7 Insights from my recent Social & Search panel

A few weeks ago I sat on the social & search panel for a digital day that Universal McCann & Reprise were running for Brown-Forman. On the panel alongside me was, Joe Cincotta from Pixolut, Jeremy Crooks from Google and Liam Walsh from Facebook, with the lovely Maura Tuohy from Reprise facilitating. I thought I’d share some of the insights here.

Now if you’re wondering why I was on the search & social panel in the first place (I am a WoM girl after-all) – here’s my interpretation of the relevance of WoM. If you think about it, ultimately, the end result of social media is word of mouth. Whether you’re ‘liking’ a branded page, blogging about your love of Jack Daniels, tweeting a link to a southern comfort event – these are all forms of advocacy & positive WoM. In my opinion Social Media is really just a channel to ignite WoM. Here’s what was discussed on the panel:

1. Measuring Social activity:

The hot topic of social ROI was key. Joe from Pixolut shared a great case study where Pringles increased their Facebook fan-base by 260,000 fans in a 6 week period and even more impressively saw a $200,000 uplift in sales. There was NO OTHER MEDIA in market during the campaign so this was a true result based purely on social activity. I can’t wait to see more brands measuring the direct results of social.

2. The true value of a Facebook fan:

How many brands know if their fans are actually within their target market and how much wastage is occurring? (while Facebook provides demographic data – it doesn’t let you access this when creating posts). We questioned the value of fans driven through competitions and promotions over genuine advocates. If your fan-base is genuine you’ll see engagement – your genuine advocates ‘want’ to support your brand and engage with it, from UGC through to consumer recommendations. The question is what’s more important – quality or quantity? I question the value achieved for brands that focus purely on acquiring ‘numbers’ on Facebook. This also impacts all social campaigns that target your FB fans – if you’re investing in a social media campaign but it is only engaging your ‘true fans’ then you’ll experience a lot of wastage. The smart brands are onto this – global giant, Unilever have made a public announcement that they are ‘shifting their focus from social media to word of mouth’.  Debbie Weinstein, senior Director, Social Media Innovation, at Unilever, recently revealed: “We are now looking to develop broader social CRM programmes and trigger advocacy through word of mouth”. It’s only a matter of time before brands cotton on to this.

3. How will brands mature their social media communities:

In my opinion advocacy is the natural progression. Once you have built a community of genuine fans it’s time to start 1) identifying who your key advocates are 2) engaging them in the fabric of your brand and of course 3) harnessing them (as-well as your entire community) to stimulate positive WoM for you. My prediction is that this will start to become the focus as Facebook communities mature.

4. What type of content do consumers have a preference to consume?

We discussed how this is really channel dependent – some platforms obviously require brevity (Facebook, Twitter) while others require more depth (blogs). Humour was discussed as key and the topic of UGC popped up a few times. UM played this video:

A GREAT example of genuine consumer advocacy and the amount of awareness & engagement this can achieve. In this instance it was at no cost to the brand! How can you argue with that? I find it so interesting that the diffusion of technology has resulted in consumers getting really creative and that the knock on effect for brands is essentially ‘free advertising’. If only brands took the time to engage their key advocates more.

5. e-value codes

Joe talked a lot about the power of e-value codes from a measurement perspective. If codes are featured within social media campaigns then it will be possible to directly measure the impact of sales. I guess this will depend on how receptive consumers are to using these codes as opposed to ‘searching’ for a product and also how ‘easy’ brands make it to enter the codes.

6. How can brands work with bloggers?

I raised a few points here: by identifying the correct blogger genre for their vertical but also getting bloggers excited by involving them exclusively. Whether that be trialling & reviewing a brand before it hits the shelves or developing a creative way of engaging them – the fact is bloggers are powerful when it comes to creating credible ‘consumer recommendations’ at a grassroots level. We know that 90% of blog readers pass on information garnered from blogs to friends & family plus we know that consumers are ‘looking’ for blog reviews before purchasing (87% of consumers purchase products based purely on consumer reviews).

7. What is the future of social?

Joe had an interesting take on this and I chased him up so I could accurately quote him for this post – “Social is ‘just’ digital. The more important part of this is that once you get past the digital part of social you see it’s not about API or apps or any of that – it’s about a new kind of engagement with consumers – truly the next dimension in building powerful relationships. This is all about psychology – not technology – and with this you can see social turns advertising as a whole on its head – it’s always on. It’s not about the big campaign, but about an ongoing relationship. This does not preclude great campaigns, but it also creates a need for depth and substance to make it a real relationship. The little things count – sometimes more than the big things”.

I agree with Joe’s points here – social has completely changed the relationship between the brand and the consumer.  In addition to this, for me, the future of social has to be all about ‘sharing‘. I think we’ll see more and more interesting ways for consumers to share online – and this is where the opportunity for word of mouth lies. If you think about it even the word ‘social’ implies ‘sharing’ and I can only see consumers becoming more and more connected and brands becoming more and more intertwined into the fabric of consumer-to-consumer relationships.


Zoe Boalch

About Zoe Boalch

Zoë Boalch is co-founder of Contagious Agency. Zoë likes: hot chili, yoga, learning new stuff, positive people, taking risks Zoë dislikes: naysayers, grumpy people, rather large egos
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