5 social media tips to borrow from Coke and Dell

Share your value. Tell stories. Remember the 99 percent rule. Ways to make the most of Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.

Gather round, children, for a tale of two tweets at Coca-Cola.

The first message noted that the darksome beverage was on sale at local grocers. The second stated, “When you open a Coke, 12,607 bubbles are born. Happy birthday, bubbles!”

Which was more successful? No, not the news of a discount. Until two years ago, birthday bubbles become “the most retweeted commercial tweet on the entire Twitter platform,” says Adam Brown, president of the marketing consultancy adMAGINATION.

There’s a moral to this story, Brown, who led social media at Coca-Cola and Dell, told an audience at Ragan’s 6th Annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at the Walt Disney World Resort. Tell a story—even if it’s just about the birth of a bubble.

In a talk titled “Finding the right balance of social media for your business,” Brown offered these tips.

Share your value to prove your value

In the past, the chief marketing and communications officers slunk into meetings with their fellow chief executives knowing that their departments were cost centers, not profit centers. Rarely did they have something else that other leaders wanted, Brown says.

Now, social media gives the communications and marketing folks something that every C-suite executive sees the benefit of: data.

Example? Dell established a social media listening center that tracked 27,000 conversations a day in nine languages. It sorted these conversations into 128 different channels.

Armed with that data, the chief marketing officer could go to the head of research and development and say, “Hey, I’ve got 5,000 conversations here about people talking about hinge designs on new laptops. I know you’re working on a new laptop. Would you like that data?” Absolutely.

Remember the 99 percent rule

Ninety-nine percent of the time when you’re posting, your audience isn’t planning to purchase your product at that moment. They buy a new computer (to use Dell as an example) every couple years. Don’t overburden them with promotional posts.

“You don’t want to tick them off,” Brown says. “You want it to be purposeful when they aren’t buying.”

Storytelling is a key way to keep them interested. The bubbles tweet was successful because Coke got a copywriter who was a storyteller to write it, Brown says.

Some people may object that a beverage bottler gets to talk about easy stuff: happiness and bubbles. But, he replies, almost every product can share stories.

Choose the same key performance indicators that your leaders use

Social media pros, Brown says, have sometimes been guilty of switching goals when discussing key performance indicators (KPI). They vow they will amass 10,000 followers on Facebook. When it appears they won’t even reach 5,000, they insist that what really matters is engagement.

“Pick one KPI and stick with it,” he says.

Because Coke is the top brand on Facebook and Twitter, it would have been easy to use indicators such as “likes.” But you need to find out what KPI your senior bigwigs use.

“The KPI that was important to the senior vice president of communications at Coke at the time was media impressions,” Brown says.

The bottler sent three young people around the world in 365 days to visit the 206 countries where Coke does business. This delivered 2 billion impressions out of a $1 million program. The bosses were impressed.

You may have to pony up

Changes in Facebook mean that companies will have to promote posts that once would have reached most of their followers, he says.

“You’re going to have to spend more money on Facebook to get the same level of people to see your posts,” Brown says.

For example, Coke used paid promotion on YouTube to boost its viral “Happiness Machine” video in the first 60 hours after it was posted.

Reconsider your mix of “paid, earned, owned and shared” media, Brown says. Find out what platforms your customers or stakeholders use, and establish your presence there (“Fish where the fish are”).

Channels are evolving. Companies are having more business-oriented conversations on Facebook, while more consumer-oriented conversations are happening on LinkedIn.

Think of Facebook as a search engine

Facebook is changing, and some fans may be less eager to endorse brands as their “likes” turn up in search results.

“If you get somebody to like your brand, that means as people and their followers begin to search for the same topics,” Brown says, “they’re going to see that you’re a subject matter expert or an endorser of that product.”

Further changes will target people with ads not because of their demographics, but because of the sites they visit from Facebook, things they “like,” and even the sites they visit between while not signed onto the social platform.

Says Brown, “It really tees up an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves.”


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