Helen Dunne reviews a lively morning discussion
Helen Dunne is the editor of CorpComms Magazine, follow her tweets here @CorpCommsMag
ALEX PEARMAIN, DIRECTOR, BRANDS2LIFE
When it comes to selecting platforms, it is very difficult to generalise. There are three broad principles that we try to apply. The first is just the internal appetite for certain channels. You will not get fired for suggesting that your brand should go on Facebook or that you should have a blog. By the time you get to more esoteric platforms, you are always going to face an uphill challenge. Being pragmatic, you have to ask Is it worth the hassle of getting this one through as opposed to the bigger, more established platforms that are better known? The second principle relates to audience insight. We are moving beyond the You should listen to your audience platitude to proper planning and insight.
For example, if you dive onto Facebook and use the free ad predictor tool, you will be able to get a reasonable level of insight into what you potentially have as an addressable market there and that’s before you get any deeper insights from something like a comScore or a GlobalWebIndex, all the way through to actually mining your customer data properly. And finally, look at your internal resource.
If you work for a brand where you are going to have big customer service requirements, you’ve got to ask Are we prepared for this? before you open the floodgates. Equally, if you go for a really visual platform, is there anyone in your team who knows how to Photoshop properly? Otherwise, those quick camera shots are going to get tired really fast. Ask yourself: how much money do you have to spend? How many people can you dedicate to it? What skills do they have? Then cut your cloth accordingly.
If you are a household name or have a high street network, you need to be on all the platforms because there is an expectation that, as a business, you meet a certain standard of brand presence. Outside that top tier of brands, it is about meeting your business objectives rather than Oh, let’s do this because it looks like fun.
There is quite a reactive mentality to new emerging platforms. Someone says This looks good, we should do something, and there is a lot to be said for showing your awareness of the eco-system but then saying We’re aware of this but we are restricting ourselves to these platforms to achieve these aims. There is a perception aspect to it.
When the proverbial hits the fan, you need more than people than those who normally work on digital. It is about creating a wider pool [of talent]. But it is also about creating a consistent tone of voice, particularly for consumer-facing brands. This is an issue that gets little attention. The brand guy will say Well, we have a tone of voice for the business and if you follow it, and use these key messages, it will be alright. But actually it doesn’t work in practice once you are engaging in a more live way. So, how do you develop that consensus? It is about working in groups to say What does the brand say in these scenarios? or How do we approach these situations? and get everybody familiar with it.
LinkedIn has just passed 15 million users in the UK; other than Facebook, that is the biggest social networking platform. It covers pretty much the working population who have access to the Internet. It is the place you go to manage your professional identity. You will not match the richness of data on any other social media platforms. But it is difficult to do big branded campaigns without a really solid understanding of your audience.
My client Just Eat is very active on both Facebook and Twitter. But Facebook is very much about the core user demographic at the moment of ordering a takeaway. It is about that I’m going to have a curry tonight, where do I go for it? moment. Twitter is much more about an irreverent brand engagement. For example, when Piers Morgan lost his job on CNN, we tweeted a mocked up picture of him as a pizza delivery guy saying There’s a job for you with us, Piers. He retweeted it to his 2.8 million followers. But we wouldn’t have put that on Facebook in the same way. What’s the moment of truth on Facebook? It’s actually I’m with my mates, I’m watching the football and I’ve just ordered a pizza.
My old boss Ronan Dunne [chief executive of O2] is on Twitter. Every night he used to send me emails saying I’ve been going through Twitter, what happened with this customer? For him, it was walking the virtual shop floor. He was familiar with the platform and technology. He tweets when he’s at Twickenham, or when he’s in Seattle seeing the latest iPhone or from his daughter’s graduation. It is his life and his perception. You can’t teach that.
THOMAS KNORPP, DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER, SAINSBURY’S
We have accounts on Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Flickr and all those platforms are used for different purposes. From a PR perspective, we use Twitter to talk to journalists and to listen to what they have to say. We use a few monitoring platforms so that if, say, Steve Hawkes [deputy political editor at The Sun with 16,000 followers on Twitter] is kicking off about a specific subject or a competitor we can decide whether to jump in and spike the story or maybe give him some other juicy bits or plug our own products? For customer purposes, we want to understand what they are currently talking about. There is so much data coming in from these platforms, both in terms of numbers and also sentiment, and it is about pulling that all together and understanding what it means. So from a PR perspective, we can say Are the marketing guys planning a big push on, say, Easter eggs, when we are seeing from customers that there aren’t any in stores? It is about trying to pull that all together.
People from HR, communications, marketing, PR and internal communications, public affairs and corporate responsibility meet every four weeks for a working group and every six weeks from an operational point of view just to understand what everyone is doing on content. For example, is internal comms producing an infographic that actually would be sensible to use for external? It is that pulling together of resources that becomes very powerful.
When our chief executive Justin King decided to step down after ten years, the internal comms announcements being used for colleagues were more interesting to the outside world than our press announcements. They were far more authentic, so we said Internal comms can we have the sound bites, the videos, the photograph of Justin talking to colleagues at head office and give them to newspapers? That photograph was used more than the new corporate shot of two people.
We are developing our Instagram account. We tried with marketing collateral because, as a retailer, we produce lots of food photography. It is tasty to look at, but is not very engaging. GE does Instagram very well. They have their own people travelling around looking at what it is that they do. So we thought Why don’t we let our colleagues who are on the front line selling products, talking to customers, use Instagram? The challenge is that, as a business, you have so much stuff in terms of stories and content, how do you get that to the right channel?
