5 Social Media Lessons from my Green Tea Party Protest

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Here’s what I learned trying to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass after my favorite tea was discontinued.

I discovered Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass a few years ago and became hooked on its soothing, subtle flavor. All other green teas were too bitter or tasted like grass. Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass became a daily ritual for me.

But late last year, I had trouble finding my beloved product. In January, I discovered that Good Earth had overhauled its product line in a rebranding and my favorite flavor had been discontinued, tossed aside in the pursuit of the millennial market.

I did what any devoted customer in the 21st century would do: I complained to Good Earth on its Facebook page. The company responded, steering me to their new product, Citrus Kiss – part of a sassy new lineup that also included Tropical Rush, Sweet Chai of Mine, Wild Chaild, etc.

Yes, Citrus Kiss contained green tea as well as lemongrass, but it also contained stevia (a natural sweetener) which means it tasted nothing like Green Tea Lemongrass (GTL). Unacceptable! And a waste of my money!

I started a Facebook page called Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass. Other disgruntled fans of the former product found the page and ultimately it drew nearly 200 fans.

In the process, I learned five lessons about social media that I’ll share below. You’ll have to read to the end to find out whether I scored a victory or not:

1.       It’s not the size of the audience but the depth of their engagement that matters

The Good Earth page has over 64,000 “Likes.” My page has only 749. However, my protest page attracts more comments on its material with real conversations taking place between commentators than the brand’s page. The small number of people involved are very invested in the cause and know that they’re part of a community that cares just as deeply (and who would never steer them to a pre-sweetened alternative!). Bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass!

2.       You can’t buy engagement

Early in my protest, I would go to Good Earth’s Facebook page and comment using my page’s identity on the complaints of other ex-GTL customers. My message was always respectful. I just wanted to let the poor tea drinker know our page existed and that they could find others who shared their passion for the product there.

Then, suddenly, Good Earth’s social media folks banned my page from commenting on their page. That made me mad and I had to get even.

So I spent $30 or so to grow my page’s following quickly – targeting fans of Good Earth’s page specifically. The campaign added 100 followers in a flash. But those folks, like Good Earth’s thousands of followers, didn’t interact like the ones who engaged organically. So I didn’t continue it. Instead, I would occasionally post as myself on Good Earth’s page with a link to the Bring Back GE GTL page. That strategy was slower but far more effective. I would have done it more often but I’ve got other things to do besides fighting to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass.

3.       The Facebook algorithm is a beast and must be fed continually or atrophy

Once I had more of an audience, I felt Good Earth would take the page more seriously. However, I noticed that if I got too busy to show my page some love for a few days, my next post would get fewer likes or comments. On the other hand, if I kept up my activity, I saw more interaction.

Another helpful activity was to continually like, comment on and tag commentators in replies (if their settings allowed it). This helped stimulate more engagement, which raised the visibility of the posts so that more people saw them. But it was also a strategy that recognized we are all human and social media must always be approached as a conversation and not just ad copy or canned responses.

4.       Social media is a conversation

That’s truly the only approach that works.

I shared my picture on the Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass Facebook page so people would know I am real and just like them. I made some really cool connections, too, which has become my favorite part of this experience.

Al and Sheila from New Jersey mailed me a few GE GTL Decaf teabags after they won an eBay auction of some of the discontinued stock. I loved Al’s note that came with the bags. I mailed one of those teabags back to Christina in Tulsa who had tipped me off to the eBay sale in the first place. There were so many others… Inna from San Clemente. Lisa. Chanan. Nigel.

One person credited GE GTL with getting him through MBA school. Another said it got her through chemo.

It’s also true to say that we were all having a conversation with Good Earth on its Facebook page, too—or at least trying to. But did we get anywhere?

5.       Social media is powerful

It worked. Sort of. At the end of April, Good Earth announced that they would be bringing back a limited supply of GE GTL. In late May, they began taking orders. They were sold out in five days. I got two of those cases, or 12 boxes of 20 teabags. My Facebook friend Paula also found me five boxes at a CVS in Escondido since I shared some of this information on my personal Facebook page, too. (Thank you, Paula!)

The question now is whether the new Good Earth products are generating the sales the company had hoped for when they ditched their loyal customers. If not, they should bring back the classics, Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass and its decaf cousin.

Our mighty little community demonstrated the marketplace demand, and, now, Good Earth has a national network of passionate product enthusiasts they can activate the minute they decide to do so.

So, Good Earth, what are you waiting for?

 

P.S. For those of you who care about the business side of this, Good Earth was started in Santa Cruz, Calif. in 1972. It was acquired by Tetley in 2005, a subsidiary of Tata Global Beverages.

In January 2011, Tata shut down production of Good Earth in Santa Cruz and moved all the ops to New Jersey. In 2013, it launched the rebranding and basically did away with the company’s heritage and its product lines.

 

Don’t Delete Your Google+ Profiles Just Yet: The Network Still Provides Benefits for Brands

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on the future of Google+.  A quick Google search of “Google+ is dead” nets several articles debating the future of the social network. The headlines read:

  • “Google+ Is Walking Dead.”
  • “Is Google+ Really Walking Dead?”
  • “Google+ Isn’t Dead. It’s Just In A Coma And On Life Support.”
  • “Google+ Isn’t Dead. Long Live Google +!”

In 2011, when I got an “invite” to join the new exclusive social network, I was excited about the possibilities. Would it replace Facebook as the social network du jour? Would Google finally launch a successful social media platform (RIP Google Buzz)? I was disappointed when, within a few short months, Google+ seemed to lose its luster.

Speculators have been hemming and hawing over Google+’s longevity since just after its launch, but those questions increased last month when Vic Gundotra, head of Google+ social efforts, announced that he was leaving the company. To add to the PR firestorm, Tech Crunch published an article citing a “source” that claims that “Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform — essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.” Google denied the claims.

