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    Your customers are talking about e-cigarettes. You should listen.

    By Martyn Tipping

    Rarely a day goes by without another news story about the alleged dangers of e-cigarettes and the need for stricter regulation. You would think these are the only issues affecting the category.

    But underneath the white noise of mainstream media and legislators, there are thousands of social media conversations happening every day that reveal fascinating insights into how the category is evolving.

    If legislation isn?t the main topic of conversation, what are social media users talking about? In a report conducted exclusively for Progressive Grocer, Brand Chorus, a New York-based social business intelligence firm, performed an analysis of more than 167,000 social media conversations that took place over a one-month period. This analysis yielded several insights and their implications for grocers.

    Insight 1: Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking is an important topic for consumers.

    Of 142,000 total posts about e-cigarettes on social media during the month studied, 20 percent were about smoking cessation.

    Implications: There?s a clear opportunity to engage consumers in a conversation about quitting cigarettes without becoming involved in politically complex health issues, and it?s in your customers? interest to do so.

    Insight 2: Coupons, giveaways and promotions represent the majority of brand-generated posts, but consumers aren?t biting.

    Almost one-third of all brand-generated posts promote sales deals, giveaways or coupons. On average, each coupon/offer is shared with only three to four others.

    Implications: Rather than throw dollars at couponing, manufacturers should reinvest with retailers to create educational and marketing support programs. Trade channel clarity is very important right now.

    Insight 3: Online brand hijacking is a problem for the e-cigarette category.

    While manufacturers and retailers can, and do, execute marketing partnerships to the benefit of all, there are some online retailers that hijack brand names to lure consumers to their sites by nefarious means.

    Brand hijacking damages the integrity of brands and the category. It also makes it much harder for consumers to find reputable sources of information about brands.

    Implications: Manufacturers need to develop strategies for combating brand hijackers, and retailers should hold them accountable.

    Insight 4: E-cigarette brands are failing to engage consumers on social media.

    This is the one area where manufacturers and retailers can have an immediate impact. While e-cigarette brands may have a social media presence, they?re falling short of creating a compelling brand narrative that truly engages the consumer.

    For example, the Brand Chorus study showed that exactly 50 percent of social media posts for one prominent e-cigarette brand were promoting discounts or coupons. Out of almost 20,000 followers across Twitter and Facebook, this brand couldn?t get a single ?like?/share for the majority of its posts.

    Implications: Social media posts can be read as a ?social brand narrative? ? a story created by the cumulative impact of social media posts. If brands are able to manage their stories effectively, social media can be a very powerful tool. This is as simple as designing social strategies that build upon the brand and are continually relevant to customers.

    If brands are able to manage their stories effectively, social media can be a very powerful tool.

    By Martyn Tipping
    • About Martyn Tipping Martyn Tipping (212-931-9022, ext. 203) is also a partner of Brand Chorus and founder of the internationally renowned TippingGardner firm. He has overseen high-profile branding projects for clients in major industries all over the world.

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