Commentary

A Conversation On Brand Building In The Social Space

Jennifer Mangold, senior manager, global social media at HomeAway.com, and Sarah Neal Simpson, global social leader, Uber.

Sarah: Social touches every single department in the company. Our relationships are with other teams, and it’s crucial to push forward the vision and the belief. Social is complex, a microcosm with what’s happening with the business. That’s where it becomes a a much bigger undertaking that pulls in the paid elements as well that go into it. If you’re doing social effecitvely, it’s much bigger.

Jennifer: Customer service is a huge issue for us. We’re working on moving that out from it being solely on the social team. Trying to connect with consumers. The challenge is how to split our time, our priorities. 

Sarah: Getting into work and running a social team is putting out fires for the first 5 hours. Then there’s news breaking that we could jump on to create a story around. Or an influencer didn’t tag us and was supposed to.

Jennifer: Yes, we’re trying to act in an agile way when so much changes daily. We have to do customer support every day. We’re looking to jump on trends, so making sure we have a good creative foundation for the week has helped in terms of freeing up some time to do other things, engage influencers, be more proactive on the outreach.

Sarah: The [Uber] team was small, a group of women managing team. We need to account for who is the person dedicated to special projects, who is the liaison ti customer service team. As the means grow, it’s developing the means to support that.

Jennifer: If something blows up, it’s all hands on deck.

Sarah: The challenge as a manager is to keep the team inspirred. We’re working on that.

What about customer acquisition?

Jennifer: We’re looking into that, owned social, acquisition channel. We have B2B sides of our business. We’re looking at some options to explore on the content side, less of a hard sell. How can we inspire people to potentially rent their home. We could do a good job on developing that inspiration content to drive someone into the acquisition funnel. We‘re dipping our toe in that water.

Sarah: Acquisition, growth is top priority. But what you start realizing is growth at all cost is not the way to go ... we are taking another look at who is our audience, is it the right audience for the content we’re developing, for what we see social as in the future. Right now, pushing out messages to people who aren’t receptive is a waste of resources, how to reconcile that. It’s crucial to look at the business model, talk to other leaders, execs to understand how they see social fitting into a company. Are we a customer service channel? Or is it an inspiration channel?

Jennifer: We’re working with the president of the company to see what is his vision long term for social. He’s rightly so pushing us on audience targeting, we do have to shift our mindset, not ignoring our current customers but try to get a good acquisition strategy for people who will become our audience in the next several years.

Sarah: We’re adamant with having long-term relationships with influencers and now we’re getting to a place where we need to think about celebrity influencers, turning our fan base into advocates or super microiinfluencers. It’s a hard thing to figure out. We rely on our agency to handle a lot of the back and forth, to find new talent.

Jennifer: We’re trying to build our in-house program from scratch. It’s a great team, passionate about influencers. Some of the celebrity network is not necessarily going to drive long term. Deeper conversations than we have at the microinfluencer level. We are seeing some conversion from the microinfluencers. Compensate them by turning them into affiliates. Something we’ll probably explore a little more, it takes some education. 

Sarah: Engagement really does come at the micro level. We have an in-house creative team to develop content. Show our brand point of view, develop that in batches, work on campaigns that are bigger opportunites to pull in new people. With social, you’re trying to acquire but also to satisfy people currently following you. Operating on two fronts.

Sarah: It feels very instant to all of us, seems easy to make decisions, but comes from knowing who you are. It takes a while to build things on social. Gets worse before it gets better. Thankful for the team granting that kind of time, learning as we go.

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