Social Media is so fetch. Okay, so I won’t try to make fetch happen, but social media is definitely happening and it is taking on the world and shifting the business landscape along the way. Today, the ball is in the consumer’s court. Social media and the emergence of Web 2.0 technology enables community building, sharing user-generated content, and serves as new form of self-expression. If you’re a company looking through the yellow pages trying to find your audience, you’re in the wrong place. Social media serves as an opportunity for marketers to engage one-on-one with their audience, build relationships, and focus in on niche markets. Through this interaction, companies can build communities around their brand and integrate their media and messaging for little to no cost.
Many companies and organizations today are trying their hand as social media with varying degrees of success. However, the next worse thing than not having a digital presence at all is having an inconsistent or inactive social media page. Many companies board the digital media train before they realize where it is going and end up hurting their brand more than they are helping. One company that I believe has one of the best social media presences on the web is BarkBox.
BarkBox is a monthly subscription box service that customers can purchase for their dogs. Each month the box will have a carefully selected variety of high quality dog products from treats and toys to hygiene products and essentials. In addition, they donate $3 of every BarkBox sold to a local rescue or shelter. A large majority of the population loves dogs. They are considered to be a man’s best friend, right? Some dog-lovers would even consider them to be like children. This craze accounts for the success of BarkBox and being founded just less than 5 years ago, it has certainly gained some well-deserved recognition.
Facebook (736,110 likes)
Facebook currently has over 1 billions users worldwide and those users share 2.5 million pieces of content EACH DAY! Besides their blog site, this is BarkBox’s most popular social media platform. Their Facebook page is populated with content that includes a variety of photos, videos, relatable or informational articles, and more. Generally they post every few hours with a ranging variety of content listed above and also include user-generated content as well. Their Instagram feed is also set-up as an application within the Facebook page. For the most part BarkBox utilizes Facebook as a way to produce shareable content and promote the product as well as their blog. They also heavily engage and collaborate with users and direct them to the BarkBox site.
Twitter (26,800 followers)
On Twitter, BarkBox tweets just as regularly as they post of Facebook with some of the same photos and content. This most likely means the accounts are linked, which isn’t really the best use of social media due to risk of overexposing, but works in the way that it helps them reach a larger audience. BarkBox frequently favorites and re-tweets their consumers’ content. They also actively converse with consumers whether it is to thank them, handle problems, or to simply strengthen the relationship. Although they are engaging with consumers, Twitter is one of their least followed social media platforms. With 560 million users currently on Twitter, this may be a platform for them to grow in the future.
Instagram (642,000 followers)
Along with Facebook,Instagram is one of BarkBox’s strongest social media platforms. They post anywhere between 3-5 photos or videos a day on their Instagram feed and promotes hashtags to easily share content. A large majority of their content on this platform is user-generated. They repost a photo of a dog sent in by a BarkBox user and add a caption with an accredited tag to the user. This highly encourages users to post the photos in hopes that BarkBox will repost it, giving them (and their pup) a sense of Internet fame. The photos or videos are generally cute or very humorous. Even if the followers don’t own a dog of their own, they may still enjoy reading and seeing the photos.
Pinterest (19,420 followers)
BarkBox also utilizes Pinterest to share their content as well as content from others. Their page consists of many different Pinterest boards including: Cute Animals, DIY Dog Projects, Human Stuff for Dog Lovers, Dog Couture, and many more. This not only serves as another outlet to reach consumers, but also allows users to sort through and look for exactly what they are interested in. Perhaps they are deciding on a costume for their dog, BarkBox’s ‘Dog Couture’ board includes photos as well as links to different types of costumes. This platform allows for providing helpful and relevant content to users. Although this is their least followed site, it may be due to the lesser popularity of Pinterest than other platforms, with just 70 million users.
Their extensively populated blog site, BarkPost, is a very well liked site and is a large part of BarkBox’s digital strategy. They have seven topic tabs full of different stories, videos, news, and entertainment regarding anything and everything about dogs. On the site you can upload your own photos and also subscribe to their newsletter. Users can also comment on the different posts regarding their opinions and also share the different content through their own social media platforms.
BarkCam and BarkBuddy
Additionally, BarkBox has created two different mobile applications to further integrate social media. The first is called BarkCam, which is a free smartphone application. The app uses sounds to grab the attention of your pup for a great photo as well as filters, stickers, and text edit options that they can later share with their friends.
Second, they have the BarkBuddy app, or more appropriately, “Tinder” but for dogs. Rescue shelters or users can upload photos and profiles of dogs that need a home and others can filter their preferences and scroll through to favorite dogs in their area that they are interested in adopting. After being approved to adopt, they can find their BarkBuddy match. Find fluffy singles near you.
Social Media Strategy
Through all of their social media platforms, BarkBox consistently strengthens and promotes their brand image and awareness (Branding). Although social media is primarily used for growing awareness, BarkBox also include links to every site including their own website to drive consumers to become more involved with the brand and hopefully purchase the product (eCommerce). BarkBox also collects feedback from customers on what they like, don’t like, or want to see happen in the future (Research). They also are actively engaged with their audience and reach out to consumers who are having an issue to provide efficient customer service (Customer Retention).
