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5 Most Engaged Brands in Social Media

Friends of BRANDEMiX,

While typically BRANDEblog writes original content, I thought this was a great article about the 5 most engaged brands in Social Media. That and it’s Halloween and candy is calling.

Before you read further, see if you can guess the top 5 social brands. I was surprised by at least 1 who made the list.
————— Happy Reading ———————-

The Social Media for Business Leaders Series is supported by The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, an enterprise-grade application for marketers who manage multiple social channels. Learn more here.

Engaging in social media is about being extremely open, creative and flexible. To stay competitive online, brands need to be investing in social media as a way to extend themselves to their customers.

While advertising and cultivating an image are still important, it’s interaction that creates loyal customers. Using social media to show customers that your business is connected to what they say, think and feel about your products can amplify your brand’s message.

We’ve compiled a list of five big brands that are most engaged in social media, and that go to extensive lengths to connect with consumers. Add your own thoughts on which brands are ahead of the curve in the comments below.


1. Starbucks


 

Starbucks is on just about every corner in the real world, and that’s the same strategy the company has taken online as well. When it comes to a web presence, Starbucks has made its mark on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, mobile apps and with its own social network, My Starbucks Ideas. The company dominates the social media landscape, creating active and engaging profiles on a variety of platforms. And according to some reports, Starbucks is the most engaged brand using social media for a few years running.

Take a quick look at the coffee giant’s Twitter page, and you’ll see the company has just more than 1 million followers. The next thing you’ll notice is that there’s a lot of conversation going on. Starbucks is keeping busy responding to mentions, apologizing for bad experiences, and just carrying on some interesting conversations with its followers.

Meanwhile on Facebook, more than 15 million people “Like” the brand. And Starbucks is trying to make buying its product as integrated and seamless as possible. Take, for example, the Starbucks Card Facebook application it introduced this past April, which allows customers to manage their Starbucks Card accounts from within the social network. The company also recently announced that customers could now “Give a Gift” and credit their friends’ cards via Facebook, too.

That feature is an idea born out of their community site, My Starbucks Idea. The Seattle-based caffeine king wants to know what you want from Starbucks, and the company is listening. The site enables consumers to share their ideas and critique others’ ideas as well. Discussions are encouraged, and the community votes to see which ideas become reality. The “Give a Gift” idea was suggested back in 2008, and drew more than 42,000 votes. It may have taken some time for the idea to become a reality, but it shows that Starbucks is listening to its customers.


2. Coca-Cola


As one of the most universally recognized brands, it’s not surprising that Coca-Cola is the second most engaged brand according to Famecount. Just like Starbucks, Coke is active on Twitter, engaging in conversation with its 142,000 followers. Given that it has a worldwide following, it’s appropriate that many of the tweets are written in different languages. In addition to its overarching brand, each drink it produces also has its own Twitter page.

 

On Facebook, it’s somewhat astounding that 15 million people “Like” the soft drink empire, but the company has done a good job of keeping things interesting and interactive. The Page is a hub of all sorts of activity, including posting fan photos, videos and social good initiatives like Live Positively, where fans voted for America’s favorite park to receive a $100,000 grant.

On Coca-Cola’s YouTube channel, the soda company launched “Unlock The Secret,” a viral video campaign featuring Coke’s inventor, Doc Pemberton. By clicking on bottle links in the videos, viewers are taken to the @docpemberton Twitter page, Coke’s Ahh Giver app on Facebook (which allows users to send a message to a friend delivered in video format by the Coke polar bear), and Coke’s Smilezier, a novel feature that allows users to record their laughter and listen to other people’s as well.

All of these efforts tie together Coca-Cola’s brand of happiness, and it’s created an interesting and original experience while engaging with consumers online.


3. Oreo


 

Oreo is the third most engaged brand according to Famecount, and for a brand that’s been around since 1912, racking up 12 million “Likes” on Facebook is a great way to prove that good products have real staying power.

For Kraft, makers of the delicious black and white cookie, Facebook outreach has been the main strategy. While other brands are engaged across the board, Oreo hasn’t leveraged Twitter at all yet.

The Oreo Facebook Page is a place to find recipes, videos, photos of fans enjoying the cookie, and games like Twist To Win for a chance to meet the Double Stuf Racing League (Shaquille O’Neal, Apolo Ohno, Eli Manning and Venus Williams).

The DSRL’s videos are the main focus on Oreo’s YouTube channel, including interviews with the athletes, commercials, and behind-the-scenes footage.

Check out Kraft Foods’ digital and social marketing lead Beth Reilly speaking on “how Oreo learned to fish where the fish are” in the video below.


4. Skittles


Skittles has an amazing online presence, starting with its website — a vibrant landing page that invites you to “Experience The Rainbow” by interacting with various features throughout the on-site experience. Users have opportunities to vote and post photos and videos while interacting with content. Keeping with the community theme on another site, Share Skittles is the place where YouTube videos of fans eating Skittles are posted.

