Why Social Media Is Important to Brands

Review of Haymarket’s Social Brands conference, with a focus on how social and digital media is changing business and communications.

Storified by Julio Romo· Tue, Feb 12 2013 04:37:13

Haymarket’s #SocialBrands conference brought together leaders from the PR, marketing and digital and social worlds to discuss the implications of social media on business and the changing communications landscape.

Social and digital channels are empowering stakeholders. They want to participate with brands and not just consume corporate messaging. People today have the ability to very publicly share their online, let these be positive or negative. These shares are so public that they are changing in real time the perception that audiences have of their brands. Companies can no longer fully control how they are perceived. What they can do though is adapt how they communicate.


Customers who actively participate in a social community often stay longer with a brand. One example from @VincentBoon on ROI #socialbrandsShaun Hewitt
Companies today need to have communications that are agile and flexible. Something that came through at the conference.
Great keynote at #socialbrands from #larssilberbauer Lego social team is agile and works in "near time"Christian Dankl

What is important though is to make the brands and the content relevant.

Data is essential in helping brands get closer to their audiences.
Make your output relevant and make your customers feel like you are connected with what is going on in the world #SocialBrandsLouise Wallis
I have argued for a long time that the data is only as good as the questions that are asked. Nokia for example have hired analysts to crunch data to gain extra knowledge from people that are talking about them.
Interestingly Nokia have hired analysts into inhouse social team to crunch data #socialbrandsNixonMcInnes
Data and analytics are essential new disciplines for PR and marketing. Disciplines that should be at the heart of how we communicate.
Social is about metrics, linking these with business objectives, says @willmcinnes. #SocialBrands <— Couldn’t agree more!Julio Romo
Agree with @CraidHepburn ‘s assessment: Tools and stat reports aren’t enough to measure social – you need qualitative analysis #socialbrandsDarryl Sparey
Equally, when you look at metrics it is essential to not try and focus solely on Return On Investment (ROI), namely because social and digital indirectly adds value. Focus should be on Return On Engagement (ROE) – the engagement and how it leads to brand loyalty and turnover. Social after all is a communications channel.
Social has a value to your business. Stop looking for a ROI in social as a single channel. #socialbrands @breventsShaun Hewitt
Twitter is not a social network. It’s an information network says @brucedaisley #socialbrandsAndrew Bruce Smith

Understand that Twitter is an information channel helps define Tom Foremski’s view that ‘Every Company is a Media Company’, a view that I shared at the #SocialBrands conference.

We have to remember that, as Bill Gates said in 1996, ‘Content is King.’ Content though needs to be created from the perspective of understanding the audience that we want to engage with. Communication after all is a two-way process.
Data and Analytics empower brands to understand their audience and shape their messaging accordingly. Data needs to be embedded in communications. Geek is the new gold.
Siloed communications, where marketing, public relations, advertising, events are planned and activated separately fail to maximise outreach and engagement. Teams should be integrated, bringing together expertise that can be called upon in real-time.
An example of how integrated communications generated results, is that of Oreo at the 2013 Super Bowl.
With a team of 15 headed up by agency 360i, they were able to #newsjack the Super Bowl black out and pushing a tweet graphic that generated more engagement that their $3.5 million tv ad during the game.
The recurring theme of #SocialBrands is Oreo cookies’ Superbowl blackout social media advert. Mentioned in four different talks nowPeer Lawther
Brands have the tools at their disposal to communicate stories that are relevant in real-time. Flexibility is the key.
Cultures need to change. Some are going down this road. Others are being held back while watching what their audiences are saying about them. It’s like watching a car crash that can be avoided.

Big Data and Emerging Technologies were the two themes at this years FT Innovate 2012 conference. Speakers including Tesco’s CEO Phil Clarke, Accenture Management Consulting MD Aimie Chapple and Lady Gaga Manager Troy Carter gathered in London to debate the importance of innovation and the need to implement innovative cultures in corporate environments.

