What is social media
and why is it important?
Why should brands communicate
through social media?
How to engage people with
about social media
Questions to ask before you start
What is social media
and why is it
‘Social media’ is a very broad term. As their use has widened, social media
It refers to all the online activities, tools, have become increasingly important for
platforms and practices that allow people brands and their communication, offering
to collaborate, create, and share thoughts, a growing opportunity to join consumer
knowledge, opinions and content. Social conversations. Our aim in this guide is to
media are both what people do online, explain how.
and the environments (like blogs, forums,
and social networks) in which they do it.
“Social media can take many different forms, including
Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, podcasts,
This is more than services like Facebook, pictures and video. Technologies include: blogs,
Orkut and Twitter; social media are the picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant
ways people behave online, sharing and messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP,
talking to each other, both one-to-one and to name a few. Examples of social media applications are
one-to-many, establishing and maintaining Google Groups (reference, social networking), Wikipedia
relationships: it is the same person-to- (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook (social
person communication that has existed for networking), MouthShut.com, yelp.com (product reviews),
as long as we have had language, but on Youmeo (social network aggregation), Last.fm (personal
a grand scale without physical or
music), YouTube (social networking and video sharing),
Avatars United (social networking), Second Life (virtual
reality), Flickr (photo sharing), Twitter (social networking and
microblogging), Open Diary (blogging), and other microblogs
such as Jaiku. Many of these social media services can be
“Who said this is media? integrated via social network aggregation platforms like
Media is something you buy Mybloglog and Plaxo.”
and sell. Consumers
weren’t trying to generate
media. They were trying to Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media)
talk to somebody.”
GM for interactive marketing
& innovation at P&G
Why has social media become
Motivations to participate in social media Social media fulfil our desire to feel part of For example, if you don’t use Twitter, it can
vary due to social and cultural differences, something larger than ourselves. Tapping seem noisy and trivial. But the chatter of
but “the fundamental emotions into these “fundamental emotions” offers Tweets binds social groups together, and
that drive people [to use social brands unprecedented opportunities offers enormous potential for knowledge
for engagement. sharing. In June 2009, Twitter and other
media] – the desire to connect, to social media were the main sources of
create, to stay in touch, and to The web offers tremendous social benefit to information about the Iranian elections;
help each other – are universal.” ordinary people, increasing the importance in April 2009, the ‘Twitter revolution’ forced
(Groundswell, Li & Bernoff). of personal and professional a recount in the Moldovan general election.
recommendations, and giving us a voice, a Commercially, brands are finding novel
platform, limitless information, and a global uses for it: Dell uses Twitter as a loyalty
marketplace that we lacked when mass channel to offer discounts to its followers
channels of communication were controlled (making an estimated $3 million as
only by corporations or governments. a result).
(comment on blog)
How to engage people
with social media
1. Listen (and continue listening)
3. Monitor and optimize
(and continue listening)
While most of us accept that social media Buzz monitoring – tracking what people are
To understand consumer sentiment towards a brand have a role to play in brand communication, saying online and analyzing consumer
the majority don’t yet know how best to use sentiment, and seeing how it affects other
To improve and increase dialogue with a target audience them. This is why it is so important to listen conversations – is a vital ﬁrst step to
ﬁrst, to be sure we understand our target understanding what consumers think about
To drive word-of-mouth and consumer advocacy audience, and how we can best meet your brand, and for building a business case
To quantify the effectiveness of brand communication their needs. for brand activity within the social web.
To improve customer service and support, to increase Social media are an amazing source of
customer satisfaction and loyalty consumer insight, offering unﬁltered
evidence of people’s actual behavior and
To build communities around brand events attitudes. Listening to what people are
To integrate a brand into existing communities, to launch saying online allows us to get to the heart
of the customer experience of products
or extend brand communication
and services like never before.
To deal with or prevent PR crises
To gather consumer input to develop new products
To generate something very valuable: people who
care about your brand
Important questions when listening:
Listening helps us to decide which But just because you are using social media How does our audience use social media?
elements of social media a brand could to understand consumers, it doesn’t
use to engage its audience. For example, necessarily mean that any resulting What are people’s current feelings towards the brand and its activity,
by monitoring the most important small- strategy or communication will use social competitors and category; how has this evolved over time?
business communities in China, Korea and media. For many marketers, the insight
Australia, HP was able to create offered by examining what people do and How do existing communities, that are relevant to the brand, function online?
customized messaging for the most say online, and the resulting opportunities
powerful inﬂuencers, and subsquently for reputation management, are the most What consumer needs or problems are being discussed that your product can help with?
created a community-engagement program important ways of using social media. How do people discuss these needs or problems?
to monitor those inﬂuencers and shape
sentiment and conversations. How does the brand feature in these conversations?