Social Feedback Cycle
In Dave Evan’s Social Media and Customer Engagement, he lays out the Social Feedback Cycle. The Social Feedback Cycle is the “digital word-of-mouth” and essentially a “social business.” Consumers are now rating and reviewing products themselves and sharing this information with their peers. This social technology has connected people around business and is now a part of almost every purchase.
Due to BarkBox’s pure play web business model, they stress the awareness step in the Social Feedback Cycle. Since there is no brick and mortar store, they use social media and other digital marketing tactics to gain awareness and recognition. BarkBox uses many useful tactics to effectively connect and engage consumers. One of the strongest tactics is by using user-generated content such as photos that consumers have posted or shared with BarkBox. Therefore, not only are users posting an adorable photo of a puppy with its face smushed up against a window, they are posting an adorable photo of their puppy with it’s face smushed up against a window. Additionally, they create shareable posts that are humorous, engaging, and relatable. These factors place BarkBox high in the consumer’s mind in the consideration step as well as on the user side in the talking step, which loops back to consideration. After the consumer chooses to purchase BarkBox and receives the box in the mail for their dog, they use the products and form their opinion. Once their opinion is formed they go back to social media to hopefully post and share positive experiences in their social networks.
Additionally, BarkBox’s extensive use of user-generated content encourages these users to post photos of their dog(s) on social media sites in hopes that it will be chosen and shared on BarkBox’s page. Not only that, but people love their dogs. They love to take photos of their dogs. They love to treat their dogs. And they love more than anything to show everyone else how cute their dogs are. With a BarkBox by their side, it’s an instant and free promotion for the brand. Even if their reviews of the products are negative, BarkBox heavily monitors and interacts with consumers to make sure that the problem is solved. With the initial push in the awareness stage, the Social Feedback Cycle will continue on until they no longer use the product.
What makes BarkBox unique in this process is that every month there are new toys, treats, and products in the box. This is risky in that customers’ opinions can quickly change if they don’t like a box one month or a certain product inside the box. However, these frequently varying products make for a great opportunity for the users to continuously take photos of their dogs. This means more sharing, more engaging, and overall more awareness.
Not only that, with this two-way social interaction as Evan’s mentions, the power is shifting from companies to the consumers. In traditional media, marketers have all of the control and interact with consumers one-way through a monologue. However, new media emphasizes collaboration and conversation. Unlike traditional marketing, businesses are now the ones listening to the customers. BarkBox, as well as other companies, are able to collect information from listening to consumers regarding ideas for market expansions, new products, warnings of any problems, customer service, and other forms of feedback.
Four-Step Engagement Process
Dave Evans also discusses the four-step engagement process and how “engagement is redefined by consumers when acting in an open, participative social environment.” His example is simply the difference between going to see a movie versus participating in a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” As mentioned previously, the participation, collaboration, and engagement is vital for successful social media marketing. This engagement process moves consumers past the act of consumption. Simply enough, the engagement process beings with consumption to curation to creation and finally to collaboration, each an increasingly engaged state. BarkBox undoubtedly reaches every level of this engagement process through their social media.
Consumption is simply reading, watching, or listening to digital content. This may be a brand or individual on the web who is reading and taking in content, but not sharing or contributing content back. BarkBox easily accomplishes this level and most likely fulfilled this before they even began their social media platforms. Additionally, the users that like or follow the platforms are at the very least are most likely skimming BarkBox’s content.
Curation is the next step, and is described by Evans as acts such as commenting, rating, tagging, or sorting content. The most basic example is creating a review or a rating about a product. BarkBox is constantly sharing others’ posts or photos while adding commentary or reviews. Through their content, specifically their BarkPost blog, BarkBox certainly accomplishes this step in the process.
The next step, creation, is when the user actually creates content and offers something they have made themselves. This is BarkBox’s strongest level in the engagement process. They create content such as articles, photos, and other graphics to post on their social media sites for users to enjoy. BarkBox successfully encourages its users to create and share their content.
Lastly the collaboration step is the icing on the cake of having a successful community and true “social business.” As Evans explains, the previous three steps can easily be individual activities and of course drives traffic, but doesn’t have that last key component. Simply enough, BarkBox accomplishes collaboration through all of their social media platforms. If you take a look at any of their content, they are frequently interacting with users. With their BarkPost blog, people can comment on the articles and collaborate their ideas. As mentioned earlier, BarkBox can take feedback from its consumers and use it for something as simple as inspiration for a Facebook post all the way to further design in the product. BarkBox and their strong social media presence clearly encompass all four of the steps in the engagement process.
BarkBox makes impressive use of social media and can serve as a benchmark for companies in the future. Through all of BarkBox’s social media efforts, they truly create the perfect example of a strong online community and what it means to be successful in the digital world. Woof woof.
For an advertising, copyright, and design class last year I was assigned to create an entire advertising campaign for BarkBox. If you’re interested you can check out my work here. Let me know what you think!