No matter what you do, no matter who you are, everyone is affected by the weather. “Nothing is more immediate and personal than weather – it changes all the time, often dictates your plans for the day and is personal to your interests and location even as you travel. That’s why people ‘talk about the weather’ – it’s a commonality we all share,” says John Dokes, the Chief Marketing Officer for AccuWeather. I spoke to John about AccuWeather’s social media presence, and the opportunities social provides the brand.
The Value of User Generated Content
Founded in 1962 in Pennsylvania, AccuWeather has grown to become one of the most utilised weather forecasting services in the world. That popularity is reflected in their social media presence, with more than 520k Facebook fans, 110k followers on Twitter and 33k on Google+. AccuWeather interacts with those fans via a range of updates and, importantly, through the utilisation of user generated content (UGC).
“Social media represents a great opportunity to build a two-way rapport with our audience” Dokes said. “UGC is very important, as we can get users opinions through polls and gather photos and videos from fans all over the world to share in our news stories and on our social properties. We rely on our fans to give us their opinion and help us tell a compelling story of the latest weather events.”
That interaction is best reflected in AccuWeather’s ‘Photo of the Day’, a staple in the AccuWeather social media presence. Posted on Facebook, the ‘Photo of the Day’ regularly gets more than 500 likes and 50 shares, helping boost AccuWeather’s Facebook engagement, and thus, ongoing reach. It’s a great example of the value of UGC, and how, when done well, it can form a crucial part of yor ongoing Facebook strategy.
“An App A Day…”
Where AccuWeather has seen significant success in is apps. I asked Dokes about the company’s approach to app marketing, considering most smartphones already have in-built weather apps and how AccuWeather differentiates their offering. “We work with every major connected device manufacturer in the world and have more than a billion AccuWeather branded apps installed on mobile and connected devices worldwide.” Dokes said. “Mobile device manufacturers realize that essential apps are great marketing points for their devices, and as the most popular form of mobile content, weather is a must have and they often use our brand to promote their products. Manufacturers all over the world turn to AccuWeather because we have the global brand recognition and award-winning apps to support their products.”
Dokes also highlighted the importance of weather apps, and their application in everyone’s day-to-day lives. “We’re in a great position in that weather is always changing, so not only is adoption of pre-loaded and in-store apps pervasive, but our users tend to be very engaged, with the majority checking their weather at least once each day.”
Meeting Audience Demand
Accuracy is one of AccuWeather’s core values, and one which has seen them grow to the levels they have. It’s that accuracy that has linked many to their social media platforms – I asked Dokes about how he views social and it’s growing relevance in the modern communications landscape. “Social media has grown tremendously over the past several years and as a global technology leader, as well as a weather data leader, AccuWeather has stayed ahead of the curve investing significantly in platforms like Facebook and Twitter before they became household names. Giving our audience the information that they want, with regular relevant updates, and the Superior Accuracy™ that is our hallmark, builds great loyalty from our social media audience.” Indeed, being where the audience is seeking information has played a significant part in AccuWeather’s social media success. I next asked Dokes about how the company goes about managing their presence and assessing audience demand.
“We have a dedicated social media team that monitors the trends in online interaction and explores new platforms for both the web and mobile web. Although Facebook and Twitter are the two clear leaders right now, we remain ready to explore the next big thing and bring the same accurate weather information to the forefront for new audiences. The challenge is in keeping your finger on the pulse of social media changes and in knowing what your audience wants. Social media is ideally suited to connect with and meet customer needs.” This is a great summation from John, capturing the essence of social media success – that being in meeting audience demand and need as it evolves.
“The true value of social media is engagement.” Dokes said. “Whether we’re providing our core users with relevant weather information and insights or reaching new audiences and exposing them to our superior accuracy, the regular feedback loop helps us understand what’s working and what users are looking for, whether on Social Media or in our apps and website. Customer Service is also a big part of our Social Media efforts as it gives us the chance to directly hear and address feedback and concerns from our audience.”
This is the key theme that ran all through the discussion with John, the way AccuWeather views social as a direct link to their audience, a means of both connecting and listening, and providing based on the information the online community provides. AccuWeather’s product is essentially a broadcast element – it’s information they present to help the audience understand what to expect from each day. But the company has seen beyond that, has seen that the value of social is not in broadcasting, regardless of the products themselves. The value is in listening, engaging, and in building community by providing what your audience is seeking, and where they’re seeking it. As media consumption changes, it’s increasingly important for brands to be tuned-in and delivering content to the platforms their audience is already interacting with.
“No one knows weather like AccuWeather,” Dokes continued. ”But the important thing for us is to keep an ongoing dialogue with our audience so we can provide the types of information and forecasts users can’t find anywhere else in an engaging way that keeps them coming back.”
There are some great lessons to be learned from AccuWeather, both on UGC and on platform engagement. While weather may seem like a less than exciting topic, as Dokes highlights, it affects everything and everyone. AccuWeather understands this, and have been able to capture and utilise their passion for weather and forecasting accuracy in an engaging and interactive way – using social platforms to be social, and using wider audience access to listen to what they want.