What role (if any) could the brand play in them?
Who are the authors/creators of buzz about a brand or topic?
How inﬂuential are they?
Where is your audience most active online, and why?
How much buzz does the brand generate compared to competitors?
(i.e. what ‘share of conversation’ does it have?)
How does brand content evolve as it spreads?
What type of content is being created by consumers, and how do they share it?
Active, on-going listening 2. Participate
Once a brand is engaged with social media, How we listen is also an important Brands must consider what they are willing An important consideration for all brands is
the need to listen doesn’t stop, but consideration. In any conversation, ‘active and able to do that is mutually beneﬁcial for the resource needed to get involved with
becomes an on-going process; people’s listening’ – where we give feedback to the them and their consumers. The appropriate social media: if a brand is trying to engage
conversations continue, so we shouldn’t person speaking, to make it clear that we response to listening is not necessarily to or build a community, it must nurture it on an
just dip in to ‘take the temperature’. Before, are really listening and will react to what use social media: it can have implications ongoing basis, and this creates a dedicated
during and after we act, we have to keep they are saying – sends a powerful for every aspect of the business. role that must be ﬁlled. Brands need what
asking questions to increase our message: ‘you are important to me’. the FT called “the new corporate ﬁreﬁghters”
understanding of people’s changing Participating doesn’t necessarily mean a – people to manage their social media
needs and wants. Therefore, brands should let people know brand has to create its own social media involvement. Not having such a resource
they are listening. When someone does platforms (such as a community). If done is one of the biggest barriers to
something for the brand (such as well, display media, sponsorships or brand involvement.
recommending it), thank them. When we partnerships with existing communities and
answer a question, answer it publicly. If content on social network sites can be
someone complains, be seen to deal with it. highly appropriate, offering good
opportunities for brands that aren't ready or
don't want to build their own community.
Different strategies for Dialogue
Having listened to consumers, brands have The driving force behind social media is While this can include corporate blogs and
to show through their behavior that they ordinary people sharing their experiences Twitter-feeds, the ideal situation is to get
understand their audience and can add with a wider community; this includes consumers talking to you and to each other
value to the conversation. discussions about brands that touch their about your brand, not just getting yourself
lives in both positive and negative ways. involved in the conversation.
Different people want to interact with your So it’s important that brands take
brand in different ways, so even those who responsibility for telling their own stories – In India, Gillette managed to create a
are most interested in your brand need to rather than letting their customers (and national debate on the merits of the clean-
be given a number of opportunities for detractors) do this – and for improving their shaven look vs. the stubbled look in Indian
interacting with it, depending on their ‘small talk’ by engaging consumers with society, with its “India votes: to shave or not”
preference. Within social media, there are relevant content. campaign. It began with a survey on
different basic approaches for participation, people’s attitudes towards shaving, and
depending on your target audience: Social media requires conversation rather continued with online and live polls in public
than broadcast communication. Brands places, coupled with product trials.
must be available and accessible to their
audience, fostering mutually beneﬁcial In Hungary, the inﬂuential lifestyle blog
dialogue and two-way information Kispad featured two people taking a cross-
exchange. Dialogue involves sharing, country road trip while using a Sony
whether that’s of time, attention, interest, Ericsson cellphone to upload videos, text
experiences, respect, understanding, and photos from their adventures; and their
or activity. itinerary was determined by comments on
Energizing involves ﬁnding or creating fans The team running President Obama’s 2008 Supporting means helping your consumers Toshiba developed an online “Laptop
of your brand (or something related to your election campaign understood the power of to help each other, as well as helping Experts” community to give people answers
brand), and giving them something to social networks, and generated 5.5 million customers directly (preferably in a way that to laptop-related questions from expert
talk about. friends on Facebook, nearly 300,000 can be seen by others). Social media have bloggers. As well as placing widgets on
followers on Twitter, and a YouTube allowed consumers with experience of other webpages linking to the community (to
One of the best known examples of channel with over 100 million video views. products and services to act as a help-desk let people post questions), there was a
Energizing comes from US President The messages on these sites were for other consumers; the better the access mobile campaign that allowed people to ask
Barack Obama, someone with a strong speciﬁcally designed to energize his these people have to a brand, the more questions using SMS texts.