I work in corporate affairs so my focus is on PR – the protecting and promoting of Sainsbury’s corporate reputation. For us, Twitter has become a really vital tool. It is like a front door to the Internet. The entire UK population is not on Twitter but it is a very good temperature point to understand if an issue is kicking off or not. We have monitoring systems in place for key words and levels of activity. There are 4,500 mentions of Sainsbury’s a day on average, so if that spikes [we know to look into why].
Everyone is looking for that big Oreo moment [when the lights went off at the Super Bowl, but Oreo’s advert said You can still dunk in the dark]. It got the brand into something that didn’t have much to do with it. Since then people have asked How can we plan for this? It can’t be a plan that sits in the cupboard. You have to have a news brain. PR people are good at understanding what is news and what will spread, whereas the marketing people are good at making things look really nice. Our content tends to look not nearly as good as the stuff produced by marketing, but we tend to be faster, more reactive and, dare I say it, more authentic. [I think the best platform for executives to engage on] is the corporate blog. It can get pushed out by the corporate or consumer channels, if relevant. Comments on our blog are vetted for sanity and colourful language. Criticism is absolutely fine, but you can control that a lot better as part of a corporate website. It has that official tone.
GARETH DAVIES, HEAD OF STUDIO D UK, WAGGENER EDSTROM
The most popular platforms may not produce the results you are looking for. Clients will often default to We need to be on Facebook or We need to be on Twitter, but it depends on their brand, their story and what they are trying to say, and how their audiences use those platforms. They may not get the return on investment they expected.
The most important thing is audience insight and understanding how people use the platforms. But the biggest challenge for organisations is to move outside the silo of their own customer data. Ultimately we have to look at ourselves as part of a much bigger picture and how are we, as individuals, consuming content throughout the day and what drives us. The external data about an individual and the audience persona you are trying to target will help you make the right choices.
I used to do a lot of digital work for Febreze, which at one point was the fastest growing community on Facebook because we developed a strategy that didn’t talk about the product. Who wants to ‘Like’ a post about an air freshener? But we looked at audience insight and found a social truth. We looked for that common behaviour that people demonstrated on a daily basis that you can target to the brand. We found that people were engaging about scent and what it evoked in them in terms of an emotional response. Our content strategy was purely about that, and, as a result, the uptake was phenomenal. But there are some brands where it can take a long time to work out what their right to play is because consumers do not have that emotional attachment.
I do a lot of B2B work for technology clients who are targeting decision makers. LinkedIn is a really useful tool. It allows you to target individuals based on their role or the companies or the categories that they work in. When you do get somebody engaged on LinkedIn, they have a higher propensity to go through the whole journey flow.
Twitter is like winking in the dark; you know you’re doing it, but everybody else in the room doesn’t. There is so much content being pushed out on Twitter that actually you need to have a really smart strategy about hashtags, links and the stories that you jump onto in order to get that visibility.
It is great having a huge community but if they are not engaged with you, it is a pointless community. Don’t push your content out unless you know your core audience is there.
[If you are confused by the choice] go onto a few platforms, type in a few key words that are relevant to your brand and see what conversations are going on. Look at what hashtags are trending, or what topics are trending. It is not difficult to see what people are doing. Take part in a conversation and test the water. The great thing about social media is that you can do something and if it doesn’t work, try something else.
It is the one, nine, 90 rule. Look at the one per cent of your community who are hyper-engaged with you, and just have direct conversations with them. Ultimately, they will feed that down to the nine per cent who are quite engaged, and then the 90 per cent who aren’t even engaged at all. Your best route to audience is through your audience.
STEPHEN STEELE, HEAD OF DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT, THE NATIONAL DEAF CHILDREN’S SOCIETY
It all comes down to our business objectives. One of the biggest challenges working for a non-profit organisation is that staff or volunteers will see a new platform – the latest is Vine – and believe that, as an organisation, we should be on it. But resource is really a big challenge. I always have to draw them back to our key objectives for the digital team, which are to improve search engine optimisation (SEO), improve traffic to the website and improve donor engagement. And then we look at what platforms best meet those objectives.
The latest issue we have to deal with is on Facebook, where you have Facebook Pages and also Facebook Groups. We have learned that some of our audiences prefer to be on a Facebook Group because they want to engage with each other on a quick basis, as opposed to a corporate Facebook Page that doesn’t allow that level of engagement. We try to understand where our audience want to be and where we feel comfortable. We have created our Facebook Page but we also engage with them on the Group, which is not our official group, but we allow them to have that area where they feel more comfortable but still show them the added benefits of being part of our Facebook Page.
What works for our competitors does not always work for us because, at times, our audiences are very dif ferent. We look at our objectives and consider how we can exploit the platforms that best meet those needs. Our budgets are small in the charity sector so we try to look for new avenues where we can really be more creative.
We recently updated our social media policy. It is not just down to the digital team to be the promoters or supporters of the charity. It is supposed to be about the whole organisation. It is about giving them the tools and the freedom to feel that they can talk about us. As my manager says If the digital team gets hit by a bus, what do we do? It is about the organisation being effective online. For a charity, it is about constantly engaging with our donors and our supporters and making them feel that there is a long-term relationship. Different platforms allow us to do that very effectively.
We recently jumped into a conversation where Tottenham Hotspur was talking about its work with young deaf people. It got us in front of a bigger audience. But it also raised awareness among our members that we offer sports facilities for deaf children. We organise swimming. We organise football. It also allowed us to get into a conversation with Tottenham Hotspur on ways we could work together, which is ongoing.
Our two key platforms are Facebook and Twitter, which we use to drive traffic to our website. One of our business objectives is to reduce stress levels on our family support officers and drive people to find the information on our website. But we recently went onto Pinterest. We use it to showcase to young people inspirational people who are deaf or who have suffered different levels of hearing loss, and highlight what they have achieved.