When John Bell, head of the global 360° Digital Influence team - Ogilvy's global social media marketing and communications practice, was in Sydney in June, Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs caught up with him to talk about social media.
Based in Washington DC, Bell heads up the global team of Digital Influence Strategists integrating the power of social media - social networks, blogs, Web 2.0 applications - with digital marketing to produce measureable results. He’s developed strategy and executed award-winning programs for clients including Ford, Lenovo, Unilever, BP and American Express.
Following is a three-part series on how brands can get started in social media, measure its impact, how Australia compares to the rest of the world when it comes to social media and the challenge of finding social media experts who also understand marketing and communications.
Part 1: Moving beyond the experimentation phase
Question: You have a theory that brands are moving through what you call ‘the experimentation stage’ in social media? Can you explain this?
John Bell: The enterprise adoption curve shows there’s a path brands typically move along. It starts with phase zero, where people are nervous and full of anticipation, and shifts into the listening stage where brands want to know what people are saying about them online.
From there it moves onto the experimentation stage, where brands try things in social media - implement programs, encourage various regions around the world to try different things and allow entrepreneurial drive within the company to push forward experiments.
Pretty soon brands find that this approach doesn’t produce a significant business result so they want to get efficiencies or ‘operationalize’ their approach to social media.
This is largely trying to take all the experiments and align them with a business purpose, trying to manage the brand online so there’s isn’t 25 different Facebook pages. Instead, there’s one voice for the brand online that is purposeful, not simply whatever the person who did the feed decided on.
There’s a measurement model around everything that’s done so they can learn from their efforts, see what’s having a business impact, what’s creating customer value, what’s helping them build brand reputation and what’s helping them sell product through social media.
Beyond this is the promised land of full integration where social media becomes a part of everyone’s job delivering greater efficiency, greater customer value, and building good culture. I’m not sure if there are too many examples of that yet.
Q: Which companies are close to getting there?
John Bell: A company in the middle of operationalizing is Ogilvy client IBM, which has a long history of applying social media internally – and is an Ogilvy client. Unilever and Proctor & Gamble really started with social media as an external marketing communications discipline.
Q: Is there a sense that a company will think, ‘We’d better open a Twitter account and Facebook page to build up people to like them and once they get negative feedback or aren’t seeing immediate business results, they’ll think it’s not worth it.
John Bell: A lot of brands reactively get involved in social media and then realise, “Now what?” Along the way to getting reactively involved, they probably haven’t built the best foundation or put thought into their conversation calendar and the online space they are going to engage with people in.
They probably haven’t thought too hard about roles and responsibilities in the organisation and goals for those people. They’ll wake up one morning after pulling the trigger on a Facebook program and blog program and say, “Is this all there is? Is this all I get?”
You would expect them to pull out, but hopefully in most cases, they then say there must be a better way.
We can’t leave social media. We all intuitively believe it has promise for our business – if nothing else a competitive colleague insists it’s the next big thing.
So brands try to find guidance from people who talk about social media as a business driven discipline as opposed to a fluffy “get in the conversation” type-way. Hopefully they find us. We’re trying to play that role for our clients because we understand social media has tremendous potential to drive sales and impact business. But only when you marry it with the best of marketing communications discipline do you get that.
People overestimate how social media has inverted the world. I think the impact is tremendous: it will transform us, make us better marketers, better product and service developers, but it hasn’t completely rewritten the old rules from marketing communications. They remain relevant today.
The obvious starting point is for brands to deliver some authentic value to their customers. We can’t just message people because we want them to understand something and then do it a dozen times to beat them over the head. We have to try and earn their attention and involvement by figuring out what they want from our brand.