer’s Insurance to build social media campaigns that engage consumers at a hyperlocal level — and to do it all at scale.

Street Fight recently caught up with Amy Millard, Hearsay Social’s VP of marketing to discuss the intersection of social and local and the opportunity for large brands to leverage the two together.

When you speak with marketing directors about building in a local component to their social media strategy, what’s their biggest concern?
It’s very difficult for brands to think about going local without being able to scale. That’s almost always the first question we get. The interest is there but they are just getting stuck on execution. Beyond that there is a lot of enthusiasm for local marketing. They don’t want to get consumed with designing an individual campaign for each local market. Marketing departments are just not that big.

At the end of the day social media is software. Facebook is a software company. So the technology that integrates in with another piece of software allows for a lot of automation. Think about the scale required to get print coupons in various location. That’s about very manual processes, which require a lot of moving parts. When you’re talking about automating social media campaigns, it’s one piece of software integrating with another piece of software so that’s actually something that national brands can scale.

Can you give an example of how a brand might use automation to scale a campaign?
Let me give you an example of a customer of ours: 24-hour Fitness. They have a great corporate page with a ton of check-ins and they push really good content, but they have over 400 gyms. And when someone goes to a gym, they often think, “this is my local gym.” All of these hyperlocal signals are happening on social media.

[Our solution] was to create individual Facebook pages for each location. Then we built a system through which, the corporate social media managers could curate a library of content to which, individual managers can subscribe, keeping their pages fresh with general information as well as with some personal content around the classes and the goings-on of each location.

What we’ve consistently found — whether it’s in retail or hospitality, or insurance, or financial services — is that consumers engage at a dramatically higher rate with a local a Facebook page than its corporate counterpart. We’re seeing three to four times higher engagement on the local page versus the corporate page with the exact same marketing effort.

What we’ve consistently found — whether it’s in retail or hospitality, or insurance, or financial services — is that consumers engage at a dramatically higher rate with a local a Facebook page than its corporate counterpart.

Location-based social networks like foursquare have mostly geared their products towards the SMB market. How can national brands leverage these services?
Location-based networks are particularly interesting for retail brands. If somebody is standing in a store and is able to check-in, that local store knows that they have a customer there. So they are able to provide a local value instead of a generic campaign from a corporate level. They are able to connect with consumers in real-time about stuff directly around them: “hey, two dollars off a juice or burger today in the next hour.”

What’s important to realize is that services like foursquare are as much about time as they are about location. When is a coupon actually of service to you — when your two hours away from that retail store or when you’re standing in that store? So yes, it’s incredibly valuable to retailors to combine social networks with location-based marketing.

As far as social media marketing is concerned, what’s location’s most powerful asset?
I think location’s biggest asset is the ability to understand how consumers are engaging with you and to provide them with time based and location-based content through social channels.

So far we’ve spoken about large brands with brick-and-mortar locations. What opportunities exist for brands without traditional local presences – like Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) – to leverage local/social in a campaign?
What’s interesting is that social media provides the first real opportunity for the CPG companies to have a one-to-one relationship with their consumers. Up until this point, a CPG company sells to Walmart or Target and then Walmart or Target sells to a consumer and a CPG company does market research to find what that consumer thought about what just happened.

For the first time, Coke has a direct relationship not with the bottlers or the big box stores, but with the actual consumers. It changes not only their marketing but also their ability to understand brand engagement at a high level. I’ll defer to them for their local strategy, but social media in general has been a boon for the CPG companies to engage directly with their companies instead of just mass advertising.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.