The importance of social media for each and every brand is today a fact. It is a bit more difficult to move some companies to see what it could mean for them.
One of the key question should be: Do my clients or potential consumers use social media?…rather than I need to be on Facebook because my competitors are there. This chart from insidefacebook.com illustrates the profile of Facebook users per age groups. Is it relevant for a brand with a consumer franchise from 40 to 55 years old to focus on Facebook?
I came to the conclusion that there are 3 types of companies :
“We need to control”
These companies or brands are used to communicate in one direction (top=>down). They approach interactions with their consumers as they are doing advertising. Consistency of the brand’s communication is sometimes more important than the consumer experience. Typically, they would try to start from scratch their community, on their website with their content that they can control. As a consequence, individual initiatives from clients or employees could play against their communication strategy.
Some luxury brands could fall into this category. Frank Muller is a very exclusive watchmaking brand with very attractive (and expensive) watches. However, they have decided that on-line interactions with potential clients was not a priority. As an example, their website is more than basic and could create a gap between the unique experience in their store and actual behavior of luxury clients who are using Internet more than the average.
The banking industry could be on the podium. As they have a lot of regulatory constraints for communicating on their products and services, it is not natural for them to interact directly with their customers through social medias. Credit Agricole may be a good illustration as the top groups ranked on Facebook are initiatives from Belgium and Egypt.
Capital One is another interesting example. The bank became a case study in business schools for their outstanding customer service level. However, most of the groups on Facebook ranked first were set-up by very angry customers calling for a boycott! A step by step and very transparent approach is most probably the best way to advice them to move into a customer centric approach.
“What could we do?”
Nutella enjoys an amazing awareness, level of preference and became an icon of the childhood in several countries (at least in Europe). They invest massively in advertising, sales force (one of the biggest in France with 400 sales reps) and quality of product. However, they have not (yet) integrated social media actively in their strategy. Nevertheless, they contemplate +4.0 mio fans on Facebook (only first page of search), 17.5 mio search results on Google and even Twitter is spreading the word…without a massive participation of the brand! Fans organize even each year the Nutella day!
Nutella would try probably to work on interacting with those fans to support further the development of the brand value and/or turning them into more active ambassadors. However, the risk for the brand is perhaps to start being involved if it is not well understood by the fans.
Ford is another interesting example. They have recruited in the US Scott Monty to head-up their social media strategy. Scott Monty is a very popular opinion leader within the community of marketing professionals with his blog The social media marketing blog. It works very well for the time being. What would be the impact of Scott Monty deciding to leave Ford and to join a competitor?
“What do you need?”
Innocent drink is a good illustration of a growing brand for which part of core values comes from its community (on top of excellent products). The nature of the brand is to be opened on what is happening “outside”. As a result a competitor may copy their products but could not acquire from scratch the momentum they have built with their clients. They engage with their consumers through various means: packaging, website, YouTube channel, blog, podcasts, Twitter. Each of them has a specific function but consistency of tone and messages is clear and simple. They have established a lifestyle beyond a brand.
An established and international brand such as Starbucks has reached this critical step and is still able to interact with its clients through videos, discussion or instant messaging. They go even further in terms of community engagement with product development or a platform for local actions to support a cause. They have launched an interesting initiative in the US while they try to generate in-store traffic via Facebook. The promotion is called: Share a pint of new Starbucks ice cream (free daily coupons to be redeemed at the store).
Those brands have adopted a real customer centric experience and their strength is nurtured by the goodwill developed with their clients. Another way of considering 360° marketing is illustrated by the analysis I published on the release of the new album from the metal band Metallica: 10 tips for 360° marketing.
At the end of the day social media is not more than a group of people/friends/colleagues sitting in a bar and discussing about their live. The difference today is that technology is able to connect thousands of people at the same time, in the same bar, at the same table. However, the principle remains the same. If you want to seat at this table and discuss, you would first introduce yourself and ask if you can seat. Most probably you will ask the following questions before trying to influence the discussion: What do you need?, What could I do? 😉