When engaging the masses is key: Social media transforms Coca-Cola campaign into an instant big-hitter

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When reaching the masses is the aim of the game for brands, Facebook can be seen as a fast track to a

larger audience because it could take longer for a brand to build its own base, according to Dominic Sparkes, managing director of social media management agency Tempero.

For example, Amnesty International launched an appeal via Facebook, Twitter and blogs in May asking its followers on these sites to help fund a press ad to hit out at oil giant Shell and its activities in Nigeria. Amnesty reached 2,300 people and raised £40,000.

BT is another brand that is using Facebook to gain consumer support. It has just run a poll asking consumers to decide how the storyline in its Adam and Jane TV ads should progress. About 1.6 million consumers voted and the next instalment of the campaign has been previewed to thousands of Facebook fans, some of whom have even started their own groups about the characters.

“I have been stunned at how much people love this campaign,” BT retail marketing director Matthew Dearden told Marketing Week in March. 

Coke is about to use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as part of its distribution strategy for its Happiness Machine video. The video, featuring a vending machine in a college campus that delivers flowers, pizzas and unlimited Coca-Cola, is the company’s most successful viral campaign, with more than 2.6 million views on YouTube. The company is now preparing to launch a British version of the ad and wants to appeal to a mass audience, says Coca-Cola vice-president of global interactive marketing Carol Kruse.

Coke’s Facebook page was nearing 11 million members as Marketing Week went

to press. “It was started by Dusty and Michael, two guys in California who love Coke,” says Kruse. “When it got to about 1.5 million members, Facebook made us take it over, so we administrate it along with Dusty and Michael.”

Coke fans post an array of content, including photos, videos, stories and even song lyrics. “We will sometimes do a status update and ask a provocative question, like what’s the craziest place you’ve had a Coke? People will respond with pictures of someone on Mount Everest drinking a can of Coke,” Kruse adds. “While we have a global Facebook page, we let our individual markets execute what they think is right, under our global umbrella.”

Any brand’s Facebook page that generates volume like Coke’s will understand that  moderating is a big job. Tempero’s Sparkes says it’s not just about removing inappropriate language. “We not only make sure the content is clean, but make conversations more meaningful by either responding or driving it in the first place and prompting users to generate content.”

But things can sometimes go awry. Coca-Cola recently axed digital agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine following a Facebook campaign for its Dr Pepper brand, which hijacked users’ statuses and posted embarrassing updates – the most offensive including references to porn videos.

Meanwhile, retailer Habitat last year put its Twitter account in the hands of an “over-enthusiastic intern” which led to the use of inappropriate hashtags such as the Iraq war and the iPhone launch. After a three-month break, it returned to Twitter in September with the message: “This time we want to get it right – tell us what you want to hear from us.” Habitat survived the experience with a first-hand knowledge of how not to engage with a public community and emerged the better for it.

Coke’s Kruse says mass communities can help a brand spread the word if the right strategy is employed. “In the digital world, there are so many needs and opportunities for content that can flow – whether we put it on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube,” she says.

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