Contents What is social media and why is it important? Why should brands communicate through social media?
How to engage people with social media
Common misunderstandings about social media
Questions to ask before you start
What is social media and why is it important? “Social media?” ‘Social media’ is a very broad term. It refers to all the online activities, tools, platforms and practices that allow people to collaborate, create, and share thoughts, knowledge, opinions and content. Social media are both what people do online, and the environments (like blogs, forums, and social networks) in which they do it.
As their use has widened, social media have become increasingly important for brands and their communication, offering a growing opportunity to join consumer conversations. Our aim in this guide is to explain how.
This is more than services like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter; social media are the ways people behave online, sharing and talking to each other, both one-to-one and one-to-many, establishing and maintaining relationships: it is the same person-toperson communication that has existed for as long as we have had language, but on a grand scale without physical or geographical restrictions.
“Who said this is media? Media is something you buy and sell. Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody.” Ted McConnell, GM for interactive marketing & innovation at P&G
“Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, to name a few. Examples of social media applications are Google Groups (reference, social networking), Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook (social networking), MouthShut.com, yelp.com (product reviews), Youmeo (social network aggregation), Last.fm (personal music), YouTube (social networking and video sharing), Avatars United (social networking), Second Life (virtual reality), Flickr (photo sharing), Twitter (social networking and microblogging), Open Diary (blogging), and other microblogs such as Jaiku. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms like Mybloglog and Plaxo.”
Why has social media become so important? Motivations to participate in social media vary due to social and cultural differences, but “the fundamental emotions
that drive people [to use social media] – the desire to connect, to create, to stay in touch, and to help each other – are universal.” (Groundswell, Li & Bernoff).
Social media fulfil our desire to feel part of something larger than ourselves. Tapping into these “fundamental emotions” offers brands unprecedented opportunities for engagement. The web offers tremendous social benefit to ordinary people, increasing the importance of personal and professional recommendations, and giving us a voice, a platform, limitless information, and a global marketplace that we lacked when mass channels of communication were controlled only by corporations or governments.
For example, if you don’t use Twitter, it can seem noisy and trivial. But the chatter of Tweets binds social groups together, and offers enormous potential for knowledge sharing. In June 2009, Twitter and other social media were the main sources of information about the Iranian elections; in April 2009, the ‘Twitter revolution’ forced a recount in the Moldovan general election. Commercially, brands are finding novel uses for it: Dell uses Twitter as a loyalty channel to offer discounts to its followers (making an estimated $3 million as a result).
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How to engage people with social media 1. Listen (and continue listening) 2. Participate 3. Monitor and optimize 1. Listen (and continue listening)
To understand consumer sentiment towards a brand To improve and increase dialogue with a target audience To drive word-of-mouth and consumer advocacy To quantify the effectiveness of brand communication To improve customer service and support, to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty To build communities around brand events To integrate a brand into existing communities, to launch or extend brand communication
While most of us accept that social media have a role to play in brand communication, the majority don’t yet know how best to use them. This is why it is so important to listen ﬁrst, to be sure we understand our target audience, and how we can best meet their needs.
Buzz monitoring – tracking what people are saying online and analyzing consumer sentiment, and seeing how it affects other conversations – is a vital ﬁrst step to understanding what consumers think about your brand, and for building a business case for brand activity within the social web.
Social media are an amazing source of consumer insight, offering unﬁltered evidence of people’s actual behavior and attitudes. Listening to what people are saying online allows us to get to the heart of the customer experience of products and services like never before.
To deal with or prevent PR crises To gather consumer input to develop new products and services To generate something very valuable: people who care about your brand
Important questions when listening: Listening helps us to decide which elements of social media a brand could use to engage its audience. For example, by monitoring the most important smallbusiness communities in China, Korea and Australia, HP was able to create customized messaging for the most powerful inﬂuencers, and subsquently created a community-engagement program to monitor those inﬂuencers and shape sentiment and conversations.
But just because you are using social media to understand consumers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that any resulting strategy or communication will use social media. For many marketers, the insight offered by examining what people do and say online, and the resulting opportunities for reputation management, are the most important ways of using social media.