Tesco’s new CEO Phil Clarke kicked off by highlighting the importance that innovation had played in taking his supermarket from being “third biggest in the UK, to the second biggest in the world.” Clarke told the assembled audience that success today depends on innovation. And that innovation only succeeds when organisations have the right mindset. Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan reaffirmed this message later on when she said that, innovation is also about innovating the organisation.

Technology empowered the customer and client. We live in a connected society where, as Clarke said, “technology has made the customer more powerful than ever before. This connectivity, especially through social media has given people the ability to ”make or destroy brands in minutes.”

Focusing on Big Data Clarke reminded us that Tesco itself has huge amounts of data on its customers. According to it’s own Annual Report, Tesco Clubcard has over 44 million active members around the world – 16 million accounts in the UK, 7 million Europe and over 20 million across Asia.

It is the data from it’s Clubcard loyalty scheme, which next year in 2013 be celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, that according to Clarke enables Tesco to “continually improve the customers shopping experience.”

But, as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster Francis Maude MP reminded us, “Data is the raw material of the digital age. Its application has yet to be maximised in business processes. In fact, as I’ve argued many times data is useless unless you know what to do with it.

In PR and communications data can deliver insight an enhance engagement with stakeholders. It delivers knowledge and can prepare brands when an issue catches fire. Equally, it helps organisations to find their influencers. But as BAE Systems Liz O’Driscoll pointed out, there is a need to distil data into information. This will become a key skill for those in communications professions.

IDEO Founder Thom Thulme summed it all up when it came to data, ”Data is best organised around customer journey’s. It helps generate empathy with users.

But what about the future? Philips Chief Design Officer and Vice President pushed told us a cold hard fact. That there will be “50 Billion connected devices by 2020, that’s more than 6X global population.” That establishes a requirement for real-time reaction from people, companies and brands. No longer we will be able to afford to be late in our communications.

And while we talk about data and social networks, we need to move away from thinking in numbers of fans on Facebook. Lady Gaga Manager Troy Carter hit the nail on the head when he described Facebook as a large, passive and diluted community. A platform that has not been designed for fans. And I would argue is not even designed for engagement. Or at least engagement in a format that pleases people.

The world has shrunk. People want to be treated as individuals. They want to interact in real-time. They want to be heard and rewarded now. They do not want a one-size fits all network.

Technology is as much about people as it is about processes. Some think that data and technology allows us to better exploit the consumer. This is wrong. Data and technology, together with professionals that understand people, will help businesses to better serve people.

Paddy Power Ryder Cup Sky Tweets
Paddy Power Ryder Cup Sky Tweets Planes

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power posted the worlds first ‘sky tweets’ in a guerrilla campaign designed to share messages of support to #TeamEurope golfers who were competing in the 2012 Ryder Cup at the Medina Country Club in Illinois.

The bookmaker hired 5 stunt planes to fly at 10,000ft above the course to tweet up to 60 specially selected messages some in support of the European golfers, while others just taunting their American counterparts.

Some of the tweets, which were visible from more than 20 miles away, included ‘Spirit of Seve’, ‘Rory’s Gonna Getcha’ and ‘Mrs Dufner is Hot’ in reference to the wife of US player Jason Dufner.  Tiger Woods didn’t get away with tweets asking ‘Seen Tiger?’

The cheeky campaign was led by Paddy Power’s own twitter handle (@PaddyPower) and asked followers to use the not-official #GoEurope hashtag.

And who was behind this campaign?  Well, the London-based Taylor Herring PR agency of course [I stand corrected, in fact the concept was ‘invented, managed and delivered by CURB with support from PR agency Taylor Herring.  Thanks to Anthony for the correction! 🙂 ].  Hat tip’s all round for a campaign that used creativity and social media.

Have a look here at Rory McIlroy’s reaction to the tweets in the Sky:


Nokia adverting picture, ‘supposedly taken by the Lumia 920’ but in fact wasn’t!

