There is more being written about social media than any other marketing topic today. And with good reason – social media has turned out to be a powerful determinant of a brand’s success.
Before a company ventures into the social media arena however it pays to take a look at what others before them have done in the space. Recently I did a study on the social media strategies of organisations and found they were using them at four key levels:
Ford Motors – open, honest and transparent
Ford Motors is one company that uses social media – and effectively too – at a corporate level. Ford’s objective is clear – it wants to be seen as “open, honest and transparent.”
As Scott Monty, Head of Social Media at Ford said in an interview with Freshnetworks Blog “we share with the public anything on our intranet that is not commercially sensitive.”
He isn’t kidding. The company is an open book and shares everything from investments the company will make to redundancies of staff and dealers that may be coming.
Ford has also set up a website called ford.digitalsnippets.com where bloggers and anyone writing about Ford can download digital assets and use them at will on their sites. Ford has realised an important point:
In social media, brands that win will not be those who write about themselves but those who get others to do so.
The multiplier effect has never been more important.
Zappos – people buy culture before they buy shoes
Another company that uses social media at a corporate level very well is online shoe company – Zappos. The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh is second only to Obama in terms of following on Twitter. It isn’t hard to see why. He is insightful, inspirational and sometimes just downright funny.
Some of his posts – “Going fishing for first time with board member. Think they may be taking this thing of teaching a man to fish too seriously
Or “I try not to carry grudges, but I’ve decided I’m no longer going to be friends with the guy who invented 6am flights.”
Tony uses his Twitter feed to evangelise the coporate culture at Zappos – realising it is unique and what puts Zappos ahead. The company will give new staff members $1000 to leave after their first week of work for example if they decide they won’t be able to accept the culture or live up to its high service standard policies.
Their charter – “delivering WOW through service”, “being humble” and “creating fun – and a little weirdness.” You can check out Tony Hsieh’s Twitter feed at http://www.twitter.com/zappos
At a brand level there is no dearth of companies who have used social media well.
Burger King – cheeky and irreverent
One campaign that is fantastic is Burger King Sacrifice. Burger King asked fans a simple question – did they love the Whopper more than they loved their friends? And if so would they delete a friend for a free Whopper voucher?
Well many did. To the extent that Facebook stopped the campaign. The bloggers went to work and the rest as they was history. Burger King established itself unequivocally as the most cheeky and irreverent brand in the burger industry – which differentiates it nicely against its competition.
Gillette uART – making shaving fun
Another great example of social media use at a brand level is Gillette. Gillette came up with this cool iPhone app called uART that allows you to put a beard on a friends picture, and then using your finger as a razor – shave it off. You can save and share the look which is often hilarious.
It sounds like fun – but in my view the intent could never be more serious.
Gillette is a brand that to younger audiences could easily be seen as “their dads’!” Gillette uART is a great way for the brand to connect with these audiences and be fresh, relevant and appealing to them.
The Pope – now also on Facebook
The Pope is also using social media at a brand level – a few months ago the Pope launched his page on Facebook. The Pope is using social media to understand brand momentum and customer sentiment towards the Church.
It didn’t take him long to find out – fans were vocal with their points of view – as you’d expect them be and attacked the Pope on the Church’s stance on a number of issues- the use (or non use) of condoms, gay marriages, the policy of male only Priests, their vows of celibacy – the list goes on.
From the comments, the Pope will have understood by now the Church has an issue – one of both momentum and relevance – both of which are seen in dwindling attendances at Sunday service.
The move to establish a presence a Facebook is a brave one however. This awareness can result in a strategy – a change – that can bring the sheep back to the shepherd.
The third level at which people are using social media is product.
Volvo XC 60 – taking the car and the inspiration to the people
In a recent campaign out of New York for example Volvo set up a You Tube channel for the launch of the new XC 60. The channel featured a number of videos including two powerful ones from designers Jonathan Dissley and Steve Mattin – who describe the inspiration behind their design of the car.
In addition to a presence on You Tube the brand also had images of the car distributed on Flickr and information made available to owners of key auto blogs.
Social media at a product level – infinitely more is possible
Marketers can use social media at a product level in many interesting ways. Besides using it to talk about products, they could use it to develop new ones as well. Concepts can be tested ahead of launch and a decision as to whether they should be progressed or not taken based on feedback from the people.
Google frequently adopts this approach. Most of the products it launches (including Chrome) are available in beta form. Then, based on user experience they are modified – launched or shelved. This is a clever strategy as people’s expectations of a beta product are usually lower – making them less critical of it – which gives marketers more time to get it right.
Comcast – using customers to provide the answers
Finally companies are also using social media at a service level. Comcast for example, a Pay TV and Internet service provider uses Twitter to respond to customers’ questions or address feedback or a negative comment.
What I noticed as I went through the feeds was that often other customers would jump in and provide a solution to questions customers posted. What a great way to amplify the size of your customer service cell – at no additional cost.
Four key levels – which one for you
There are four key levels at which companies are using social media. Which level is right for you? It depends on your objectives. You can use social media at a single, multiple or at indeed all levels depending on the challenges facing your brand or the opportunities you’d like to take advantage off.