Social Media Much? My Most-Read Stories Last Year

Coke My most-read story in 2010 was about social media. No! Wait. Really? Social media? No surprise -- social was the "it" platform for marketers in 2010, and pundits have said it will be so this coming year as well, as metrics become more systematized and go deeper than mere hits and leads.

My top story, which got would make me a rock star if all of those people had physically shown up at some arena to hear me read the article, maybe with Yoko Kanno on keyboards) was an exegesis of the Coca-Cola's social efforts.

Michael Donnelly, Coca-Cola Company's group director of worldwide interactive marketing, talked about the company's social network at last summer's Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) Social Media Conference in New York last summer.

Donnelly focused on the company's KO Social Hub, an online forum intended to break down silo walls by letting marketers from different parts of the organization share ideas, regardless of brand, business unit or market. The point, he said, was to reach Coca-Cola's 7 million fans across dozens of social-media sites. He also says that "On Facebook alone, we get 5,000 mentions per day, 99.2% of which is popular."

From beverages, my next most-read piece was on pizza. But social, profit-sharing pizza. Last spring, Papa John launched a social-media campaign at its Facebook site, called "Papa's Specialty Pizza Challenge," wherein people were invited to suggest a new pizza. The company offered the winner of the promotion a portion of the profits from sales of the pie, which joined the menu list. The winner also got $1,000 as an incentive to help market the pie.

No. 3 was not about beverages or social; it was about beverages and social media. This time, it was about Coca-Cola rival Pepsi's efforts around digital events like BlogHer, Blogworld, SXSW, and Internet Week New York. Bonin Bough, director of digital and social media strategy at PepsiCo, spoke at MediaPost's OMMA Social in June about the company's disparate social tactics, revealing that it has a NASA-like "Mission Control Center" to tie it all together and keep an ear to the ground.

"The question is," he said, "how do we create this in terms of real-time insights?" The center has six monitors and five people across different functions. "We are asking how do we create a Petri dish for discovering what new technology will mean to the brand; how do we challenge existing realities?"

No. 4 was an item about how marketers actually haven't got a clue about how to push marketing programs through the social media pipes without seeming to push marketing through social media pipes. Geoff Ramsey, co-founder of research firm eMarketer, told the attendees of July's ANA Social Media conference that while Internet marketing spend ($65.2 billion in 2008) will grow dramatically in coming years, many marketers don't know how to include social media in the mix. He illustrated how little prepared marketers are for what's happening in social media by asking for a show of hands among the marketers in the packed auditorium for those who "have a handle on social media." Not one went up.

Further down the most-read list was Ford's cause marketing effort with Pandora, which involved artists John Legend and Jewel. The next two most-reads were both about Mercedes-Benz and its Gen Y research based on a competition among business schools like Harvard, New York University, Wharton and Kellogg, in cooperation with NYU, to find out what the generation of consumers likely to consider the Mercedes brand actually thinks of the brand.

The eighth-most-popular story with my byline was about the Mercedes Gen-Benz social media program and how it reflects a shift from customer satisfaction to what VP marketing Steve Cannon calls "customer intimacy."

"I'm talking about getting that much closer to your customer -- that makes some of our old ways of targeting them look Stone Age," he said. "We have actually taken money away from things like focus groups and the like and moved it to these new programs." Gen-Benz, targeting Gen Y consumers between the ages of 16 and 33, is an online community among so-called "digital natives" who grew up with the Web. The company recruited owners and non-owners alike within that cohort to engage with them in an online community.

The last three of my most read stories -- but definitely not least -- were on the programs marketers put together to help Haitians after the earthquake that decimated the island nation in January this year; a piece on five types of cell-phone users; and how Toys R Us promoted "Toy Story 3."

On to the new year!

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