Engagement takes place in a shared environment

Thirteen specialists come together to pass on knowledge and exchange views on the increasing importance of the social consumer for marketing.

David Reed (Chair), Section editor, Data Strategy
Jennifer Major, Business development consultant at SAS UK
Laurence Buchanan Executive consultant for CRM at Capgemini
Mark Thomson Director of media at Royal Mail
Louise Howells Social media strategist at Condé Nast
Janet Irwin Head of interactive marketing at The Telegraph Group
Jean-Paul Edwards Executive director of futures at Manning Gottlieb OMD
Yemil Martinez Digital marketing specialist at Informa
Simon Trewavas Senior industry manager for YouTube and display at Google
Barnaby Dawe Marketing director at The Sun and News of The World
Henry Stokes Head of digital innovation at media agency Mindshare
Rebecca Jones Head of marketing and planning at BBC Worldwide
Peter Kirk Head of sales and marketing at BBC TV Licensing
Andrew Mortimer Director of media strategy and planning at BSkyB


Yemil Martinez (YM): Social media gives consumers a sense of empowerment. Consumers typically feel more positive towards brands that use social media. Any response by a brand through social media, even when it’s dealing with a negative experience, seems to strengthen the bond between the consumer and the brand – a dialogue has begun and the consumer will want to see it continued.

Janet Irwin (JI): It depends on what brand you are and what you are trying to do, but on the whole it brings consumers closer to brands and is therefore seen as a positive thing.

MW: How do you think the consumer understands the value exchange around social media?

Barnaby Dawe (BD): The worst thing you can do is just give people what they can get elsewhere. You have to give consumers something unique. They do replicate their behaviour across different communities and if they see the same thing coming up they will feel cheated.

JI: At The Telegraph, we want to build loyal engaged readerships across our iPad app, the website or the newspaper. We try to manage that value exchange but we can’t control how people are taking our content and putting it out there.

Louise Howells (LH): There are definitely people out there who are willing to pay for video content in some digital format. The real difference between Vogue magazine and the Vogue iPad app is there’s really beautiful behind-the-scenes footage available. This would usually be available for free on YouTube, but people are willing to pay the subscription price for the app on top of the print magazine for the benefit of having it on their device and being able to flick the pages in the same way you would a magazine.

Rebecca Jones (RJ): Maybe this is a case of semantics, but we have got to stop thinking about this in terms of content in that space and think instead of stimulus. It is about giving stimulus so people have their conversation and if you are lucky and interesting enough you can join in. But it is their space. Facebook is not another channel to potentially sell content – it is a place to stimulate conversations around a brand.

The danger with all of the marketing activity around trying to reach social media ’superusers’ is that we stop them being that and they become just another media outlet
Louise Howells, Condé Nast

Laurence Buchanan (LB): The monetisation of social engagement isn’t necessarily as simple as just giving something away for free and selling advertising on the back of it. Clearly, Google has proved that works enormously successfully but there other ways to monetise.

Henry Stokes (HS): So, back to your original point about value exchange: Do consumers know that there is an economic model behind all this that needs to be propped up? Do they understand that if something is free they need to see ads? I don’t think they do at the moment and the only way of making that clear is the “freemium”, where you show them a little and then you show them what they could have. They then slowly begin to understand that there is some sort of benefit to a paid model for one or an advertising model for another.

LH: I believe people are more aware of that value exchange online than they are in traditional media. On Spotify, for example, consumers can choose between listening to adverts at the end of the music or paying extra to avoid the adverts.

Mark Thomson (MT): I don’t agree. I think people view the web as a ubiquitous free thing. With TV, people understand that ads allow them watch shows like The X Factor.

BD: At The Sun and News of The World we see social media as push and pull. The push stuff is taking content created by our journalists that we think will bring new readers in and pushing that into the blogosphere. An example of that is the stories that included claims surrounding [The X-Factor star] Matt Cardle and sex addictions, which achieved a 5.8 million person reach through social media marketing.

The pull stuff is creating communities that we want to draw into our content and brands. We have a Facebook page for Sun Football which has about 65,000 fans. An estimated 77% of those fans are more likely to buy The Sun because of their involvement in that community.

Simon Trewavas (ST): Social media is important for Google. One of the key projects is aimed at recruiting new users. We got acclaimed filmmakers Kevin Macdonald and Ridley Scott involved in a competition where people uploaded 80,000 clips to the channel in a bid to be part of a film. The simple idea, executed last July, saw users across the globe record a day of their life and a final film will be screened this year at Sundance.

Peter Kirk (PK): For BBC TV Licensing, there are two strands. Things like LinkedIn and Facebook form part of an advertising strategy targeting hard-to-reach groups. The other is part of customer service, such as responding to tweets about our brand. That area has a big potential to grow in terms of demonstrating we want to give licence fee payers good customer service.


Jennifer Major (JM): We want to help people make sense of all that conversation going on out there, pinpointing the major topics and themes. That might be consumers expressing a positive or negative sentiment, which can, for example, be applied to reputational risk. We can find out if there are peaks and troughs and be an early warning system about things that are coming up.

JI: In many ways social media is just another broadcast tool that allows people to access our content wherever and whenever they want. But we also use it for marketing and have increasingly started to use it as a sampling tool.