 

While Skittles hasn’t quite figured out how to leverage Twitter, logging little more than 6,000 followers and producing some really weird tweets, more than 12 million “Likes” show they managed to figured out how to make use of Facebook.

The “Mob The Rainbow” feature was an innovative effort that strove to bring fans together to create something big. The first mob was a massive outpouring of Valentine’s Day greetings to a person who doesn’t get much love: a parking enforcement officer. Fans were asked to either make a card on the site or get the address and send one on their own — 43,037 cards were sent. Since the launch of Mob The Rainbow last year, fans have completed three mobs, with plans for a fourth one to “crash” an 85-year-old grandmother’s birthday party. It’s a brilliant way to engage the company’s audience with social good and keep its quirky image alive.


5. Red Bull


Red Bull is a brand that is associated with procrastination and the need for energy — last-minute studying, late-night partying, early morning meetings or classes, and the ability to keep you awake at almost any hour of the day.

 

With social media, though, the Austrian company has something more to offer than salvation from long work days and early morning grumpiness. With more than 10 million “Likes” on Facebook, it offers a really cool and interactive Facebook Page that appeals to the brand’s core consumer.

The Procrastination Station, featured on its Games page, offers high quality, engaging and interactive options for procrastinators, including a soapbox car racing game, a rock, paper, scissors game, and “Drunkish Dials” recordings — recordings of Red Bull drinkers who called the company’s toll free number, leaving “drunkish” messages. Yep, that’s what happens if you leave them a ridiculous drunken message — they’ll put it online.

Plus, they’ve run creative contests like 2009’s Red Bull Stash, where the company hid Energy Shots all over the country and posted clues on its Facebook wall. It was the company’s way of thanking fans when it hit the 1 million fan mark. Currently, the company has teamed up with San Francisco Giants player Tim Lincecum to create an ongoing scavenger hunt for 11 autographed baseballs hidden on the streets of San Fran. A picture of each baseball has been uploaded at a specific location and the first fan to arrive and check in with Facebook Places and the password “San Francisco’s Got Wings” wins the coveted ball.

The company has also done an impressive job on the mobile front with the Red Bull X-Fighters app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, the Red Bull TV app, and the Red Bull BPM app that turns your iPhone into a complete DJ setup. All these apps are great extensions of the brand’s core product, and complementing the consumer’s lifestyle goes a long way.

A Lesson From The Gap: The Social Contract is a 2-way Street


Every company wants brand loyal customers, but this level of commitment requires the same degree of loyalty in return. Consumers value interactive experiences, one “Like” on a corporate Facebook Page can spread as virally among users as trending Twitter topics.

This was certainly the case when Gap recently unveiled its modern logo re-design. The sudden appearance of the new logo on the company’s website caused virtual uproar among graphic designers and Gap-loyal customers alike. Social media sites especially fueled the debate, giving outraged consumers a place to rant about the company’s unsophisticated, cheap new look. The innuendo of the former blue box, now a small gradient in the upper right-hand corner, arguably lacked the power, boldness, and tradition of Gap’s original look, and many felt the logo resembled the recently redesigned Price WaterHouse Coopers’ new look.

In fact, Gap got so much pressure from the community that they quickly reverted back to the old one with this notice on Facebook:

Gap: Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.” http://bit.ly/9xvtvJ
And more: “At Gap brand, our customers have always come first.”

The Gap presents a great case study of cultivating relationships through social media.

Companies who value their employees can learn a great lesson from this example. The social contract is a 2-way street, and companies who listen and act on customer or employee feedback across any channel will build a concrete brand and an unbreakable bond within their target communities.

Planning Your Talent Acquisition Strategy. Are Pigs the New Cats?

With a growing abundance of vendors and options to choose from, mapping an appropriate talent acquisition strategy can be tricky. But BRANDEblog readers are in luck.

Trendwatching.com was kind enough to provide some tips for trend-tracking this month and some of the tidbits have great applications for HR as well.
1. Don’t apply all trends to all people.
“One massive mistake both trend watchers and brands make all the time, is to assume or pretend that a certain consumer trend will affect or be embraced by all consumers. ” Replace the word “consumers” with “job seekers” and you’ll get the hidden message. Can we all stop tweeting yet?

2. Be (very) curious.
“while we’re all set in our own ways, and we have our strict beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, closely observing instead of judging the world around you is tantamount to success.” Launch research, do surveys, have focus groups. Knowledge is power and if you don’t believe in “post & pray” methodology, find out what’s working in your market, in your industry and around your world.