How does our audience use social media? What are people’s current feelings towards the brand and its activity, competitors and category; how has this evolved over time? How do existing communities, that are relevant to the brand, function online? What consumer needs or problems are being discussed that your product can help with? How do people discuss these needs or problems? How does the brand feature in these conversations? What role (if any) could the brand play in them? Who are the authors/creators of buzz about a brand or topic? How inﬂuential are they? Where is your audience most active online, and why? How much buzz does the brand generate compared to competitors? (i.e. what ‘share of conversation’ does it have?) How does brand content evolve as it spreads? What type of content is being created by consumers, and how do they share it?
Active, on-going listening Once a brand is engaged with social media, the need to listen doesn’t stop, but becomes an on-going process; people’s conversations continue, so we shouldn’t just dip in to ‘take the temperature’. Before, during and after we act, we have to keep asking questions to increase our understanding of people’s changing needs and wants.
How we listen is also an important consideration. In any conversation, ‘active listening’ – where we give feedback to the person speaking, to make it clear that we are really listening and will react to what they are saying – sends a powerful message: ‘you are important to me’. Therefore, brands should let people know they are listening. When someone does something for the brand (such as recommending it), thank them. When we answer a question, answer it publicly. If someone complains, be seen to deal with it.
Brands must consider what they are willing and able to do that is mutually beneﬁcial for them and their consumers. The appropriate response to listening is not necessarily to use social media: it can have implications for every aspect of the business. Participating doesn’t necessarily mean a brand has to create its own social media platforms (such as a community). If done well, display media, sponsorships or partnerships with existing communities and content on social network sites can be highly appropriate, offering good opportunities for brands that aren't ready or don't want to build their own community.
An important consideration for all brands is the resource needed to get involved with social media: if a brand is trying to engage or build a community, it must nurture it on an ongoing basis, and this creates a dedicated role that must be ﬁlled. Brands need what the FT called “the new corporate ﬁreﬁghters” – people to manage their social media involvement. Not having such a resource is one of the biggest barriers to brand involvement.
Different strategies for participation
Having listened to consumers, brands have to show through their behavior that they understand their audience and can add value to the conversation.
The driving force behind social media is ordinary people sharing their experiences with a wider community; this includes discussions about brands that touch their lives in both positive and negative ways. So it’s important that brands take responsibility for telling their own stories – rather than letting their customers (and detractors) do this – and for improving their ‘small talk’ by engaging consumers with relevant content.
Different people want to interact with your brand in different ways, so even those who are most interested in your brand need to be given a number of opportunities for interacting with it, depending on their preference. Within social media, there are different basic approaches for participation, depending on your target audience:
Social media requires conversation rather than broadcast communication. Brands must be available and accessible to their audience, fostering mutually beneﬁcial dialogue and two-way information exchange. Dialogue involves sharing, whether that’s of time, attention, interest, experiences, respect, understanding, or activity.
While this can include corporate blogs and Twitter-feeds, the ideal situation is to get consumers talking to you and to each other about your brand, not just getting yourself involved in the conversation. In India, Gillette managed to create a national debate on the merits of the cleanshaven look vs. the stubbled look in Indian society, with its “India votes: to shave or not” campaign. It began with a survey on people’s attitudes towards shaving, and continued with online and live polls in public places, coupled with product trials. In Hungary, the inﬂuential lifestyle blog Kispad featured two people taking a crosscountry road trip while using a Sony Ericsson cellphone to upload videos, text and photos from their adventures; and their itinerary was determined by comments on the site.
Energize Energizing involves ﬁnding or creating fans of your brand (or something related to your brand), and giving them something to talk about. One of the best known examples of Energizing comes from US President Barack Obama, someone with a strong emotional appeal and a large fanbase to exploit.
Support The team running President Obama’s 2008 election campaign understood the power of social networks, and generated 5.5 million friends on Facebook, nearly 300,000 followers on Twitter, and a YouTube channel with over 100 million video views. The messages on these sites were speciﬁcally designed to energize his supporters – to get them to campaign on his behalf, and do whatever they could to get him elected. Kraft is perhaps less emotionally engaging than President Obama, so it focused on an engaging issue, creating a Facebook application that donated meals to a hungerrelief charity each time it was downloaded; over 230,000 people did this in six weeks.
