In this article, Tim Barnes, head of marketing at Sony Ericsson outlines his organisation’s approach to social media in Australia and asks: Is there no end to Facebook’s usefulness? 

In 2010, Sony Ericsson made a strategic commitment to digital marketing; and the same dedication and approach has continued this year.  We know that, prior to making a purchase, consumers are more and more likely to ‘Google it’, meaning it’s imperative that we have a strong digital presence. We invest more than 50 per cent of our global marketing budget into digital. Digital media provides us with the ability to build the Sony Ericsson brand and promote our products through creative and interactive executions.

Our primary objective is to be recognised as the Communication Entertainment brand through Xperia.  This smartphone range combines the latest Android platform with the best of Sony.  As a marketing channel digital enables us to create interactions that are consistent with the experiences that our customers enjoy when using Xperia smartphones. We approach digital with an ‘Always On’ attitude; consumers not only want but also expect to be entertained 24/7.

Our digital strategy extends across paid, owned and earned media.  Facebook is our most important channel in social media, though we were one of the first mobile brands to globally launch our own YouTube channel.

Facebook is a key pillar of the local consumer engagement piece.  We have set up a cross agency team that works collaboratively to build the community and create engaging and rewarding experiences.

In some ways, it’s hard to imagine life as a marketer before Facebook.  Two-way dialogue with customers is no longer a pipedream; it’s an every-day reality. As a channel, Facebook enables us to do a great number of things that weren’t previously possible.  As an operating company within a global organisation, it gives us much more flexibility and responsiveness when compared with our corner of the global website.  It enables us to establish a local identity and voice for the brand.

I don’t think anyone can claim to have mastered Facebook marketing.  Online communities are living and breathing entities in which change is the only constant, which is what makes it so challenging and exciting.  We’re constantly learning from our customers and fans and we’re hopefully improving the relevance and quality of our content in line with our Communication Entertainment brand values.

One of our biggest Facebook campaigns this year was designed to bring to life our brand promise and encourage two-way communication in a social media setting. Together with our agency, Iris Sydney, we created a live online experiment, which we called Xperia Social Xperiments.

Comedian Tommy Little was locked in a room with his Xperia smartphone and a live video link.  His challenge was to get as many likes on Facebook as he could in eight hours.  Fans set more than 850 challenges in one day and tens of thousands of people tuned in to follow the action.  It simply wouldn’t have been possible to generate this level of engagement and interest without the Facebook channel.

Facebook also acts as a support and service channel for us.  Our community management team work with customer service to solve problems for fans and provide product support.

We work closely with the mobile operators and retailers in Australia, many of which are investing heavily in building out their own brand on Facebook.  Again, Facebook plays a role in co-marketing campaigns with these partners.  This approach has enabled us to cross-pollinate our communities and create awareness for new products and services in a mutually beneficial fashion.

Facebook has also become integral to our Owned media channels; the like button is integrated across the website.  It has even become a marketing proposition for Sony Ericsson in its own right in the form of ‘Facebook inside Xperia’, which weaves instant Facebook access into the most used areas of the phone allowing users to (for example) ‘like’ photos that friends have posted on Facebook direct from your phone’s photo gallery without needing to access Facebook.

The social layer within the marketing mix is emerging as a real battleground for brands.  It is of immense value, which is obvious by Google’s foray into social media with Google+. Facebook has become the water cooler of the current digital age. At Sony Ericsson, we will be watching and participating in the constant evolution of the social media space.