emotional appeal and a large fanbase supporters – to get them to campaign on his able they are to help others.
to exploit. behalf, and do whatever they could to get
him elected. The UK National Health Service’s Smoke-
free smoking-cessation campaign created a
Kraft is perhaps less emotionally engaging Yahoo community called “Stub It Out”,
than President Obama, so it focused on an where people who wanted to quit smoking
engaging issue, creating a Facebook could chat with fellow quitters and get
application that donated meals to a hunger- advice and tools to help them quit and deal
relief charity each time it was downloaded; with cigarette cravings, as well as hearing
over 230,000 people did this in six weeks. from successful quitters.
Involve Before participating: is your
brand naturally social?
As people become more digitally “Vocalpoint” is a Procter and Gamble-owned There are brands that people naturally want However, if you’re like the majority of
empowered and participate more actively community of mothers, which P&G uses to to talk about and engage with, but these brands, most people aren’t naturally going
in their media consumption, they are also source opinion, test products, and guide brands are relatively rare. to talk about you. One solution is to create
becoming more actively involved in how product development. Members are ‘relevance by association’ – get people to
brands develop and grow. encouraged to tell others about products, If you have a brand people want to talk talk about what they are passionate about,
and are rewarded for taking part in research about, you’ll have fans that you can tap with which the brand also has a natural
Involving consumers can be immensely like focus groups. into. If you don’t know who or where these afﬁnity, and associate the brand with their
valuable – by integrating end-users into our people are, you need to ﬁnd this latent passions. In the process, you may even ﬁnd
business, sourcing ideas from them and fanbase, and energize it. These people will or generate some fans of your brand.
getting to know what people want from us. have a clear idea of what the brand is
It can even mean co-creation, where about, and you have to be careful not to For example, P&G created the “Beinggirl”
products or services that consumers want contradict that. It’s a nice problem to have, community site for girls to talk about
to buy are developed with their help. so don’t give them a reason to fall out of teenage life because it knew girls wouldn’t
love with you by acting out of character. talk about tampons; the site gives them an
environment to deliver feminine care
The need for good
Transport for London, the UK local Even for brands that have more naturally Successful brand communication within This might seem very obvious. But too
government transport body, integrated its engaging products, tapping into people’s social media is not only about good many bad or inappropriate social media
youth road-safety campaign into the Bebo passions is a great route into social media. consumer insight and great ideas; brand ideas are being thrown at an accordingly
page featuring the popular online drama Sony Ericsson worked with young people’s behavior – how we act – is vitally important. indifferent public. Consider Habitat, the UK
Soﬁa’s Diary, and included videos, polls love of music by creating the Sonic The social web is about people interacting retailer, using Twitter to promote messages
and comments for participation. Experience community in Latin America for with one another, so the usual rules of that were irrelevant to the topics they were
unsigned bands (and their fans), who social intercourse apply. This is true for all attached to: “Our totally desirable Spring
competed for public votes to get their music participants, including brands. collection now has 20% off!” was attached
used for animated videos to be shown on to tags relating to the volatile Iranian
TV and online. In the ‘real’ world, if you’re talking to election, then the top news story.
someone and you have nothing interesting
The task for brands is to create a story that to say, they will stop listening to you. If you Acting commercially in a social situation is
both it and its consumers can participate in interrupt people’s conversation, they will rude in the real world, and it’s rude in the
together. ignore you (or worse). online one. If we can’t add value to a
conversation, we shouldn’t be there.
Why should things be any different online?
When you go to an online community of
some kind, you are joining someone else’s
conversation or social space. Be nice.
People will no longer tolerate being spoken
‘at’; brands must speak ‘with’ them.
3. Monitor and optimize Some possible metrics for
(return on investment) measuring social media
Measuring behavior within social media is So if there are many more things that we Behavioral metrics: to gauge the level of Attitudinal/sentiment metrics: to gauge your
different from traditional media because can measure, the question becomes ‘what attention and engagement that brand activity’s emotional resonance or impact on
there are so many more actions that are should we measure?’ What kind of ROI do activity is generating, ex.: The volume of attitudes to the brand, ex.: The sentiment –
measurable – such as blog posts, we want and need: what measurement and conversations or mentions. positive, negative or neutral.
comments, links, votes, views, bookmarks, results will be commercially relevant?
favorites, Tweets – few of which are Share of conversation (not share of voice), The effect on brand-attribute measures.
comparable to traditional media indices like ex. if you’re a car brand, what proportion of
reach or frequency. the conversation on cars is about you? Ecosystem metrics: to get a sense of the
wider impact of your activity, ex.: The origin
Above all, consistent on-going Awareness, perception and sentiment of conversations – which sources, sites, and
measurement is vital. This can be used to measures. authors are inﬂuential?
assess the success of activity, but also to
continuously develop conversations to drive How much time do people spend with you, Numbers and activity of fans, friends
marketing strategy, tactics, and brand and and how often do they return? and followers.