3. “Let others do some of the work for you in 2011”
YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE YOURSELF. .. let professionals do part of the work for you, even if it’s just to help you hit the ground running. We couldn’t agree more. As long as there exists great partners to help you plan strategies, facilitate research and implement campaigns, you should take advantage of their talents on your behalf.

So what about the pigs?
A last bit of advice- If you can’t tell difference between fads and trends, we know a purr-fect partner.

Your Content is Never as Interesting as What’s on the User’s Mind

Here’s a tip for all of you in the Employee Communications space. It’s from Ryan Travis, Senior Manager, web and digital communications at Walmart. In this great interview from The Council of Communication Management conference, he shares Walmart’s strategy for communicating with Associates across their exclusive internal social community myWalmart.com.

Walmart found out that the way they were communicating was not in line with the way associates process information. They found that associates think of themselves first, their peers second and the customer third. After that, they think of the store, the home office and then the company.

Now every conversation starts with the associate first and how everything affects the associate. Gone are the “Announcements” from senior executives. You know them… {company} is proud to announce… or {company} believes that…

Instead, Associates speak first about how issues affect them or the customers, and then Walmart inserts themselves into the conversation, adding how those same issues affect the store, the company and in many cases, the world.

It’s a great step in learning, and a good lesson for building a brand from the bottom up. Don’t talk about your brand and expect people to listen. Instead, create a dialogue with people who already share your same beliefs.

The Future of DIY Recruitment Advertising?

I admire the marketing savvy guys at Stevenson college for posting this DIY recruitment ad to You Tube. In less than 2 minutes, they were able to convey a bit of culture along with the candidate’s 5 must-have’s a experience-wise, and one value proposition- the opportunity to have a bit of fun on the job with seemingly nice folks.

Quite a nice departure from the typical 12+ bullets of boring requirements that appear in most job postings. Best of all, I found it as a mention in one of my LinkedIn groups, which means it’s enjoying some modest viral success.

Having spent the past few days putting together a national recruitment strategy for a large national client, the simplicity of this strategy cheered me up. The ever-growing list of media, technology and social recruitment marketing options has fragmented our audiences and diluted our messages.

In our efforts to promote dialogue and engagement, content has left the building.

When newspapers charged almost $1 per character of text, we chose our words carefully. Although Twitter has brought the same consciousness to the digital world, the number of tweets is still endless. The more we receive, the less special it feels.

That’s why, in building my branded media campaign, my goal is disruption. In the old days, it was the white space that stood out in a paper crowded with tiny text. Today, I’ll call it white noise- a simple signal across multiple frequencies – a return to basics that’s so true, it’s arresting.

Employee Retention in a Digital World

Employees join companies and leave managers. But how they leave is up to them. Conversations that were once shared with friends are now shared with friends, friends of friends and the world. And people, especially Gen Xers, discuss bad experiences almost 4x as much as good ones.

Here are 3 things you should be doing to make sure that your Employer Brand is thriving in a digital world:

EMPLOYER VALUE PROPOSITIONS: Is it time for employers to switch from demands to offerings?


According to today’s Wall Street Journal, some firms are still struggling to hire despite high unemployment. While many of these firms seek hourly employees, and compete against extended unemployment benefits, others are looking for needles in haystacks. The more skilled the applicant, the more the business has to offer to them.

Looking to save some money? This is where the employer value propositions come in handy. In order for your business to attract (and keep) the best potential employees, here are some free things to keep in mind as you seek to influence behavior:

1. Quality of Leadership: The better your leadership in operating your company, the more attractive your business becomes because it’s successful. The more attractive your business is, the higher number of applications you will receive. The higher the number of applicants, the greater a chance of finding the perfect person for your company. Strong leadership is not only extremely beneficial to your company’s success, but it is also a big deciding factor for your future employees.

2. Reputation: With a good reputation comes the willingness for employees to work more for less. People want stability within their jobs and if you and your company can ensure security for potential candidates, your inbox will be flooded with talented people who will be fighting to work for you.

3. J.O.B: Just Offer the Best; the workspace is very important to an employee. If your employees aren’t comfortable with their environment, they’re less eager to do their job with the same quality and effort as if they were somewhere more pleasant.

4. Benefits and Rewards: Here is where you have to think like the employee and ask what about this company makes this the job right for me?” Whether its in the job description, brochure, or in the interview itself, if these questions should be answered without them having to ask; promote yourself!

What most employers don’t realize is that a poorly promoted Employment Value Proposition (EVP) costs them a significant amount of money each year, either through overpaying employees, costs of recruiting or not filling open positions.

Let BRANDEMiX help put your EVP to work for you.

Complex Employer Branding of Large Organizations- The “Nobody Gets It” Syndrome


NOTE: This month’s focus is on
Branding Q and A. All Q’s welcome- Jody

QUESTION:

I’m trying to create an employment brand for a company that houses several well-branded independent brands. What are your thoughts on that? It seems unrealistic to maintain so many different brands in an employment space, however, we’ve been totally ineffective trying to collect the group under the segment name – nobody gets it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to attract and retain talent in a segment with so many personalities!

