2010 was the year when being active in social spaces moved from being an option for a brand, to becoming a necessity.
These brands–whether they be FMCGs, retailers, or financial services–are evolving their communication strategies so they can engage and add value in a challenging medium. It is imperative to monitor and engage in environments where messages can be undermined and subverted, to stop them spinning out of control. A good case in point is Nestlé: earlier this year Greenpeace’s campaign against Nestlé’s role in damaging Orang-utan habitats caused damage to brand perceptions; however, it also showed that transformation is possible through proactive engagement with communities of interest. After being attacked by Greenpeace, Nestlé turned things around by changing its palm oil sourcing policy via a partnership with The Forest Trust. In so doing they turned a brand threat into a corporate social opportunity.
Smart brands demand real-time data, engagement platforms and workflow tools to manage their social presence.
Early warning systems enable brands to spot potential problems and respond with appropriate communications, products or policy changes before situations escalate and tarnish their halos. This places a premium on instantaneous access to consumer generated content. Buzz monitoring providers now need to improve real-time data and engagement platforms, and those that do will flourish in 2011. Access to Twitter’s ‘fire hose’ will become a critical success factor for these providers as the premier micro-blogging service is now the top source of buzz for most brands.
Service brands need to focus on customer service first before progressing to greater innovation.
Brands such as BT, Vodafone, Specsavers and LBG understand that by providing effective customer services online (leveraging the power of social media), detractors can be turned into visible and influential advocates paving the way for more innovative forms of engagement. Given the negativity that surrounds financial services due to the state of the economy, Lloyds Banking Group in the UK deserves recognition as the first UK high street bank to provide customer service via Twitter in spite of security and other difficulties. As they now build out to branded YouTube channels and the Local Hero initiative on Facebook and other social platforms, they show how savvy brands can tackle the challenges of social brand engagement as a market opportunity.