The demand for instant response means the digital space is a really good one for customer service
Andrew Mortimer, BSkyB

Andrew Mortimer (AM): Social media represents an almost boundless opportunity for us at Sky. The enduring question for me is what do we use it for? Are we trying to communicate messages? Is it for listening, measuring, driving advocacy or customer service? The demand for instant response means the digital space is a really good one for customer service. It’s the start of the journey and there are more questions than answers for me at the moment.

Jean-Paul Edwards (JPE): We see the social media opportunity as hard to define. I would say it is a strategic way of doing things rather than specific individual things on their own. It is now becoming a strategic platform and can change both our and our clients’ business. It is about how you integrate the opportunity in an efficient and measurable way and data is a big part of that.

PK: It is easier to measure with something like Twitter where there is a very short message that is communicated to lots of followers. We have found building a business case for interaction and customer service on Twitter is much easier than a business case for activity on the more complex platform of Facebook.

LB: People don’t forward your content unless there is something in it for them, such as building their own profile, getting loyalty points or so on.
Also, the “90-9-1 model” applies to most social networks. It means 1% of users are creating the majority of content, 9% are occasional contributors and 90% are lurkers, who never contribute anything. You can identify those contributors but don’t expect them to forward your stuff just because you have found them: you have to engage them and have a two-way conversation.

HS: You have to have to start to build quite complex algorithms if you want to map the marketplace for people who have influence versus those who don’t. We have close relationships with “superusers” and we also try to identify the right type of people to reach out to on individual campaigns because we can’t go to the same guys every time. Plus, we do need to identify using technology in terms of who is the right person to talk to at the right time.

JI: We invite these influencers to come to events now as much as we would industry people and it is great, but I honestly don’t know what the true value is.

MW: Can you see the possibility of charging the advertiser more when a “superuser” is on YouTube or similar?

ST: The thing that is brilliant about YouTube at the moment is that it is free speech for everybody and is about empowering those users. A good example is Panacea 81 also known as Lauren Luke, who used the channel to give make-up advice and her followers wrote back exponentially. She now has somewhere in the region of 350,000 subscribers, is signed up to different cosmetic companies and is soon to launch her own product line.

In the UK there are a lot of superusers working with different businesses and brands. Superusers are a nice way to develop a story with a brand.

LH: But surely the power of that superuser is in the word of mouth, in the trust with which that superuser is viewed because they are seen to be giving their individual opinion. The danger with all of the marketing activity around trying to reach social media “superusers” is that we stop them being that and they become just another media outlet.


JI: Yes, but a lot of them are already being bought by brands. There is an agency in the US where you can pay popular Twitter users to tweet about your brands. Then you have things like TripAdvisor discovering that a lot of the hotels are blogging themselves and leaving their own positive feedback. So what started out as being genuine is being ruined. Where do you go next?

RJ: You trust your friends, you go to Facebook to see what your friends say.

LB: There is a new currency developing around authenticity, trust and respect for privacy, which people value more and more. My favourite example is the telecom firm GiffGaff, which asked its customers what they thought the tariff should be and incentivised them to answer questions in the support forum. If customers answer someone else’s questions they get prepaid credit points. Customer response times on the forum averaged three minutes and the level of engagement with the superusers was phenomenal. GiffGaff customers even built it an iPhone app.

Brands need to think about applying a completely different mindset to this, which is outside in and involves giving up control and being driven by customers.

JI: I am interested in the longevity of some of the sites that these influencers use.

LB: Yes, we see that the social platforms will change. For example, there was once MySpace. And we have no idea whether Twitter is just a passing fad. It may exist in a totally different form or be replaced by something. What we do know is there will be something there. One of the challenges for brands is recognising that it is not just about Twitter and Facebook and just staying there. Actually, we need to work out where our customers are and be constantly adapting to that.

HS: It comes back down to creativity and having good ideas. If you find something relevant to your consumer they will be there.

MW: What is the future of social media for your organisation and do you think that you will be making money from it in the future?

MT: We are using it well at times in a tactical sense and that will grow and get better. However, there is something nagging at me that says monetising this in isolation isn’t the answer – it is the whole engagement strategy with the customer, wherever they come in that, that is important.

YM: It is essential and it is a business skill set [that needs to be developed] – it will be a part of the job of not just the marketer but also the salesperson and the content creator. It is a necessary part of evolving.

RJ: I think that you need to be brave and try stuff. We are going to see how we can take the learnings we have so far and use them on other brands.

LH: Social media is not just a marketing channel. It is about having a deeper relationship with our audience.

JM: Yes, SAS uses it very much to engage with the users of our services. I noticed, in terms of this debate, this industry focuses on social media for engagement, but with other industries it is much more about listening to what is going on.

JI: I think the challenge is understanding, from a marketing point of view, where social media fits with everything we are doing and what it means for us as a business longer term. However, I think that we are already doing really well in terms of using it as a broadcast and engagement tool.

AM: It is probably going to be the biggest growth area in BSkyB’s marketing plan in the next year or so. It kind of has to be because if we are going to take a consumer-first approach to it, it is where consumers are.


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