Can your brand win with social media?

To maximize the value of their social media investment, companies need to move beyond experimentation and transform their capabilities in community management, content development, and real-time analytics. This focus on capabilities will enable them to deliver a distinctive, repeatable social media outcome that both elevates their brand and strengthens their bottom line.
(Financial Times ‘The Connected Business’ guest column)

Show transcript


FT.COM | The Connected Business

Can your brand win with social media?
By Christopher Vollmer and Karen Premo
ny brand worth its salt is trying to figure out how to engage and activate consumers via social media. Those that are not focused on building capabilities in this area are, at their peril, ignoring one of the most important global developments in media, marketing, and technology today. Most companies recognise this: 96 per cent are developing a specific strategy for social media, and 95 per cent expect to spend more on social media in the coming year, according to our research. With everyone jumping into the social media conversation, what makes companies stand out and helps them connect their brands to consumers more distinctively than their competition? It certainly takes more than ‘likes,’ ‘followers,’ and ‘views’ on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. A 2011 study of 117 leading companies conducted by Booz & Company with social enterprise software provider Buddy Media, found that companies such as Burberry, Diageo, and Nike are focusing on three new capabilities that will enable them to excel in social media. In doing so, they are fundamentally transforming their marketing, as well as other functions including customer service, research, sales, and product development. The first capability is community management, the mastery of convening, hosting, and serving fans. A cosmetics brand manager compared social marketing to hosting a party: “It takes planning, effort, and an appealing environment where guests feel welcome and engaged.” Brands can not just invite fans in; they have to listen to them and reward their


behavior with a responsive, interesting, valuable, and attentive social experience. They have to do all this in real time while reinforcing the brand’s positioning, the unique brand voice, and the company’s business objectives. Like a great dinner party host, community managers need to excel at conversation, interaction, curation, and listening. As they are the core orchestrators of brand-to-user connectivity, companies must resist the temptation to outsource this capability, and instead follow Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ example. Starwood identified a dedicated community management role that the company nicknamed ‘the Lurker’: part brand champion, part chief listener, this customer service professional engaged customers on travel forums, answering questions and resolving issues. This role has since evolved into a dedicated team monitoring social channels in real time and delivering high-quality, personalised service experiences that have translated into higher guest satisfaction for Starwood guests who are more likely to return and to recommend a stay to their friends. Next is content development, the ability to create authentic, participatory, and sharable content (in multiple formats) that builds an active connection between a brand and its fan community. “The most compelling stories are told by brands that use the inherent properties of social media to do something [they] cannot do in other media,” says Ajaz Ahmed, chairman and founder of AKQA, one of the world’s leading digital advertising agencies. “With

Twitter, that means immediacy. With Facebook, it means making a creative, inspiring, and useful contribution to the community.” In expanding their social media efforts, marketers need more of the “publisher” mind-set as they compete for fans’ attention and loyalty with more owned and earned media. This spurs a need for more creative resources and content; already, among companies planning to hire social media talent within the year, 72 per cent are prioritising producers and editors above all other needs. Burberry stands out as a brand that has become a social content powerhouse. In 2011 it streamed a live video feed of its spring/summer and fall/winter shows, sharing its unique content with millions of fans and interested consumers on Facebook and YouTube. Similarly, it premiered an ad for its fragrance ‘Body’ on and YouTube - not TV. Social media, as a result, has significantly reduced Burberry’s dependence on traditional media, especially print. Finally, marketers need to have

real-time analytics capabilities
to assess the impact of social media efforts, and confirm they are on target. Our research indicates there are four levels to a real-time analytics capability, with increasing levels of sophistication: reach, engagement, advocacy, and return on investment. Only 40 percent of companies currently have the metrics in place to measure ROI-focused indicators such as purchase intent, leads generated, and conversion rates, but brands must move in this direction. In addition to the ability to measure business outcomes, social media

represents an enormous opportunity to gather unfiltered consumer insights that can be leveraged in advertising, customer service, and product development. Dell is a brand that is realising this value today. The company relentlessly analyses the connection between social media engagement and revenue generated in physical as well as online stores, which helps its executives understand how social media impacts loyalty, product innovation, brand favorability, and even costs (such as the cost of customer support). Companies are awakening to the broader, enterprise-wide value of social media. Although today two-thirds of the 117 companies we studied dedicate 5 per cent or less of their digital marketing spend to social media, within the next three years, more than half expect to spend 10 per cent or more, and onequarter expect social media spending to exceed 20 per cent. To maximise the value of this increased spend, companies will need to move beyond experimentation and transform their capabilities in community management, content development, and real-time analytics. This focus on capabilities will enable them to deliver a distinctive, repeatable social media outcome that both elevates their brand and strengthens their bottom line.

Christopher Vollmer is a partner with Booz & Company leading the firm’s global media and entertainment practice. Karen Premo is a principal in Booz & Company’s global media and entertainment practice.