Media tools need to be placed in skilled hands

Our panel of marketing experts, in association with Communisis, discuss how to make best use of social media and warn there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Roundtable owned, earned and paid-for media

Bryan Easton (BE) Director of media, sponsorships and agency, Nokia

Christina McGill (CM) Head of communications and marketing, Breast Cancer Care

Charles Ping (CP) Client director, data intelligence, Communisis

Carola York (CY) Circulation and marketing director, The Spectator

Geoff Bull (GB) Head of digital, Riverford Organic

Simon Carter (SC) Marketing director, Fujitsu, UK Government

CHAIR Mark Choueke (MW) Editor Marketing Week

Venetia Casely (VC) Head of marketing, IP Vision

Dominic Grounsell (DG) Marketing director, Capital One

Phil Dean (PD) Managing director creative services, Communisis

Dominic Traynor (DT) Director of relationship marketing, BlackRock

Duncan Lewis (DL) Group marketing and development director, Age UK

Colin Paterson (CPa) Director of marketing and communications, Institute of Advanced Motorists

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Marketing Week (MW): Is there a correct ratio between owned, earned and paid-for media?

Bryan Easton (BE): Each market has different degrees of development. There’s massive variation in internet and digital penetration around the world. Equally, the challenges or the objectives of each of the different campaigns that you run require different proportions of media. In some instances we have a heavy reliance on social media and others don’t need it at all. I don’t think there are many companies that are doing a great job of it either. A lot of us are flailing in the dark.

Christina McGill (CM): I don’t think we’ve cracked the ratio question. What we do think about is what we’re trying to do with the campaign at any given moment. So if we’re trying to bring new audiences in to a particular activity then we might be looking more at the paid side of the mix. And we really value and put a lot of emphasis in taking our existing family and audience with us so the social media sphere is a great place to build ambassadorship.

MW: How do you know if you’re making the right decisions?

Duncan Lewis (DL): It varies on a case by case basis. Our beneficiaries tend to be older and less well off, so digital inclusion levels are lower. But if you’re looking at some of the key influencing groups that we reach out to, such as politicians and journalists, they are far more digitally enabled. In those instances we would reach out through social media.

Let’s remember what we’re all here to do – reach consumers wherever they are. If they’re now in social media channels, I’ll use those

Dominic Grounsell, marketing director, Capital One

MW: Is there a value you can put on owned, paid for and earned media?

DL: It’s not that straightforward because you don’t necessarily evaluate on exactly the same criteria. For us, some of the earned would be great for driving engagement in campaigns and mobilising people. It’s less about product push, so there’s less need for straightforward ROI measurement. But we would evaluate a fundraising DM campaign by a very different set of metrics.

Many organisations would rationalise it on the basis of the opportunity cost -what would the damage be to the brand if we’re not there, rather than what’s the short-term payback. That’s the question that a lot of senior management teams and boards are asking themselves.

Carola York (CY): I don’t truly know how to measure and evaluate it. Most of our Twitter feeds are done by editorial staff, not marketers. We have general feeds going into the Facebook and Twitter sites but the majority are written by journalists. Then there are other conversations with the guys saying you can’t make it too commercial because it switches people off.

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MW: Are opportunities missed by not engaging in social media?

Geoff Bull (GB): There can be a danger if you’re not in that space. For us, there’s a lot to talk about and social media is the perfect place to do it. It’s a massive missed opportunity if we don’t have somewhere to tell our story. We can’t really compete with the supermarkets on price or convenience, so what we need to do is get the story across.

CY: Our business is words and getting that out through Twitter and Facebook gives us avenues to extend the brand to new audiences. It’s hugely important to us for brand awareness and attracting new audiences who we might not have been reaching before.

Simon Carter (SC): Social media and email marketing are both too cheap. Because these tools are so cheap we become lazy and we abuse them. Some of my guys don’t check email addresses because they think it doesn’t matter if you get a bounce back.

MW: So are marketers forgetting to think about the relevancy and purpose of their campaigns?

SC: It’s all ’pile it out the door and we don’t care’. You go full circle in that social media is becoming mass market advertising. It’s stopped being targeted media. There is so much of the stuff out there you can’t cut through. Of course, you’d be crazy not to use it. In my market there are a lot of bloggers out there who talk about technology and innovation. You’ve got to cater for them but they are quite small and they themselves are the influencers, not the customers. That’s the market that I need to use social media for.

Venetia Casely (VC): It depends on what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to do it to. I have a very wide range of people that I need to contact, from consumers through to stakeholders and investors. We’re a small industry and we need to raise our profile in it. That can be achieved by commenting, blogging and getting to know the right people and being the voice of the industry.