The unveiling last week of the much anticipated Nokia Lumia 920 handset was supposed to be a good news story occasion for the once dominant Finnish telecom company.  Instead it turned into a case-study of HOW NOT TO launch a smartphone.

Nokia has fallen on hard times since Apple and Google came on the scene with their respective iPhone and Android operating systems.  Last year in 2011 Nokia took the decision and ditched it’s Symbian OS and forged a strategic alliance with Microsoft in the hope that it could re-establish itself as a key player in the smartphone market.  All that was needed was a clean marketing and communications campaign.

Nokia Lumia Advertising Photo shoot with Lighting Equipment ((© johaee (at) gmail.com) via Hacker News)

It all started to go wrong for the Lumia 920 handset after the impressive launch in New York with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer present when video reportedly shot by the phone’s PureView camera was reportedly faked.  Nokia even withdrew the link for the promo video from it’s YouTube channel (which is below).  Stills that were also supposed to have been taken by the phone’s camera, which claimed to be ‘better  than most digital SLRs’, were outed as having been taken by a DSLR at a photo shoot in Helsinki.  A picture of the shoot even appeared on Hacker News site.

Nokia has invested it’s future with it’s partnership with Microsoft.  The hardware on the device is good.  The promotion and lack of understanding of how the online community is, by the looks of it, lacking.

With so much is riding on a launch it would have been better to keep the campaign simple – focus on the quality of the hardware.  Above all, when planning the promotional campaign don’t fake the quality of the device when there is no need to.  The crowd is smarter than that.

Here is the video. Watch the reflection of the camera crew on the window of the stationed van at 27 seconds – boyfriend taking the view on the Lumia or truck with video camera? Ermmm.

Ipsos Mori Hong Kong - Reporting Live From The Future
Ipsos Mori Hong Kong – Reporting Live From The Future.

PR, communications and advertising professionals have a battle on their hands as audiences become increasingly connected, more demanding and informed, according to research by Ipsos Mori Hong Kong.

In a report released last week, the global research firm sees innovation and creativity as essential skills to bring increasingly disloyal customers onside.

The report, which has a focus on the Asia-Pacific markets, identifies a number of key points that will affect in business in Europe, North and South America, Middle-East and Africa.  These include:

  • Convergence of disciplines – public relations, marketing and advertising
  • Rise of creativity for improved audience building and engagement
  • Increase usage of digital data in campaign development.

Convergence of Disciplines:

Audiences do not care about how brands are presented to them.  Far too often, the planning processes bring together siloed professionals that think of the integrated outreach from a singular point – advertising, marketing, public relations.

As I have argued many times, these disciplines are blending into one with the lead in campaign development being taken by communications professionals that understand the behaviour of audiences and individuals.  This in turn will force organisations to break down the internal barriers to ensure that their propositions are developed to ensure that digital maximises traditional channels.

Importance of Creativity:

Creativity, even in B2B, is becoming a must for brands and companies.  In the report, Ipsos Hong Kong found that , ‘Creative quality accounts for 75% of variance in campaign success‘ and that ‘strong creative can achieve higher recall in-market with less support that weak creative with a higher level of media support.’

Improving the creativity will help position messaging at the front of the audiences decision-making process.

Digital Data:

Social networks and media have gathered together data that empowers not just the audience, but marketeers and communicators.

At numerous conferences and speaking engagements I have stated that today’s PRs have to think in a forensic manner, understanding the audience and planning the delivery of messaging to create a response that will generate engagement.  Everything must be planned and accounted for.  From the concept, to the launch, to the touch points.  It is a journey that needs to be planned by PR, brining together disciplines to ensure that the audience engagement and journey is seamless.

Today though, PRs have data at their disposal.  Data that gives the business decision-makers better insight into audience behaviour.  Data that should rid us of that useless Advertising Value Equivalent.

Audiences are more disloyal than ever before, especially if they perceive that they are treated like the individual next to them.  Social networks makes people into individuals, empowering them to be unique and more demanding.  And it all starts with the listening and learning.