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Social Media…Goes Better with Coke

Ineke Caycedo
VP, Brand Development

If you’re a marketer in today’s world, you can’t get away from the words “social media.”  They’re everywhere, even if, as marketers, we don’t quite understand how to leverage the medium or measure its success in the way we’re used to. The honest truth is, you can’t measure social media ROI in the way you measure advertising ROI, let’s say. But make no mistake, social media is a powerful marketing asset.

We’ve blogged on this topic before. Nevertheless, I thought a recent article in USA Today about Coca Cola’s success on Facebook and Twitter  by Jefferson Graham in his Talking Tech column, was worth bringing to your attention as food for thought on your own social marketing efforts.

Coke’s commitment to social media has led it to become one of the most popular brands on Facebook, right up there with Lady Gaga. In fact, at the time of the USA Today article, it was the 16th most popular Facebook page with 35 million fans. And Advertising Age named Coke it’s Marketer of the Year for 2011, citing the company’s innovation as a key reason for the honor.

It’s not just accolades that Coke’s walking away with. Its volume of beverage sales is up 6% this year, 3% for Coke alone. Those are no small numbers on the bottom line.

What’s the take away from Coke’s efforts for marketers?

  • Embrace your fans. Give them what they want, not what you think they want. And don’t be afraid to ask them. People are savvy enough to know when information feels forced or contrived. Turning your page into an official mouthpiece for your brand is the quickest way to put people off. Coke’s Facebook page was actually started by two guys who loved the brand (we all wish for those) and was eventually taken over by Coke when Facebook informed Coke that after surpassing 1 million fans, it violated Facebook’s policy on letting fans run a company page. Here’s the thing, the original founders of the page are still page owners along with other Coke staff. In fact, they work for Coke on a freelance basis.
  • Let your fans be who they are and take the naughty with the nice, within reason. According to company Senior VP for integrated marketing Wendy Clark (as quoted by USA Today) “You can’t curate that conversation. The community will curate it.” (Porn and pitches for “free iPads” and the like do come down.)
  • Facebook and Twitter are not the same don’t treat them as such. More and more, the immediacy of Twitter makes it a great place to distribute news, especially breaking news, and to build a reputation for top-notch customer service. Coke, like Best Buy and a number of other companies, has put more customer service resources on Twitter so that it can quickly respond to questions and concerns posted on the medium. Facebook, on the other hand is a place for relationship building.
  • Social media shouldn’t be your only marketing investment. Putting an emphasis on social media is important. But the medium is not an awareness builder. Advertising is still the single best way to build awareness of your brand. However, when it comes to engaging your audiences and letting them get to know you better, in other words building brand loyalty/equity, social media is a great marketing asset.
  • Be innovative in the way you engage your fans. Posts and pictures alone aren’t good enough. Get theminvolved in something your institution and your audience canboth care about. Keep your Facebook page content fresh. I’m not talking about just your posts. But those additional tabs you have available. Those should change with some frequency as well so that they reflect new content, new campaigns or events in which you can immerse audiences. Coke is a master at this. In 2010, they sent a group of fans around the world to meet new people, experience new cultures, to talk about Coke, and to record their experiences and talk with fans via social media. The possibilities in higher ed are obvious, given that most Universities have travel abroad programsthat are rich opportunities to be creative. This year, Coke has launched a campaign to protect Arctic habitats and have introduced a white Coke can with images of Polar Bears. You can buy the cans at the store, but you can learn more about the project on Facebook – not to mention discuss and share your own thoughts and opinions about the subject. With all the service projects that go on at College campuses, the possibilities here are innumerable.

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