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In Canada, when the leaves change colour, so does the pace of business. Just as the academic year ramps up, brands rev up the volume on their marketing campaigns and, as a result, social media activity soars.

The fall presents a cornucopia of creative ways to insert your brand into the conversations happening around the changing season. A parody on Mashable called #fallingforfall presents a prime example of how a simple hashtag can garner your brand so much attention. As we move into fall season, consumers eagerly populate Instagram with filtered photos of apple orchards, pumpkin patches and of course their new cozy sweaters and leather boots.

It may seem obvious now, but social media has allowed marketers to change their approach entirely. Rather than pushing their products or services in a highly promotional way, and expecting media and online influencers to respond, marketers are beginning to realize join the conversations already taking place is a far more authentic way of connecting with and engaging consumers.

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Starbucks is a great of example of a major brand embracing the fall. The annual release of its Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) is eagerly anticipated by customers and has become the unofficial mark to the start of the season. Prior to its September launch, Starbucks leveraged its social channels to release a code (PSL10), which allowed consumers to "unlock' the product early in store.

The company continued to build hype around this seasonal product by underscoring the fact that 2013 fall marks the PSL's 10-year anniversary. For ten days in September, followers were encouraged to post photos on their social channels using the hashtags #PSL #Celebrate10. Winners received a pre-loaded Starbucks card and knitted cup-cozy. Following the contest, Starbucks continued to encourage social sharing through these hashtags by reposting notable user photos for the duration of the season.

Apart from the fresh tastes of fall, people are also eager to vamp up their wardrobe for the new season. This gives clothing brands a big opportunity to listen to what's trending and figure out creative strategies to insert their voice as part of the on and offline conversations. And the strategy can work regardless of the size of your company.

Picture this: an independent Canadian designer on a shoestring budget is looking to drum up business for their new fall line. Knowing consumers will be posting related hash tags and comments about their need for fall clothing, the brand could shift its focus from tweeting out their latest promos and instead respond personally to every single consumer asking about their new fall look. Consumers may be surprised to witness a brand paying attention to what they're saying online, and the brand finds an authentic way to engage with a potential customer.

It's no different on the home front. With 52 per cent of homeowners planning to do renovations this fall, HomeSense saw an opportunity to respond. Tapping into the #fallingforfall trend, the home decor company created a "Favourite Fall Style Contest." After filling out an entry form, consumers can visit the contest Pinterest board and repin their favourite item using the hashtag #HomeSenseStyle. Each week, a winner is granted a $100 gift card to put toward their decorating budget. Adding new items to their style board each week, HomeSense is able to gain insight on what items are proving popular and incorporate that knowledge into the new items they pin. Structuring a contest around the trending season which simultaneously fulfills a consumer need demonstrates that effective marketing isn't just about listening to trends, but responding accordingly.

Consumers are indeed #fallingforfall, and smart brands are starting to take part in those conversations. But the real question is: come December, will consumers become #wildforwinter?

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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