Supporting means helping your consumers to help each other, as well as helping customers directly (preferably in a way that can be seen by others). Social media have allowed consumers with experience of products and services to act as a help-desk for other consumers; the better the access these people have to a brand, the more able they are to help others.
Toshiba developed an online “Laptop Experts” community to give people answers to laptop-related questions from expert bloggers. As well as placing widgets on other webpages linking to the community (to let people post questions), there was a mobile campaign that allowed people to ask questions using SMS texts.
The UK National Health Service’s Smokefree smoking-cessation campaign created a Yahoo community called “Stub It Out”, where people who wanted to quit smoking could chat with fellow quitters and get advice and tools to help them quit and deal with cigarette cravings, as well as hearing from successful quitters.
Involve As people become more digitally empowered and participate more actively in their media consumption, they are also becoming more actively involved in how brands develop and grow. Involving consumers can be immensely valuable – by integrating end-users into our business, sourcing ideas from them and getting to know what people want from us. It can even mean co-creation, where products or services that consumers want to buy are developed with their help.
Before participating: is your brand naturally social? “Vocalpoint” is a Procter and Gamble-owned community of mothers, which P&G uses to source opinion, test products, and guide product development. Members are encouraged to tell others about products, and are rewarded for taking part in research like focus groups.
There are brands that people naturally want to talk about and engage with, but these brands are relatively rare. If you have a brand people want to talk about, you’ll have fans that you can tap into. If you don’t know who or where these people are, you need to ﬁnd this latent fanbase, and energize it. These people will have a clear idea of what the brand is about, and you have to be careful not to contradict that. It’s a nice problem to have, so don’t give them a reason to fall out of love with you by acting out of character.
However, if you’re like the majority of brands, most people aren’t naturally going to talk about you. One solution is to create ‘relevance by association’ – get people to talk about what they are passionate about, with which the brand also has a natural afﬁnity, and associate the brand with their passions. In the process, you may even ﬁnd or generate some fans of your brand. For example, P&G created the “Beinggirl” community site for girls to talk about teenage life because it knew girls wouldn’t talk about tampons; the site gives them an environment to deliver feminine care product messages.
The need for good ‘brand manners’ Transport for London, the UK local government transport body, integrated its youth road-safety campaign into the Bebo page featuring the popular online drama Soﬁa’s Diary, and included videos, polls and comments for participation.
Even for brands that have more naturally engaging products, tapping into people’s passions is a great route into social media. Sony Ericsson worked with young people’s love of music by creating the Sonic Experience community in Latin America for unsigned bands (and their fans), who competed for public votes to get their music used for animated videos to be shown on TV and online. The task for brands is to create a story that both it and its consumers can participate in together.
Successful brand communication within social media is not only about good consumer insight and great ideas; brand behavior – how we act – is vitally important. The social web is about people interacting with one another, so the usual rules of social intercourse apply. This is true for all participants, including brands. In the ‘real’ world, if you’re talking to someone and you have nothing interesting to say, they will stop listening to you. If you interrupt people’s conversation, they will ignore you (or worse).
This might seem very obvious. But too many bad or inappropriate social media ideas are being thrown at an accordingly indifferent public. Consider Habitat, the UK retailer, using Twitter to promote messages that were irrelevant to the topics they were attached to: “Our totally desirable Spring collection now has 20% off!” was attached to tags relating to the volatile Iranian election, then the top news story. Acting commercially in a social situation is rude in the real world, and it’s rude in the online one. If we can’t add value to a conversation, we shouldn’t be there.
Why should things be any different online? When you go to an online community of some kind, you are joining someone else’s conversation or social space. Be nice. People will no longer tolerate being spoken ‘at’; brands must speak ‘with’ them.
3. Monitor and optimize (return on investment) Measuring behavior within social media is different from traditional media because there are so many more actions that are measurable – such as blog posts, comments, links, votes, views, bookmarks, favorites, Tweets – few of which are comparable to traditional media indices like reach or frequency. Above all, consistent on-going measurement is vital. This can be used to assess the success of activity, but also to continuously develop conversations to drive marketing strategy, tactics, and brand and product development.