(W)right On’s conclusion: Don’t delete your Google+ profiles yet.  While the future of the social network isn’t clear, it still provides a number of benefits for brands:

SEO: Google is a search engine, so it makes sense that Google+ provides significant SEO advantages. Google+ content itself – meaning content you post to your page – can rank in search results in instances where your website may not. Google+ also allows for near-instant indexing, whereas simply putting up new content and waiting it out usually takes a few days.

According to Forbes, “linking your Google+ page to your content via Google Authorship markup will cause the headshot and stats from your Google+ profile to show up in Google’s search results pages next to content you have written. This includes a your profile picture displaying within search results next to your content, which has been shown to draw user’s eyes and significantly improve click-through rates.”

Further, when someone follows you on Google+, it is much more likely that your content will appear higher in their search results. And when other Google+ users give a link multiple +1s, the pages shoot up in the search rankings.

No Pay for Play: Facebook has more active users than Google+. But with the latest change to its algorithm, Facebook has recently become “pay for play,” which means it’s difficult for posts to gain traction unless the page owner pays money to “boost” them. This means that “free” Facebook marketing may no longer a viable way for businesses to reach consumers.

[RELATED: Pay for Play: Will Facebook Get In Trouble?]

Quality Visits: According to a recent report from Shareaholic, Google+ actually has the second highest social media post-click engagement. YouTube took the #1 spot and Facebook is down at #5. So although Google+ drives fewer referrals compared to its competitors, it turns out the traffic it does drive is actually quite high on the quality scale. Google+ users spend more than three minutes diving into links shared by their circles, view 2.45 pages during each visit, and bounce only 50.63 percent of the time.

For these reasons alone, we recommend that brands include Google+ as one part of a comprehensive social media strategy. What are your thoughts on Google+? Is it dead, alive or maybe just sick? Join the debate in the comments.

Five Tips for Creating a Visual Brand

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Visuals only hold the value that we give them. With no context, a shape is just a shape. Though it may serve many purposes in many forms, from complex geometry and math to the rich history of a 200-year-old brand, a shape on its own won’t tell your audience a story.
 
Suppose we took a shape and placed it with another to give it context:
 
Black-x-o
 
In this instance, we can note that the shapes aren’t the same, but they appear to have similar weight and value. What happens if we distinguish them further?
 color-x-o
 
Now we can assume more about these two shapes. They’re different colors and different shapes. They must be opposites.
 
It happens often. You’ll view an object that you haven’t encountered and make inferences about its use based on your personal experiences. The same happens with brand visuals. How can we influence our audience to make positive assumptions about us? How do we make sure that they view us in a good light, even if they’ve never interacted with our product?
 
1. Intentional Design
 
Like in the above example, we naturally make assumptions based on related experiences. It’s likely that we viewed the red “X” as a negative symbol, and the green “O” as a positive symbol. These exist for many other symbols, characters and even colors. It’s important that we bear in mind the suppositions that can be made about a brand.
 
Fortunately, designers have the edge. They have their own experiences in what has worked to connect with target audiences and what hasn’t, and can bring these experiences back to you. A designer’s real expertise is their ability to put themselves in the perspective of someone who has had baseline exposure to your products. In combination with the knowledge of their target market, designers have the opportunity to shape consumers’ opinions and future expectations of your brand.
 
2. Coherency
 
Visuals should obviously fit with company messaging: Composition is appropriate to the designer’s medium, color palettes appropriate to the unique target market and everything from front to back works toward the overarching goal. But as they say, “the devil is in the detail.”
 
What’s not so obvious is that a brand should be descriptive of its origins and convey your goals in the market. A brand should put a face to a product, service or organization. And when potential consumers look at the competition, they should be able to clearly see the difference in the experience your product can offer.
 
3. Design for People
 
One of the things that is not stressed enough is that people are going to be the ones viewing any branding you execute. When determining what “personality” a brand conveys, consumers often hope for something “tech-y” or “friendly” or “fun – those descriptors are a few of many, of course.” A successful brand will find ways to tie these themes back to the people in its market. It’s important to keep reminding yourself that your brand isn’t trying to appeal to your competitors.
 
As a designer, a good measure of success is the ability to provoke emotion, whether a simple positive/negative reaction like, “this is nice,” or nostalgic feelings, like remembering the color shirt your first date wore to the movies. Emotion is a good indication of success because it lets us know if and how people are making a connection to a brand. Keeping a brand too “market-centric” prevents doing so on a larger scale.
 
4. Flexibility
 
A flexible brand keeps things from becoming stale and brings a human quality to any and all of its messaging and collateral. Brand flexibility can open the door to many opportunities, and great brands can translate across multiple platforms simply and effectively. A successful brand will have a clear, recognizable and consistent message throughout.
 
It’s often difficult to tell what’s coming around the corner. Sometimes a series of events – planned or otherwise — could lead you to huge growth or opportunity to reach a larger audience. Going through the effort of a rebrand could be costly or untimely. When developing a brand, it’s hard to be conscious of the unknown, but leaving your visuals flexible can set you up early for success.
 
5.Continuity
 
Like a great brand translates across platforms, a great brand can also translate across multiple generations. A brand can go through multiple rebrands and changes in messaging but always remember the brand is about the product or service. Keeping this in mind will help develop a consistent brand.
 
Continuity is the bridge between the visual and non-visual elements of your brand. This includes everything from the product, messaging, history, imagery and color scheme. Though these elements may change, the bridge that brings them together should not.
 
Need some examples of great visual brands? Visit our page to get our take on effectively approaching and building a brand. Or, comment below and tell us if you have any tips.