Social media is too cheap. Because it’s so cheap we become lazy and we abuse it

Simon Carter, marketing director, Fujitsu UK Government

We’ll try to drive people to our owned and earned media such as the bloggers and technical sites. That’s an area we need to concentrate more on. We had a big launch last year where we had a few problems when it went out and people were talking about us all over the web. We should have harnessed that but we didn’t.

Dominic Grounsell (DG): We invest heavily in social media channels. But I think as an industry we are obsessed by fads. It was rich media, then brand activation and now it’s social media. Let’s remember what we’re all here to do reach consumers wherever they are. If they’re now in social media channels, I’ll use those. When they move on from there I’ll move on. But it’s not a case of the whole world is shifting to social media, it’s just that consumers are now using those channels more than they have been in the past. As a result, marketers need to respond. I don’t think we are getting lazy. It is much more difficult to crack a social media campaign than, say, direct mail because of the many different layers you have to go through to reach the consumer.

The danger as a large advertiser was flagged up a few years ago when someone at the top saw digital as where the market was going and said 20% of their marketing budget needed to go into it. Yet you could argue that because the company was a big FMCG company it didn’t really have a role to play in the digital space because it’s a B2B2C business rather than B2C. There’s a dogma that comes through that says social media must be 20% or 50% of your budget. It’s wrong. It’s where your consumers are that should drive your decision making.

MW: Consumers move in real time, but you can’t plan your budgets in real time. How do you get round this?

DG: We base our planning on good customer insight and say “right now I know my consumers are using these channels in this way, therefore if it’s appropriate for my product and my campaign I will bring my products or campaign to my consumer through this channel at this point”.

SC: A few years ago I’d have said that direct mail is a dead horse but there’s an opportunity now because people aren’t doing it any more. It’s virgin territory again, so using direct mail to drive activity online is interesting. When I was at Thomas Cook, a third of people who booked online would then go into the store to get the brochure to show their mates the holiday they’d bought. Similarly, a third of people who booked in store had done their homework online. That was integration. Consumers are individuals who don’t go down the same channels all the time.

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MW: Is there ever going to be a time when you can build a whole strategy without traditional paid-for media?

Charles Ping (CP): I suspect that was possible in the very early days of social media being very fashionable, where as a brand you had early adopter advantages. As we are moving up that curve, the moment for that has disappeared and it becomes harder and harder for anything other than a well-balanced strategy. That means using target audiences and asking how they are going to be motivated. What are the values that people are seeing in the brand in paid-for campaigns and how do these resonate across everything that you own?

We’ve been talking about social media as a concept without acknowledging that social media monitoring and the crossover into corporate affairs and public relations is a critical part of managing all that. That’s almost a different activity from the marketing use of social media because it’s part call centre, part PR, part corporate affairs. If you don’t get that right then you can have all the nice things you’re saying about the brand in broadcast, press or well-targeted direct mail wiped out by a grumble that gains momentum.

DG: It is something that we are exploring. There are some fantastic case studies. One of those is Renault, which used workflow management techniques borne out of the call centre skill set to address concerns voiced in real time on message boards. We’re trying to learn from that at the moment.

SC: Those who talk about Obama being elected on the social media wave, everyone forgets he spent $0.5bn on TV advertising.

CP: I think it’s added a layer of complexity to any kind of understanding of what’s driving people in through the door. I don’t think anyone’s got their head round it yet. You’ve got an amorphous mass of social media that you don’t control. You don’t control Facebook, you happen to put a property on there. Can you identify where that 10% of the people consuming your product who can be advocates are and use that? This is what’s round the corner. It comes back to good marketing, using the people at the front of the channel to control the people at the tail end.

MW: How effective is social media in a sector where the audience doesn’t really see itself as a community?

Dominic Traynor (DT): I work in the City and a lot of key things come out of thought leadership pieces and influential speakers. We need to tap into some of that rich content. Similarly on sites where some of these professional bloggers are talking about complex financial instruments, we need to be listening to those conversations and think about if there is anything we can actually add to this discussion? Are the things being talked about factually correct because that has a very big impact on us as a business.

MW: Is the influence of social media recognised outside the marketing department?

DT: We’re talking about social media all the way to the top of the company. The whole business knows we should be doing something with social media, but we don’t want to jump in there and do it because everyone is doing it. We need to think about what our brand can actually do in this space. There’s definitely a lot of listening to start off with. I think about the way we work with our media agency. They will present against our three buckets paid, owned and earned media so we will always start a campaign knowing that owned will be the biggest part, paid will be a smaller part and then the question is what implications does that then have for earned?

