As the world's leading consumer brand, Coca-Cola generates significant online interest (although perhaps not as much as technology brands like Google, Apple and Microsoft). Each day, the beverage behemoth records about 5,000 English mentions online.
How does the company manage its social media strategy then?
According to Natalie Johnson, Manager of Digital & Social Media at Coke, the company embraces 4Rs - Review, Respond, Record and Redirect.
Review is the process of listening, filtering and seiving of online data through various analytics tools and applications. Like any major company, Coke has a comprehensive strategy in web surveillance, trawling through digital platforms and networks for mentions of its name, and feedback from surfers.
The next area of Responding is equally important. As cited by Natalie, the “Moses method” (ie Ten Commandments approach) doesn’t work for social media. One needs to constantly create, cultivate and nurture opportunities for dialogue and conversation.
To do so skillfully, one needs to develop conversation starters. These are kind of like the opening lines which immediately stir interest.
For example, consider this:
- When you open a coke, 12,607 bubbles are born. Happy birthday bubbles!
- Coke 2-litres are on sale for the holidays at your local supermarket! (boring....)
Coke also looks at empowering its subject matter experts to respond. These are captured by the Coca-Cola Online Social Media Principles. They could speak about areas as diverse as ingredients, marketing, research, logistics or other aspects which catches the fancy of digital denizens.
Coke also has a comprehensive code of ethics and principles embodied by its Social media principles) as earlier cited. These include coverage of the company's online commitments, guidelines for online associates, as well as guidelines for online spokespersons. These are necessary due to the FTC's guidelines, which state that a company should not be unduly influencing bloggers without being transparent about its practices.
The next R of Record involves creating little video vignettes, photos, blogposts, and other tit-bits of social media content on Youtube and other channels. What this does is to rely on 'purposeful entertainment' that informs and enlightens (often with a dash of humour) without trying to be too commercial.
A whimsical example of this can be seen in the Youtube video below:
For the final R of Redirect, Coke embraces a comprehensive strategy in generating link-love, SEO mentions, Search Engine Marketing, and cross-pollenisation (which is the sharing of ideas and links in a reciprocal manner).
The company abides by four truths in this regard:
1) You don’t own your brands
2) Every day is an election day
3) Fish where the fish are
4) Success revolves around genuine, compelling content
As a testimony to their success, Natalie cited how Michael Jedrzejewski and Dusty Sorg created a Facebook fan page for Coke which has 5.4 million fans. They are not compensated for this exercise, although Coke does invite them for exclusive tours and events now and then.
In conclusion, traditional approaches to web marketing no longer work. Companies which embrace short-term thinking will only reap short-term results. What's important is for digital campaigns to revolve around securing sustainable relationships, leveraging existing audiences, and growing them for the future.
The ultimate endorsement is getting fans to generate content for one's brands. This should be done through positive influence. Most importantly, one should have fun!