A lot of brands wouldn’t complain about having 200,000 “likes” within the first year of their Facebook pages’ existence.
But Yoplait started there, then added 800,000 likes within its second year on Facebook -- celebrating its one-millionth fan last month.
How? Largely by moving away from an impersonal, push-marketing approach to a more “authentic,” discussion-driven approach in which racking up “likes” is actually far less of a focus than engagement metrics, according to Teresa Coryell House, digital strategist for the brand.
Initially, Yoplait’s Facebook page was “very much approached as another way to promote current campaigns,” Coryell House tells Marketing Daily. “We were mostly talking at our fans, about product attributes and launches, rather than having consumer-driven discussions with them. Our new strategic goal -- which is much harder -- was to drive organic growth by becoming more relevant and authentically engaging.”
Yoplait’s once-heavy use of paid media to build Facebook traffic/likes has become “minuscule” (nearly none since May) as a result of the viral and engagement benefits of the new strategy launched a year ago, she reports.
Last August, Yoplait became the first General Mills brand to have a dedicated social engagement manager: Sara Fryar, known to Facebook fans as “Yoplait Sara.”
This enabled a core strategic shift from reliance on agency-generated content and links to third-party content, to more “human, relatable” postings and content from Fryar. Fryar says her instructions from Yoplait were to be a brand champion by being brand fans’ “girlfriend” -- that is, finding creative ways to “share the kinds of things I would share with my friends.”
Fryar also serves as the unifying voice or personality for a brand that has numerous lines and products within three main divisions (adult, kids/new ventures and Greek), each with their own brand managers and messaging needs.
Fryar’s postings frequently draw on aspects of her own life in Minnesota (including photos of her kids’ latest adventures/accomplishments), usually (although not always) weaving in Yoplait references.
Examples: “I’m the only person awake so far … it doesn’t get much better than this. I get all the goodies to myself,” posted with photo of coffee cup, newspaper and Yoplait container … her promise to share “the good the bad and the ugly” as she tries to get in shape for a Yoplait-sponsored So Good Team that will do a 10-mile Twin Cities run (“When is running going to get easier?”) … and her updates on her latest planting project: nurturing seedling plants in Yoplait containers.
Recipes featured on the page sometimes come from General Mills’ Betty Crocker Kitchens, but frequently from Fryar herself. Mentions of new products, product improvements (like removing high fructose corn syrup) and sweeps/promotions are put in human, “you asked for it, so we’re delivering it” context.
Fryar says the litmus test for all of her postings is whether “it’s something genuinely useful and interesting” to the brand’s Facebook community – the keys to maintaining and virally building the fan base.
To that end, Coryell House and Fryar say they parse the Facebook “virality” and “talking about” numbers for every post. When those are not up to par, they confer and may decide to tweak the approach for a message, to see if its timing, rather than content, may have been the cause. And if that doesn’t work, they move onto potentially more resonant, engaging topics.
In addition to relationship management, “customer service” – monitoring fans’ input to help the brand respond to their needs – is a major part of the social engagement manager’s job. This also yields potential inspirations for new brand marketing approaches.
For instance, the insight that yogurt lovers are very “texture-specific” led to a posting that listed all of the Yoplait varieties that are totally smooth (no chunks of fruit or other ingredients), for smooth-texture lovers’ easy reference. That, in turn, is the type of insight that may be used in future campaigns, says Coryell House.
Another example: Finding a favorite Yoplait flavor has been a top query on the brand’s Facebook page. While the brand’s site, Yoplait.com, has a link to a General Mills product locator that allows specification by brand and flavor, the frequency of this query has inspired the company to develop a more user-friendly by-flavor locator for Yoplait fans.
Restructured Tabs, Flexible Content Management
Along with establishing a dedicated community manager, Yoplait restructured its Facebook page.
The tabs, which used to be product-themed, are now themed to topics, including:
*“Feeling Good”: Featuring Yoplait-supplied recipes, an “inspiration gallery” where fans can swap recipes and cooking tips, and currently, profiles of the So Good running team.
* “Looking Good”: Featuring fan-submitted tips for “getting red-carpet-ready,” plus tips from style bloggers.
* Photos: Including photos submitted by fans, plus a “You Talk, We Listen” section using graphics and short descriptions to spotlight new/improved Yoplait products.
* “It is So Good”: This tab, which uses the brand’s motto, is devoted to encouraging visitors to Yoplait’s Facebook page to “like” the brand.
The structure change has been “huge” in driving engagement and sharing, because the topics synch with “what our consumers really care about,” says Coryell House.
Also supporting the strategy: Investment in a Facebook management system (Buddy Media) is enabling flexible formatting and easy posting of content, as well as fast revisions, according to Coryell House and Fryar.
Yoplait celebrated the 1-million-likes milestone -- which it says is the largest Facebook fan base for any yogurt brand, including frozen varieties -- by posting an animated thank-you video (“An Ode to Our Facebook Fans”), featuring its own original theme song.