It might be stretching it to say that social media has turned corporations into people. But, according to Peggy Ang, it has helped them become better conversationalists.
For Ang, vice president of marketing communications for Samsung Electronics America, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram and other social media aren’t a megaphone to be used for shouting or amplifying a message; they’re a platform for brands to learn as much about their consumer as their consumer learns about brands.
“Social is not about awareness and education and engagement. It’s purely about the relationship,” Ang says. “What social gives is this idea that we are a person to [the consumer] and that they are a person to us. Even just using a name in how we address each other is a big step.”
2014 was a big year for Peggy Ang and Samsung Electronics. The brand capitalized on its sponsorship of the Emmy Awards with a relaunch of its Vine channel and real-world giveaways tied to specific tweets. It created an app for its Smart TVs to bring golf fans more content than what was offered through a traditional broadcast. And (though it wasn’t her group that initiated the stunt; that was sister brand Samsung Telecommunications America), the brand’s electronics arm was poised to bask in the halo effect of Ellen’s most-tweeted Oscar photograph.
“The selfie was the one that pulled it together for us. If you watched the pre-show you, knew we had a presence,” Ang says. “Our devices are connected and we’re able now to leverage that with content about how you can enhance your passion for entertainment.”
That year of triumph helped boost Ang to be Mediapost’s Marketing All Star for 2014.
At Samsung Electronics USA, Ang has championed the idea of turning social media conversation into a personal relationship with the consumer, one where the brand and consumer engage with each other about shared passions. “The first thing consumers will tune out is something that doesn’t concern them,” Ang says. “For social, we have to be pure and deliberate and non-traditional in our marketing beyond pounding the message.”
She points to Samsung’s social media effort during the Emmy’s as an example of shared passions in practice. During the telecast, Samsung used its Twitter feed to connect with consumers, awarding entertainment-based prizes (in some markets going so far as to show up on consumers’ doorsteps with new TVs) to underscore the brand’s and consumers’ shared passion for entertainment.
“It [wasn’t] about Samsung TVs. It’s about the shared love of TV,” Ang says. “Imagine me stepping into your house and every other word is ‘Samsung, Samsung, Samsung.’ You’re going to get tired of me. But if I come into your house and I know you’re watching "Game of Thrones" and, I say, ‘Let’s watch it together.’ That’s different.”
Using social as the place to establish shared passions opens up the other media to do the heavy lifting of selling. ”In my print ads I’m not shy to tell you I’m the number one rated TV. And in my retail displays I’m not shy to show you 10 rows of the best TVs,” Ang says.
The brand tapped into similar connections with its PGA Tour app, which took viewers who had Samsung Smart TVs behind the scenes of top events with multiple views, information and stats. As a sponsor of the event, Samsung already had a presence. Social was about augmenting that presence.
“Our brand is a part of it, but it’s not the main story,” Ang says. “We know we have enough touchpoints all over [the event] that we don’t have to rely on social to be a checklist for the brand. It’s the reality.”
To get to this point, Ang and Samsung Electronics’ social media team has spent the better part of three years making a concerted effort to understand social. It began by accumulating scale, dedicating the company to accumulating likes and followers and then trying different approaches to see what worked with consumers. The understanding: consumers were keenly aware when they were being mass communicated with.
“If I say the same response to 10 people, I’m going to be found out because everyone can see what I’m writing,” Ang says. Since dedicating itself to the social channel, Ang has hired Edelman Social to be the company’s Social agency-of-record, just as other companies do with traditional advertising and media.
“She has the ability to dig in and sift through the details and simultaneously step back and see everything from the 30,000-foot level,” says Kimberly Kotwitz, senior vice president of digital at Edelman Social. “She’s incredibly straightforward and to the point … She’s always asking, ‘How?’ trying to push us to understand how we make things personal rather than having them be just marketing ideas.”
In the end, Ang notes, social all comes down to being a good conversationalist, Ang says. That means listening, responding in kind (but not too often and not always about oneself), finding common interests and connecting emotionally.
“It’s not about how many times you mention the brand, it’s the way you use it,” she says. “People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”