GB: You need an understanding across the organisation in terms of the management and effectiveness of marketing decisions, but ultimately it’s marketing’s job to understand social implications. You need to control it at a media level. But when you think about the content that’s driving it, that needs to come from the organisation overall.

BE: Every company does it differently. At Nokia, we don’t try to build a marketing team and then put people in it with social skills. We try to build a marketing team with socially-minded people. I would like to think everyone in the team has some digital social skill because if they don’t you have to ask why are they in that role?

This area is moving fast and is embedded in everything we do. We sell products to consumers we never see. We sell them to operators and the operators sell them on. The operators have the relationships. But social media allows us to have a very quick bridge to the consumer.

Can we measure it? I can measure on an hourly basis how many people purchase one of our products or download apps but I can’t necessarily put a monetary value on it. However, social media channels can tell me how fast I can convert a sale to a relationship. It’s that shift that’s the difference between having a social team in your marketing department and building social skills in everybody in the team.

DL: This comes back to the notion of no cost or low cost of social media. The indirect cost of realigning an organisation if it’s seriously going to get behind social media can actually be quite expensive. Certainly for us it’s one of the reasons we haven’t rushed into it. To make sure all the aspects of our business are aligned and work credibly on social media is not an easy trick.

SC: I completely agree about cultural realignment. Very few people think that way. Look at the number of organisations that have emails going to their call centres but the call centres are only open nine to five. And they don’t answer emails in the down time. Companies have, in the main, not woken up to the always-on technology.

PD: Whenever I talk to a client about social media, the first thing I say is that it’s not free. Add up the amount of time someone responsible for delivering this kind of content spends doing their job. It’s a fallacy to think it’s free. Every client who is dipping their toe in social media should first carry out a listening exercise. And it’s a really good first stage to understand what people are saying about the brand. You can set up a Twitter feed or Facebook page, but you’ve got to take two or three steps back and look at the bigger picture.

CY: Amazon set that standard a long time ago. If you’re not delivering that customer service online, that speed of delivery, your consumer is going to think that’s not good. Same thing when they have a question, they want a quick response. In publishing we are reliant on outside suppliers to do our customer service for us. They’re not bad but they’re a traditional business, they didn’t set up as an online business, so they’re getting there but they’re not there yet.

DT: The interesting point is the level of engagement you get through social media channels. We have a very hard-to-reach, savvy, cynical audience. There’s also a very crowded financial services paid-for media space. So how can we reach an audience and really engage with them? If you can tune in where they’re not focused on consuming a paid-for ad or an article that they know is written for them then that level of engagement is very powerful. But we haven’t really talked about the engagement level as a measure of success for social media.

DG: Social media may be a short phrase, but it’s a very large area. Where it’s done well is where it’s building a community. The big question is do customers of Capital One want to be a community? There are many brands where consumers don’t want to have a relationship with you on that level. If social media means you can hear their concerns and respond to them, it’s a benefit. It may be a way to build a community among very loyal advocates of your brand, even if their numbers are very small. The danger is that if everyone believes it’s the right thing to do, you might get brands trying to build a community on Facebook and wondering why it’s failing for them.

CM: For us it’s about how, as a person-centred brand, we support people going through a difficult time. We’ve had an online community for a very long time because it would be strange were we not to extend that conversation into the social media space. It was a natural next step to take. There’s an overlap between the audience on our owned website and the one in the earned social space, which helps us to better understand the journey that people have with us. They start off receiving a support service, later on they may want to fundraise. Owned and earned is very interlinked.

GB: We’ll take a content page on our site and produce a video for a topic we’re talking about. Then we’ll host that on YouTube. We show the video on the webpage and people will click through to the YouTube video, which increases our view rates. We have also started to use Facebook comments, which give us a running commentary from customers on our webpage that are also posted out onto our brand page as well as the customer’s own profile. Word spreads nicely through owned and earned media.

Colin Paterson (CPa): We have a disconnect because our customers are able to communicate on a closed forum on our site and we have a fair amount of opinionated older gentlemen airing their views online. One of their comments is that we should be on Twitter and Facebook. But we are. And they’re not aware of this.

We sell a niche, discretionary and multistage product. We need to move more aggressively to encouraging social dialogue. This is no different to 20 or 30 years ago in a different medium word of mouth is the best way of selling this product. Road safety is valuable but very dull and the best thing is somebody else telling you this is the best thing ever. Facebook and Twitter are fantastic because we’ve got dialogues going, albeit low key and low volume. We even manage to have some fairly strong debates going through LinkedIn.

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