helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By Shona Ghosh, RMM

2010 has seen brands becoming more adventurous with social media – partly out of a sense that it’s really exciting and partly as those up at the top realise that good social media can really turn a brand around.

What has been particularly exciting to see is how some brands are really beginning to understand the meaning of ‘social’ – true user interaction versus shiny digital ideas for consumption.

Some, but not all. Angrily, brilliantly satirising BP’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was ‘Leroy Stick’, the man who set up @BPGlobalPR. In response to the oil company’s sustained social media campaign, Leroy wrote for the Huffington Post advising BP to fire everyone in its PR department. He writes:

“You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand?  Have a respectable brand.”

BP’s first mistake was to think that the spill was trivial enough to be dealt with by doctored images on a Facebook tab. If any social media activity was required, it was something genuine from the top, not filtered by traditional media. The closest we got was that CNN interview with Tony Hayward. Its second, as Marketing Pilgrim pointed out, was how BP’s Facebook ‘Response’ tab contained little by way of actual response. This would have involved listening and dealing with genuine public anger, rather than feeding out the company line.

I know it isn’t very exciting when agencies bang on about listening, but if 2010 has proved anything about social media, it is that listening and engagement is key to a truly social campaign. (I maintain that while Skittles’ Facebook campaign was brilliant digitally, it wasn’t truly social) Some of the most successful social media brand activity has come from companies listening, and implementing that listening creatively.

Take Domino’s. It didn’t, admittedly, create a toxic puddle the size of the entire south of England, but still underwent a PR disaster after this:

In social media, a brand can become respectable if it listens and transforms its behaviour as a result. So Domino’s reclaimed its social media identity by listening to customer feedback about the crustiness of its pizzas, the flavour and so on, and used this to create new pizza recipes. All under the social media lens. This year, Domino’s is arguably one of the most cited social media success stories.

Pepsi-owned Gatorade took it one step further. Responding to viewer requests, Gatorade made rap artist David Banner’s song available from its ‘Gatorade has evolved’ ad:

But to the delight of social media nerds everywhere, Gatorade also publicised the process of listening itself with Gatorade’s ‘Mission Control’ – a centre where monitored tweets, posts and status updates appeared on swish IBM/Radian6 powered screens.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Old Spice, which wins the trophy for total brand turnaround. The company launched an online video campaign which has so far gathered around 170 million views. Bravely, Old Spice invited and answered questions posed to its ‘macho guy’, uploading 136 tailored response videos.

I leave you with some affiliate Old Spice/Gillette banter. Merry Christmas.

Lauren Vargas
December 24, 2010

Brilliant wrap-up of 2010 social media stories. I think we will see more brands recognize the need for social media, but the challenge will come in integrating that need into across the enterprise…woven into the very DNA of the brand.

Lauren Vargas
Director of Community at Radian6

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