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, it’s a prevailing conundrum — one that we’ve heard before. People tell us that their organizations are too entrenched with big-named sub-brands to really benefit from one holistic branding effort. Of course, nothing is further from the truth.

The good news is that in reality, you can pick from 3 strategic approaches. Each with their own risks and rewards. To help guide you through the process, think about how the company operates from a Talent Management perspective. If there is trending evidence that rewards mobility throughout the brands, ie critical inter-brand experiences are required for progressively more senior opportunities, then option one is the best choice.

Option 1: Master Brand- unite all sub-brands (and all their employees) under one cohesive, motivating, strong brand.

This approach hinges upon finding the fundamental similarities, and success factors of employees (and the employee experience) across all sub-brands and creating a brand architecture that leverages them.

This isn’t about tangible similarities like “they all pay well,” but rather the cultural, psychological similarities that exist (if any).

For example, “all successful employees are out of the box thinkers and share a passion for pushing the creative envelope.” Conduct research to find the core insights on which you can build and operationalize an authentic and unifying brand (culture).

Note: It’s critical to do qualitative research, regardless of how well you know the organizations, because connecting all sub-brands will require very keen insights that will not yet be apparent to the naked eye, ie not functional similarities. Furthermore, involving executives and employees in your brand discovery process is actually a great way of generating buy-in at the onset. How can anyone not get it if they were a significant part of making it happen?

Option 2: Sub-brands
You may find that there are no cultural themes that extend throughout all the brands.

In that case you can identify and embrace the individual cultures of each of the sub-brands. Certainly this is the consumer’s view of the world — — so it makes some sense to build off the individual identity that each already has.

You would then go through the exercise of defining the employer brand for each property, and showing the stakeholders at each how to “use” and maintain the brand. Defining the brands isn’t the hard part, it’s finding the right people to make it work on the ground level for each brand, so it’s not up to you to do this for all of them. You’d need to identify the right stakeholder for each to take the brand and make it happen.

You might also find that there are key pillars of the brand architecture that are shared, and tie things together tangently. I suspect this will be the case.

Option 3: Change Management

Start from the beginning, whereby you identify the traits that you (and management) would like to extend across all brands, and start hiring according to the new brand ideals. Slowly over time your brand would grow stronger.

The important thing to remember is that whichever option you move forward with, the fundamental operational alignment to the brand will bring about the change you wish to see.

Are You Too Booked for a Social Life?

Based on the growing number of invitations I receive to veet-ups (webinars), meet-ups, workshops and conferences, I know that social media marketing has captured everyone’s attention in a big way. We have truly embraced the concept of creating dialogues with our fans, and relationship building with our key interest groups.

I say above that “we have embraced” but it really isn’t “us”, is it?

Have you “down-sourced” the project to the summer intern you hired? Have you “out-sourced” it to your agency partner?

Search a job aggregator and you will find a handful of Social Media Marketing Directors, Strategists and Managers but more frequently, interns.

It is not surprising that we are unwilling to commit dollars to the ownership of communications that we can’t measure the value of, but at the same time, the stewardship must be held by someone with vested interest in success of the program.

Your agency/PR partner can help you with the learning curve and messaging but actions need to happen within the company, not outside of it. The voice needs to be framed authenticity, and a person we can engage with. That person needs to be a permanent member of your team.

Your intern may be gone in September but your Digital Brand is forever.

Join the conversation and the Linked In group Your Digital Brand.

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Video Strategy. What’s Yours?

Last year, when I attended the Convergence Conference roundtable panel on “Video as a Catalyst for Conversation”, the moderator promised that “just like everyone now has a blog strategy, soon you’ll need a video strategy.” The audience shuddered, a clear sign that they had not yet adapted a blog strategy.

But the numbers do speak for themselves.

According to a recent comScore Video Metrix service, 178 million U.S. Internet users watched 30 billion online videos during the month of April — that’s 3 times the amount viewed in 2008.

But another statistic from Flowtown told me that 77% of small and medium sized businesses have not embraced video as a form of marketing.

Here’s why they should. The chart below, from the Wall Street Journal shows that after viewing a video ad on the Internet, 55% of 501 adults took action.

The hard part now is how to use this knowledge to your advantage. It’s a simple answer: call someone in to help. Aren’t you already doing too much at work. Who has time to think about your video strategy?

A media consultant (I know a great one) can help you

* Define your audience
* Plan your distribution using appropriate internal or external partners
* Add some control to the scary proposition of unleashing this on the world.

No one has all the answers, but emerging as an early embracer (it is too late for that) will help your brand for a very small investment of dollars.

And besides, doesn’t everyone want to be a SuperStar?