Some possible metrics for measuring social media So if there are many more things that we can measure, the question becomes ‘what should we measure?’ What kind of ROI do we want and need: what measurement and results will be commercially relevant?
Behavioral metrics: to gauge the level of attention and engagement that brand activity is generating, ex.: The volume of conversations or mentions.
Attitudinal/sentiment metrics: to gauge your activity’s emotional resonance or impact on attitudes to the brand, ex.: The sentiment – positive, negative or neutral.
Share of conversation (not share of voice), ex. if you’re a car brand, what proportion of the conversation on cars is about you?
The effect on brand-attribute measures.
Awareness, perception and sentiment measures.
Ecosystem metrics: to get a sense of the wider impact of your activity, ex.: The origin of conversations – which sources, sites, and authors are inﬂuential?
How much time do people spend with you, and how often do they return?
Numbers and activity of fans, friends and followers.
What is the impact on sales, site trafﬁc, search ranking etc?
Do people refer others to your site or activity?
What impact is traditional media having on social behavior online? Has your activity reduced complaints or saved time in call centres?
Knowing the risks The lack of control in social media can be a real challenge, and the risks of getting involved need to be carefully considered. Social media cannot be controlled. If people choose to interact with your application, you can’t tell them how, and you can’t just ‘switch it off’. When Burger King offered downloads of “24” on Myspace, along with space to talk about the show, they weren’t expecting people to spend so much time debating the physical characteristics of Jack Bauer’s daughter. Your messages can be undermined, and your content used against you. One of the best-known examples was the Chevy Tahoe campaign hijacked by environmentalists. GM provided content for people to make their own ads, and allowed them to superimpose text onto the content, resulting in ﬁlms with straplines like, “Don’t buy me.” There’s no such thing as ‘local’ any more. So if someone ﬁnds a fried chicken’s-head in their McDonald’s, as a woman in Virginia did, the world will know.
Bad news travels fast. When cyclist Chris Brennan uploaded a video showing him opening a Kryptonite bike-lock with a Bic biro, it was all over the web in roughly the same time it took to pick the lock. And the negative coverage is still there ﬁve years later whenever anyone Googles “Kryptonite locks”. The people who don’t like you may be the most energized by your activity. If people don’t like the way you do business, they will use social media to tell others; they may even hijack your social media to do so. A Starbuck’s campaign on Twitter to get people to upload pictures of posters at their stores was immediately hijacked by postings of anti-Starbuck’s placards. Consumers can organize themselves against you. Residents of Wye, in the UK, discovered their small village was to be destroyed to make way for a £1 billion housing development. Their “Save Wye” campaign, which stopped the development, was run by two residents from a £10 website.
Social media should not be treated like conventional media. Social networks – i.e. networks of people – are not mass media channels. Social media are not a like-for-like replacement for traditional advertising, nor are they a cheap (or free) alternative to a traditional mass media strategy. Social media are not a free workforce, nor a free R&D or creative department. Social media are not a miracle cure; using social media will not make bad products or services better on their own. Social media grew from the ground-up – by the people, for the people. You can’t run things from the top-down. Social media marketing is not a campaign, it’s an on-going commitment. Once you’re out there, you have to stay out there.
Questions to ask before you start Does your social media campaign have a clearly articulated role within an overall communications strategy? What is the specific objective of your activity? How will it achieve that objective? How will you measure success? What conversations already exist online about the brand, its rivals, or the category? Who is the target audience? What do you understand about them? Is social media relevant for my consumer? How? What are they most likely to respond to? Why will your target audience be motivated to engage with your campaign and spread your message? Is what youâ€™re doing right for both brand and audience? Is there a good fit with your desired brand positioning? What value are you adding to the conversation? Is what youâ€™re doing interesting, original, entertaining, useful, shareable, adaptable? Really? Do you have the resources to support your activity and maintain dialogue with consumers? Are you able to commit to this for the long term? How will you take advantage of the opportunities that appear? How will you respond to negative consequences?
Asia Pacific Ben Poole Head of MEC Interaction, Asia Pacific email@example.com Tel: +65 6225 1262
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Social media have become increasingly important for brands and their communication, offering a growing opportunity to join consumer conversa...