Julius Duncan's Blog

Brands for a social age

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Is social growing up?

The mood music around social media has shifted significantly in the last 12 months.

At Headstream we’ve had the privilege of chairing Brand Republic’s Social Media  Strategy conference in 2010, and 2011. What was noticeable at this year’s 5th July event was a refreshing honesty that few brands have ‘cracked’ social as yet, and that early integration of social into the broader marketing strategy is the route to success. This was in contrast to last year’s event where the mood was more triumphalist, and at times reflected the view that social was ‘just another channel’, that had been mastered.

As a result, the day was full of great opportunities to learn from the challenges and surprises brands have faced in social, as well as their successes, and to have an honest and open discussion about the challenges we share as marketers responding to social.

Here are some stand-out moments from the day for us.

1 – It’s all about the customer

Jonathan Williams, Director of e-Marketing at Trader Media Group (owner of Auto Trader) reminded us that ‘getting closer to customers’ is at the heart of social strategy. He emphasised the gilt-edged opportunity that social networks and two-way conversations are giving brands to achieve this. Kathleen Schneider from Dell, echoed Jonathan’s point, saying that CEO Michael Dell’s mantra has always been ‘Find ways to get closer to your customer’.

2 – Should we get hung up on complex ROI formulas?

For Dell the fact that social media has allowed it to get closer to customers in multiple ways is enough ROI in itself to justify the company’s heavy investment in social. Similarly, Cheryl Calverley, from Birds Eye Iglo Group, said the fact that social has ‘made word of mouth measurable for the first time’ is a significant ROI for any brand.

3 – Integrate social as early as possible in strategy and planning

Stressing the need to integrate social into brand and campaign thinking as early as possible, Melissa Littler, Marketing Director at online retailer Brand Alley, said ‘Social works best when it isn’t a bolt-on, when it’s thought about from the outset, and creative is optimised (for it)’. Peter Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at insurer RSA Group, said that the ‘More Than Freeman’ campaign for RSA’s UK insurance brand More Than, had ‘considered social from the start’. This was reinforced by Asad ur Rehman, Director, Global Media (Foods) at Unilever, who said “Social strategy has to be integrated. Embed social upfront in your marketing strategy or your business strategy, it cannot stand alone.”

4. Earning the right to engage

Asad encouraged the room to keep adapting traditional marketing thinking in order to respond effectively to social. “As marketers we need to switch our gears. First we need to earn the right to sit at the (community’s) table, then we have to earn attention, then and only then, we might have earned the right to deliver a product message.” Asad cited Lynx’s ‘Keeping Keeley’ campaign as a great example of this approach.

On the same theme, Peter Markey, said that the personality brought by the More Than Freeman character earns the brand the right to engage with customers who typically only contact their insurer once a year, at renewal. Peter also shared the insight that early in the campaign the tone of voice used on social platforms by the character was ‘too quirky’ and didn’t engage, but by observing interaction levels, testing and learning, a more effective tone of voice was developed that earned significant engagement.

Keep the customer at the centre, integrate social early, see the bigger picture on ROI, earn the right to engage, and be ready to test, learn, fail and adapt.

All great points, and signals that social is no longer the new kid on the block.

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Social – going strategic

The iab hosted an excellent #iabsocial event on June 28th at LBi’s offices at The Old Truman Brewery. Amongst the wide-ranging series of presentations it was the ‘Social Media Strategy’ section that really sparked our interest.

The panel featured speakers from digital, integrated and media agencies, with Dave Coplin from Bing (@dcoplin), and Linked-in’s Sally Keane and Jonathan Bradford completing the bill.

Social media’s diversity was aptly illustrated with case studies ranging across the B2C and B2B sectors.

TMW’s Mark Harrison (@mvharrison) outlined recent Facebook activity undertaken on behalf of Lynx. One interesting takeaway was the need for brand owners to adapt their thinking in social, and get away from the CRM mindset. Harrison said that in the course of his work with Lynx he had come to realise that simply having the objective to use social platforms to drive a number of fans through to the Lynx exclusive community site isn’t sufficient. Instead the priority is to facilitate the peer-to-peer conversation on Facebook through talented ‘social editors’ that become a valuable part of the community, akin to a good host at a party.

From this FMCG fest of girls, ‘Likes’ and the ‘Lynx Effect’ we leapt across the business world to Philips’ challenge to engage B2B audiences for its medical scanning, lighting and town planning products. Jonathan Bradford, the Linked-in account manager behind the work with Philips, made the useful comparison of Linked-in as the ‘heavy end’ of the social engagement spectrum, creating spaces for in-depth discussion and debate, compared to the ‘light’ world of the Facebook ‘Like’.

While different in approach, and target market, the outcomes of both pieces of activity were impressive. For Philips the Linked-in activity has created an active Linked-in Group around lighting with 31,000 members, and healthcare Group with 41,000. These numbers are significant when you consider that there are just 25,000 decision makers globally when it comes to a large healthcare product, like a CAT scanner. Within these groups 60 pct were manager level, and 4,440 discussions have taken place. Perhaps most crucially Philips’ Net Promoter Score within these groups is above 50.

In the case of Lynx , the brand has undertaken focus group research with customers that are fans on Facebook, and those that aren’t. Amongst the fans there is a much higher propensity to buy Lynx products, and up to 3.5 times more value of product is bought by the fan group. Even after discounting the fact that those that fan (‘Like’) the Lynx pages may be brand advocates before joining the community, it’s a compelling argument for brands to engage.

So, interesting work, good results, and particularly in the Philips example, an indication of how the activity supported the wider business, and brand, objectives.

If anyone in the room held onto any doubts about social’s ability to impact wider strategy, they were surely swept away by a superb presentation from Bing’s Head of Search, Dave Coplin @dcoplin.

After channelling Lemmie from Motorhead for a brief moment (!), Dave went on to stress that the search engines’ days of “chasing the algorithm dragon” are past. He said “search and social are now intimately linked”, which is driving Bing’s priority to bring the social web, its networks, and trusted human relationships to bear on search results. “People want to make human decisions, not algorithm decisions. We are seeing a shift from relevance to trust in search”.

To take advantage of this opportunity Dave recommends that brand owners – “let go of the control of the brand, enable communities, and accept you can no longer ‘build it and they will come’, today your brand online is more of a community bazaar than a cathedral”.

On the day Google + was launched, his words made a powerful impression.

It was a highly informative afternoon, illustrating the growing sense in the industry that social has ‘grown up’ to a point where a strategic approach is a must.

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