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Integrating social: guidelines or guesswork? Part 1

Social & Digital

Integrating social: guidelines or guesswork? Part 1


By now, nearly all organisations have a strategy for social media in place. Achieving competitive advantage from social, however, lies in its effective implementation.

While the benefits of including social media in an integrated marketing communications strategy are well noted, the guidelines for successful implementation remain elusive. The space is awash with tactical plans and content-driven campaigns, but is there a sure-fire way to implement social in your marketing communications to achieve results? Are there rules that help implement social media as it changes and allows organisations to enhance the role of traditional marketing communication tools?

Social media is clearly effective for reaching increasingly communications-savvy customers, but success lies in the implementation details. Marketing spoke with several Australian FMCG and service brands that have achieved significant outcomes and have overcome the implementation barriers that hold other organisations back. These companies are generally feeling a sense of payback from investing in a vision, taking a leap of faith and trusting their iconic brands of the ‘uncontrollable environment’ that is social media. These articles explore some social media success stories and poses the question: Are there universal ‘rules’ for successful implementation, or are Australian companies each doing it their own individual way?

Interaction through integration 

The degree to which social media is integrated in the marketing communications programs of these firms was responsible for some significant successes. Organisations that find social media at the top of the agenda when strategising find it easier to maintain a consistent voice and represent the core values of the business. This can be achieved in vastly different ways, as Marketing discovered.

Big brands are taking some unique approaches to social media integration. Jason Stidworthy, head of marketing and digital at NRMA has 50 social media internal advocates throughout the organisation and two full-time dedicated social media staff members. This level of cross-functional implementation may be responsible for the higher average engagement rate they are currently enjoying (NRMA is enjoying the same engagement rates as most of the big five banks with half the social following), although Stidworthy says he constantly seeks out internal engagement with social media to see how it could fit with even more activities.

From the FMCG sector, Ian Blackhall, marketing manager of family and youth brands at Kellogg, says he views social media to be at the “centre of the brand’s universe” and then looks for ways to connect outwards to traditional media from there. However, this approach is only appropriate for brands with a strong purpose for the use of social media, says Blackhall, otherwise it will rather be best used as a, “layer around more traditional communications” as confidence in the medium gathers momentum.

Karen Ganschow, head of customer relationship marketing and digital for the Westpac Group, recommends a social component in each program she executes: “We have coined a term for the group around being in social business.” This means every touch point with the consumer fosters their relationship with the bank.

Another brand achieving success with social media is Jetstar. At Jetstar, social media strategy is very much integrated in all marketing communication. The emphasis on social media is less about direct response to media spend and more about being an investment in customer connections, says Liz McCarthy, head of marketing and PR.

Nudie Juice ‘brand governess’ Rachel Clarke says Nudie takes great delight in its increasing levels of engagement on social media to the extent that the CEO texts her when their ‘likes’ go up on Facebook. They were successful in achieving 33,000 likes in 2013, organically as opposed to buying ‘likes’.

You’ve got mail

Compared to more ‘trendy’ social platforms, email still has a role to play in building customer engagement. Jetstar considers email a form of direct marketing, and McCarthy saying that for the brand email is a highly successful digital channel in its own right.

Conversely, Nudie encourages customer feedback via email and has a full-time web manager responding individually to each of the more than 50 daily emails the company receives. Clark considers this email a form of their social media.

For any platform implementation, Ganschow says marketers must ask: ‘What’s in it for customers, how are we representing these compelling reasons against our brand promise?’ She considers rushing into social media to be risky and naïve.

“[The initiative] had better have utility and be adding utility to [the customer’s] life,” says Blackhall.

Building brand affinity – through brand advocates

Content is being created every minute, fuelled by the passion of brand advocates. Strong brand advocacy is a marketer’s utopia, says Blackhall. “And social media is really the vehicle by which we can deliver against that and do it really quickly and really efficiently.”

Consumer interaction creates loyalty and grows brands. Kellogg’s have found another success in the way their social media activities to help developed social media ‘watchdogs,’ which are brand advocates who step in to social media debates and help mitigate damage caused by a disgruntled consumer. Authentic and honest brand testimonials from brand advocates back up the brand’s promise but this only seems to occur if a brand creates and maintains an environment of trust and transparency. Kellogg acknowledges the opportunity social media provides for product innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas. The company believes it can often uncover valuable insights at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research.

Brand advocates also occur in the services sector. Stidworthy talks of the value of the ‘super user’ – this is the ultimate goal of the advocacy strategy. Achieving member involvement in the running of forums and related blogs is common for large technology brands (eg. Dell, Cisco, Intel) but Stidworthy sees it as the future of social media for services providers such as NRMA.

Increasingly, brands are establishing online communities to create and sustain brand advocates and drive loyalty and retention through the fostering of forums, web chat and Facebook. NRMA has a full-time group content manager whose purpose is to drive engagement between its three Facebook pages and other social media platforms. Stidworthy is a big believer of planning the content: “You can read all the hype in all the marketing magazines and all the research coming out, but you have got to get your content strategy sorted.”

Cost-efficient marketing through user generated content 

“When management see users generating content that looks as good as the stuff our traditional advertising agency has generated – sometimes even the numbers go to the side!” says Blackhall. He considers some of the creative work produced by Kellogg’s consumers on YouTube as absolutely outstanding, “They are filmic and… worthy of television exposure.” This is vital as engagement and time spent with content is becoming more relevant in how companies are evaluating their social media efforts. The better the quality of user generated content, the longer the engagement and the more effective the marketing budget.

Nudie invites its customers to share poems and stories about their experiences with Nudie products on Facebook. Westpac’s new campaign for its St George brand, titled ‘Start Something’, uses shared customer stories on Facebook as a basis of allocating funding to local community projects. Jetstar conducted a purely social campaign that involved customers uploading homemade videos of their dream destination. The number of submissions was beyond expectation and indicated popular destinations and what they want in an airline. The responses coming from unexpected places such as Vietnam, a relatively small player in social media, with 353 entries, while 20,000 ‘likes’ from Singapore were achieved in a short space of time, a result that McCarthy says blew her away.

Blackhall sees the traditional model where social media is used to amplify other, above-the-line marketing communications as becoming an increasingly less relevant approach due to the advantages and cost efficiencies of digital.

Nevertheless, pure social campaigns must be strongly aligned with the benefits of each of the new digital platforms. They each have unique roles and can be used inappropriately.

Kellogg is finding the increasing use of social at the expense of traditional media is occurring faster with some of their brands than others. The best examples are Nutri-Grain and Special K, and the more recently acquired Pringles, which are performing all of their brand communications via social media.

Marketers face a delicate balance between keeping head counts low in tough economic times while achieving effective digital initiatives. The user as content creator, instant focus group and brand ambassador provides some interesting low-cost solutions.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in which the interviewees share with Marketing their advice on implementation.

Tweet the author: @MissMaplestone


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