5 Ways Big Brands Are Winning Big Time in Social

5 Ways Big Brands are Winning Big Time in Social

This week SocialMedia.org presented BlogWell Bay Area with eight case studies from some of the largest brands. @mainwilk and I attended and aggregated some of the highlights from these enterprise approaches to social media. Here’s the entire half-day event boiled down into five ways these large organizations are finding ways for social to contribute to valuable business goals.

1. They Earn Trust, Education & Entertain With Content

Content marketing was a core component of all of the strategies shared at BlogWell. The digital and social pioneers in these organizations have fully embraced content as THE vehicle for their business to engage and attract customers.

@Jay_Bartlett needed to raise awareness of Xerox’s products among healthcare business decision makers. His number one strategy? Thought-leadership backed by authentic, educational and informational content that does not promote Xerox. In less than a year, they’ve created an industry destination that attracts a growing loyal readership and has succeed in raising Xerox’s awareness among the target community of buyers.

@runningjen from Intel’s Social Center of Excellence manages a massive network of global social activity with more than 45 separate, specific FB pages alone. In the beginning, people wanted to use social as a basic amplification tool to attempt to spread messages from marketing.

She had to do the difficult work to shift the way Intel approached social and find a “social voice” for the company that was consistent with the brand but unique in a way that promotes the most important metric for their social efforts: engagement.

One amazing benefits of building trust and establishing a readership is that these large brands are more resilient. They can manage crises on their own turfs. Several brands mentioned that they no longer default to press releases for all announcements. And in many cases, they now have the ability to share their point of view on their owned media and still reach a large enough audience to impact public opinion.

2. They Operate Like Publishers

Given the emphasis on content, it’s not too surprising that these teams are structuring themselves like newsrooms, hiring talent with journalism backgrounds and creating a storytelling culture in their organizations.

@ashhazie talked about how Coca-Cola created Coca-Cola Journey, which is really a lifestyle publication where the company can engage with customers on topics of mutual interest. They have an editorial calendar and aggressive publishing schedule. The team has even started to create partnerships with other publications to share and syndicate content.

Daily publication is the norm across the board from Coca-Cola to Xerox. Intel has focused on building a team of “brand journalists” who are tasked with producing 300+ pieces of content per month!

3. They Measure What Matters

Complicated big data and unclear paths to ROI don’t stop these companies. They have found ways to measure what matters and use those numbers to their advantage.

Coca-Cola, using their proprietary CMS, Google Analytics and a few other tools collects data about every single post they publish. This gives them insights that help grow their readership and provide consumers with ever-better content. For example they found, by looking a search data, that consumers associate food (Coke Cake anyone?) with their beverages — something they didn’t plan for. So they created the now very popular food section on Coca-Cola Journey.

Internally, these metrics are even more important because they give the digital and social teams a way to push back against requests to publish content that doesn’t resonate with consumers.

In Xerox’s case, the content strategy was created in response to a business problem. They wanted to be known in the health vertical as a provider of technology that powers the back office of hospitals.

They set smart benchmarks they could measure themselves against that would demonstrate awareness in the vertical. Instead of trying to capture everything or get trapped in vanity metrics, they took time to figure out which metrics actually made sense given their goals. In their case, returning visitors was top priority so that’s what they used.

ROI can be shown. You just need to define what matters and flush out the metrics that make sense.

4. Humans Matter to Them

It’s easy to forget that social is about people. Often brands attempt to apply their corporate voice or their traditional communications methods to their social initiatives. What happens of course is nothing — boring content, little-to-no engagement. At Blogwell, it was clear that these leaders get the personal and relationship side of things.

Intel focuses on talking to people as individuals. Initially they treated their social audiences as ‘demographic’ blocks and approached social messaging the same way they approached advertising. Now every message is crafted to speak directly to a person.

At UCB, a pharmaceutical company, they approach social in a “patient-centric” way. In addition to being a way to connect with patients, @gcohen85 explained that they use social to gather insights into how people suffering from specific diseases talk about their disease and their lives. This information helps them to build specific content and programs that help to strengthen their relationships in the community.

UCB also create a Thank You program to show appreciation for people who have contributed to their campaigns. This campaign had no specific goals or metrics. It was simply about demonstrating gratitude.

5. They Are Small but Mighty

All of the major brands still have very small teams behind their incredibly powerful social initiatives. These individuals, like @runningjen and @ashhazie and @NatanyaP are doing more with less.

Coca-Cola talked about expanding their partnerships with third-party publishers and creating a global network of editors. Whole Foods enables their massive network of stores to handle local content in a distributed way.

It was exciting to hear about the amazing wins these large brands have scored by embracing social. They certainly face challenges from tough regulations to massive internal silos to lack of resources. The budgets for social teams are still small and it is clear that  a major part of the job of an enterprise “Head of Social Media” is internal sales.

Selling the value and the right approaches to teams, not just in marketing, but across the organization is essential. And it’s very much a political game in many cases. So being “good at driving social impact” isn’t enough for this role. Being able to run internal campaigns to increase the visibility and value of the practice is key.  Regardless, these large brands are finding creative ways to produce tangible business value. Propz to them for their success — let it be an inspiration to us all!