Love, Likes, And Happiness
On any given day, depending on the news, there are between 50 and 100,000 mentions of Coca-Cola in the social space -- 99.2 percent of which are positive. Despite such enviable numbers, figuring out how to monitor consumer conversations about the brand remains a major challenge, says Michael Donnelly, group director of worldwide interactive marketing at The Coca-Cola Company.
“How can we really leverage technology to talk in locally relevant languages about locally relevant topics that are also in line with our brand values and that may actually turn into a sale?” he asks. “The good thing is that many of these platforms -- Facebook specifically, as well as YouTube -- allow us to do just that.” Donnelly, who will serve as host at the ANA Digital & Social Media Conference to be held July 15-17 in Dana Point, California, shared a few insights about the company’s interactive marketing approach in advance of the event.
Q. Is digital/social media fully integrated into your overall marketing strategy? If so, how have you made it work externally with your agencies?
A. We don’t have “digital and social strategies” as much as we have “business strategies.” Digital is a very effective, tactical way of enhancing and amplifying those strategies. While digital is often at the very core of an idea, sometimes it is an important, cohesive part of a balanced integrated marketing communication plan. Our agencies, publishers, digital integrators, and technology partners are all absolutely vital in our communications plans today. We work collaboratively to create “liquid and linked” immersive storytelling experiences that can and will flow everywhere and are strategically linked to our business objectives. Our strategy is to work with the best agencies in the business as often as possible. Collaboration, mutual respect, teamwork, and communications tools are all vital to success.
Q. Internally, how are you participating in and monitoring consumer discussions about your brands across social platforms? Does that responsibility fall on everyone within the company?
A. I wouldn’t say the “responsibility” falls on everyone; I’d say the “opportunity” is available to everyone. Our 700,000-plus associates will participate in some way or another on their own terms as social becomes more and more pervasive. We have a very positive atmosphere at Coca-Cola around social media. We’ve seen a massive shift from a perceived “watch out, be careful” kind of environment to one that is enabling, encouraging, and very positive. We want our associates to feel as comfortable when representing the company online as they do offline. When questions arise on how to handle something, we direct them to people who are trained to listen, communicate, harvest, and participate in social media conversations.
Monitoring social media on a big scale is challenging. We have almost 42 million fans on our Coca-Cola Facebook page, but there’s not a single thing we could ever say that would be relevant to everybody at the same time. So it’s important to focus on a subset of the larger audience. For example, we can find out within seconds how many Coca-Cola fans are in Boston, and then provoke conversations in English about something that is in line with our brand and just happened five minutes ago, such as a live sporting or music event that may encourage consumers to buy our product. The ability to effectively scale locally led, locally relevant value-adding conversations is what we’re focused on most, allowing our marketers in each country to amplify their messages and build their business.
Q. You are a big believer in liquid content -- brand stories that create conversations, encourage connections, and build engagement. What are the key ingredients in liquid content that ensure spreadability?
A. Liquid content is all about passion, sincerity, and really big ideas. At the end of the day, if you have a really big idea that you’ve collaboratively developed in partnership with your agencies and leveraged through new media, the content is able to spread. An idea like “Where Will Happiness Strike Next?” offers incredibly sincere and emotional content without big production values. It’s really hard to get someone to pretend that they’re happy, but you can provoke happiness -- real, sincere happiness -- through great content. We are listening to consumers and applying that learning to our content development.
Q. What are some best practices for successfully executing a digital/social media campaign on both a local and global level?
A. We have all kinds of in-house best practices, from very tactical recommendations to how our marketers should speak on behalf of the brand in terms of brand tone and voice. A key best practice for us is that less is often best in social spaces. If you write an update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter that’s beyond a sentence or two, you’re going to see an immediate dropoff in the number of people who read it. We are sharing simple learnings like this with our nearly 3,000 marketers. We are focused on providing effective, efficient, and safe solutions, such as tools for moderating and publishing, as well as URL shorteners, so that our marketers can focus on creating compelling content. We subscribe to a single brand page approach across most major social sites all around the world. There’s one Coca-Cola page, as opposed to one in every country that provides locally relevant content in a locally relevant language. This allows us to leverage scale.
Q. How are you measuring success in the digital/social space?
A. There are KPIs for every campaign and business program we have. And we’re bucketing much of our measurements into what we call “impressions” and “expressions.” Impressions, naturally, are the number of eyeballs that have seen your content. With almost 42 million fans, our Coca-Cola Facebook fan page may provide as much reach as some of the cable networks. Of more importance and focus for us are expressions, measured primarily via engagement metrics. We’re working on creating a weighted average of what expressions are worth. So a “Like” is worth one thing, but taking a picture and/or making a video and uploading it is likely worth more. Some of our brands are likely to have a higher propensity than others to drive one form of expression over another. We then develop strategies to fuel conversations and create expressions in line with our brand values and business objectives.