What is the impact on sales, site trafﬁc, Do people refer others to your site
search ranking etc? or activity?
What impact is traditional media having on
social behavior online?
Has your activity reduced complaints or
saved time in call centres?
Knowing the risks
The lack of control in social media can be a Bad news travels fast. When cyclist
real challenge, and the risks of getting Chris Brennan uploaded a video showing
involved need to be carefully considered. him opening a Kryptonite bike-lock with a
Bic biro, it was all over the web in roughly
Social media cannot be controlled. If the same time it took to pick the lock. And
people choose to interact with your the negative coverage is still there ﬁve
application, you can’t tell them how, and years later whenever anyone Googles
you can’t just ‘switch it off’. When Burger “Kryptonite locks”.
Social media should not be treated like conventional
King offered downloads of “24” on
media. Social networks – i.e. networks of people –
Myspace, along with space to talk about the
are not mass media channels.
The people who don’t like you may be the
show, they weren’t expecting people to most energized by your activity. If people
spend so much time debating the physical
Social media are not a like-for-like replacement
don’t like the way you do business, they will for traditional advertising, nor are they a cheap
characteristics of Jack Bauer’s daughter. use social media to tell others; they may (or free) alternative to a traditional mass
even hijack your social media to do so. A media strategy.
Your messages can be undermined, and Starbuck’s campaign on Twitter to get
your content used against you. One of the people to upload pictures of posters at their
best-known examples was the Chevy
Social media are not a free workforce, nor a
stores was immediately hijacked by free R&D or creative department.
Tahoe campaign hijacked by postings of anti-Starbuck’s placards.
environmentalists. GM provided content for
people to make their own ads, and allowed
Social media are not a miracle cure; using
Consumers can organize themselves social media will not make bad products or
them to superimpose text onto the content, against you. Residents of Wye, in the
resulting in ﬁlms with straplines like, “Don’t
services better on their own.
UK, discovered their small village was to
buy me.” be destroyed to make way for a £1 billion Social media grew from the ground-up – by the
housing development. Their “Save Wye” people, for the people. You can’t run things
There’s no such thing as ‘local’ any more. campaign, which stopped the development,
So if someone ﬁnds a fried chicken’s-head
from the top-down.
was run by two residents from a £10
in their McDonald’s, as a woman in Virginia website.
did, the world will know.
Social media marketing is not a campaign, it’s
an on-going commitment. Once you’re out there,
you have to stay out there.
Questions to ask
before you start
Does your social media campaign have a clearly articulated role
If you would like to
within an overall communications strategy? discuss anything in this
What is the specific objective of your activity? How will it achieve guide, please contact:
that objective? Ben Poole
Head of MEC Interaction,
How will you measure success? Asia Pacific
What conversations already exist online about the brand, Tel: +65 6225 1262
its rivals, or the category?
Europe, Middle East and Africa
Who is the target audience? What do you understand about them? Jeff Hyams
Chief Strategy Officer
Is social media relevant for my consumer? How? Europe. Middle East and Africa
What are they most likely to respond to?
Tel: +44 20 7803 2215
Why will your target audience be motivated to engage with your Latin America
campaign and spread your message? Juan Bongiovanni
MEC Interaction Regional Director, Latin America
Is what you’re doing right for both brand and audience? firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a good fit with your desired brand positioning? Tel: +1 786 264 7600
What value are you adding to the conversation? North America
Is what you’re doing interesting, original, entertaining, useful, Patrick Cartmel
shareable, adaptable? Really? Managing Director, Digital Operations, North America
Tel: +1 212 474 0727
Do you have the resources to support your activity and maintain
dialogue with consumers? Are you able to commit to this for Carrie Frolich
the long term? Managing Director, Digital Media, North America
How will you take advantage of the opportunities that appear? Tel: +1 212 474 0725
How will you respond to negative consequences?