Editor's note: The Hashtag Syndrome: Building Your Social Media Brand took place on 26 August 2014. Access this webcast on demand here.
Beyond promotions, brands use social media to recruit new staff, listen for consumer insights and handle complaints. But getting to that level has a learning curve and can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to begin. So the panel focused on how brands can dovetail social media into operational activities to boost effectiveness and at the same time enhance the overall brand impression.
Companies that turn every customer touchpoint into an experience that lives up to a brand promise typically make it into the upper ranks of the annual Asia's Top 1000 Brands study from Campaign and Nielsen. Panelists on the #hastagsyndrome webinar all shared advice for expanding the social role from plain promotion to operational integration to help drive a robust brand reputation.
Jamshed Wadia, head of social media for APAC and Japan at Intel; Thomas Crampton, global managing director at [email protected] and Ken Mandel, APAC managing director at Hootsuite came together to share insights from their roles in helping companies become social operators.
Here are some highlights from an edited transcript of the discussion
Wincuinas: Can social media be used for more than a marketing megaphone?
Wadia: Most brands and organisations are just scratching the surface of social media if they are only looking at it from just the perspective of marketing. It can be used to manage leadership, manage talent, used as part of internal collaboration. What’s really important to achieve this is integrating social media across your operations. Not just making cosmetic changes by using it as a marketing medium but changing organisational behaviour. Social is a great platform for insights and trends that will form distinctions across marketing and the future of the company.
Mandel: With social it goes far beyond the social-media team or the marketing department. Cuts across. Not just social customer care but in HR recruitment, customer care and selling. IBM saw a 400 per cent increase in ROI from social selling. You’re starting to see Salesforce using it to create warm leads that were once cold. That’s how you become a social organisation. You empower employees to post on your behalf. Businesses who use social have 21 per cent more revenue than businesses that do not. If you do not have a social media tech platform it’s impossible to get everyone on the same page and all your analytics on the same place.
Crampton: Every single one of our clients is executing a social-media strategy at different levels and stages of development. Companies, whether they’re starting from zero or moving to a higher level, are going through a similar change in mindset. Social media does not respect the verticals that most companies have. In a hotel, if you’re complaining about the quality of the food, you don’t care if the marketing department is monitoring. You want to get to the chef. As companies develop a more agile approach to social, you’ll see a tremendous impact on how brands are perceived and the impact they have with the consumer. It is, however, a huge challenge for any company looking to undertake it. I’ve always said that unless we’re causing enough problems [with a social-media strategy] to involve the CEO, you’re not doing enough. If it’s not at that level, you’re not dealing with it at a fundamental level.
Wincuinas: What sort of cultural change did you have to take on to incorporate social media across an organisation?
Wadia: It boils down to behavioural change, and the way you change behaviour is to get everyone on the same page. It starts with a great content strategy. If the social platform is the container then the content is the coffee. The good stuff. At Intel we’ve worked hard to have a great content strategy that’s consistent across communities. It’s been well documented. We opened our social to everybody in the organisation. Anybody can be something which is called a social media practitioner. It’s very simple. You take training for 45 minutes, get added to a distribution list and get added to a platform that will inform you of everything going on. You may have an area of expertise in HR or technical. Engage with any of them as partners or recruits. People like to engage in social organisations, if you reach out, immediately the expectation rises and people are happy to join you. We help employees across the organisation and across the world to get in and engage on behalf of Intel. We have very simple guidelines and policies.
Crampton: In terms of companies that get it at a very fundamental level... Here’s a full disclosure. We work with Intel. They’re a client. And grownup social isn’t just tactical. Social can be used for recruitment and for product development, it just goes throughout the company. Most of what you see in the market is very tactical. Many assume that if you just get the platform out there the problem is solved. Even Ken [Mandel] would agree that just having Hootsuite is not the answer. It’s not about making your video go viral. Do you really need to? Would that achieve your objectives? You need to have your social-media strategy align with real brand and business objectives.
Wincuinas: So social should not just be in one department or another. It should be spread across the whole piece of toast?
Mandel: That’s how we see it. Social has to start somewhere, but what’s happening is that as companies evolve their strategy they’re seeing the use of social beyond the marketing department. Virgin is an example of how everyone’s involved. From Richard Branson throughout. They’re using social across the board. What some companies are comfortable with, however, others are not. Virgin’s strategy may not work for everyone. That’s why we have training programmes such as Hootsuite University. The tool isn’t enough, it’s the people around it that make a social strategy work.
Wincuinas: Here are the results of a poll we just did with our audience members on who manages social media in their departments. As you can see the bulk resides with the marketing department, followed by the PR department.
Crampton: If we did this pie chart a year ago, it would have been PR that led, wouldn’t it? Not marketing?
Mandel: I’d say it would have been more heavily skewed on PR.
Wadia: But it really doesn’t matter where it starts. It has to start somewhere. What matters is that it’s integrated throughout the organisation. If you’re running a call centre to manage all your customer-care calls why wouldn’t you integrate that with your customer care on Facebook or any platform on social? That’s what customers want. They want seamless recognition from brands. We manage even customer care in silos.
Mandel: The fact that you don’t see IT on this pie chart is a dangerous signal. It may be because you have mostly marketers on your webinar, but you need to see a closer relationship between the CMO and the CIO. Without tech you cannot do marketing. I do think you’ll see that change over time.
Crampton: When we start working with companies, we’re not really doing a social-media strategy, we’re doing change management. Shifting gears away from the implementation element to the bigger meaning. Intel, for example, is a company that has a very close and very tight understanding of their audience. The element I would highlight is the process to which they create content. It’s not random. They don’t go into random Twitter wars with other brands. They have a consistent and a strong voice which reaches out to a specific audience in a specific way. It’s essential. If you’re not building your brand on social media, you’re probably destroying it.
Wincuinas: In an opinion piece he published the other day, Ken Mandel made an interesting point about the potential of using the ALS Bucket hashtag as a social database. Would you like to elaborate on that?
Mandel: You’re opening a dangerous window because I’m very passionate about the topic. I would encourage everyone to do that challenge and create awareness for a disease that isn’t getting enough funding. I started thinking how nuts that was, that it has become popular to criticise the movement. Yes people were wasting some ice, but come on. People waste water when they wash their hands.
Now, to the idea of the hashtag database. The hashtag (#ALSicebucket) could help the ALS Association make sure they get ROI out of the effort they’re putting into the movement. Because this will die off and will slow down. Once the buzz dies down you ultimately… if you’re the ALS Association, what should you do? You now have a treasure chest of potential data you can mine through tech. You can keep that conversation alive. You can start profiling people who donated and encourage them to donate again. Or educate them. One of the criticisms is that a lot of people are doing the challenge without really understanding the disease. A fair point. Next phase is to educate people. Amazing way to reach people—the hashtag database. You can search it and find people who have taken the challenge but haven’t donated and you can remind them.
Crampton: Now in addition to the database of human intention in purchase behaviour, marketers have social data of what’s going on. There’s so much value in terms of what any company is trying to achieve. If you are a company that is able to take advantage of digital insights… many ways that digital insights are not used enough and they should be used more.
Wadia: We do a fair bit of listening, and it’s amazing how much people share on social. There are about 10,000 tweets every day by people saying they want to buy a new laptop, tablet or smartphone. These are touchpoints we can engage with. Either by promoting our tweets so we show up natively in their feed rather than intrusive advertising. We are an ingredient brand and we don’t maintain a database of consumers. But if we did… there are so many opportunities online.