Dunkin’ Donuts is a pretty savvy digital brand. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Boston resident with a coffee habit. More than sixteen million people engage with the brand across Facebook and Instagram, Kik and Snapchat, among others.
It’s fair to say Dunkin’ pulls out all the stops to engage with its customers on social channels, and with good reason. We know thatnothing influences people more than social content published by their peers. That’s why, in today’s social trust economy, brands across many industries are looking for ways to inspire their fans and followers to create and share content that features their products and experiences.
But that’s easier said than done.
For Dunkin’ Donuts, this imperative translates into a cross-platform strategy that leaves it chasing its fans from app to app, social network to social network. AR filters on Snapchat and Kik, hashtag contests on Twitter, and endless stop-motion videos on Facebook. That’s because Dunkin’s own digital brand environment — its mobile app and website — was not really designed with user-generated content or sharing in mind.
To be clear, I’m not talking about adding share buttons to a website, but about designing products to be truly shareable — giving people a reason to stop, create, and share on behalf of the brands and products they love as a part of the product experience.
The idea here goes much deeper than marketing or advertising: social engagement should never be an afterthought, but a core feature of your product, built in at the very beginning of product design and development.
Look at Venmo, the payment app of choice for millennials. The app exists to facilitate payments between friends, but so are dozens of other apps that are just as easy, just as fast, and just as effective. Venmo’s secret advantage is that every transaction is an opportunity for a social experience between friends.
Let’s get back to Dunkin’. The Dunkin’ Donuts mobile app is highly-rated, heavily-trafficked, and demands daily use. It consistently tops the App Store charts. It’s functional and easy to use. And yet, it’s missing one key element: it does not allow users to create and share content within the app itself.
Instead, Dunkin’, like most brands, puts up de facto “Exit” signs and pushes customers towards platforms they don’t own but simply rent access to, like Instagram or Facebook. It isn’t only bad for the brand, it’s also disruptive for the user experience.
Here are four big problems with this approach:
It’s not my intent to bash Dunkin’— there’s a lot it does really well. And, to be fair, it’s not the only brand that’s stumbling here.
Walk into any Starbucks, a brand with 19 million mobile app users, and you’ll see adorable chalkboard signs directing customers to bypass the Starbucks app altogether, instead pointing them straight to Instagram to share their Unicorn Frappuccinos, a product that was literally created just to be photographed.
That’s what I call a missed opportunity.
I’m not suggesting that Dunkin’ or Starbucks or any other brand stop using social networks to distribute content and reach audiences at scale.
A Dunkin’ Donuts app that enables content creation within the app itself could allow Dunkin’ consumers to publish their content directly to each network with just a click. The difference lies in the UX and brand experience and importantly, in Dunkin’ keeping the relationship with its customers, versus handing them off to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Fixing these problems isn’t easy, and it requires a sea change in the way we think about social media and its very purpose. That takes time and innovation. But some brands are catching on.
Take, for example, another Boston staple, the Celtics. During last season’s playoffs, the team wanted to extend the live game experience to fans who couldn’t be there in person. So it created a unique way for fans to engage with the team, in a way that actually improved on their existing product, which in this case, was the live game.
Both at home and in the arena, the Celtics allowed fans to create co-branded content with custom augmented reality filters, and encouraged fans to share their videos across any social network for a chance to be featured live on the Jumbotron.
All Celtics fans had to do, was grab their mobile phone and click a vanity URL that the Celtics pushed out across the team’s social channels. From there, fans accessed a fully branded digital experience to create and share 15-second videos of themselves cheering for the team.
Once finished, they were able to share their content instantly across any social network or messaging app, without ever leaving the Celtics’ own digital environment. And with real-time moderation tools, the team was able to ensure that no inappropriate content made its way online or onto the big screen.
The Celtics aren’t the only brand that has begun to figure this out. Business leaders across industries, from entertainment to sports to consumer packaged goods, are starting to think about the potential of social media in new ways.
As consumer expectations of what brands can and should do for them continue to change, product and experience designers need to follow suit. Instead of making a product or experience and considering its sharing capabilities after the launch, companies need to build products and brand ecosystems – websites, apps, social channels – that inherently facilitate content creation and sharing.
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By: Katherine Hays | Date: January 15, 2018