By adaptive - March 7th, 2012

[G]one are the days when social media sat at its own table. Companies have woken up to the fact that social needs to be part of the broader marketing and communications strategy. It’s time for...

Gone are the days when social media sat at its own table. Companies have woken up to the fact that social needs to be part of the broader marketing and communications strategy.

It’s time for social media to come in from the cold. No longer can it be considered as an optional extra for your campaign or left to operate as a law unto itself, with its own strategy and agenda. As many companies are discovering, integrate the social space into your overall marketing message from day one and you’ll achieve the kind of results that just aren’t possible if it’s kept as a separate entity.

[caption id="attachment_2090" align="alignleft" width="260" caption="Tim Jackson"]Tim Jackson[/caption]

One such company is Unum an insurance provider specialising in Income Protection and a corporation that found itself with a distinct awareness problem. “The vast majority of our business is B2B,” explains Tim Jackson, Unum’s Head of Marketing Strategy, “we provide the cover that companies buy for their employees.” Unum biggest challenge was that on those self-same employees largely had no idea what income protection was, and so were unlikely to demand its inclusion in their package. Traditionally, Unum would have turned to television advertising, but soon realised this would have little effect. “It’s impossible to tell an extensive story about a problem people have never really considered in a 30-second TV ad,” Jack admits. “Social gave us the solution; a place to spark debate and raise awareness.”

The result was an integrated campaign that combined both conventional and social marketing channels. “We started by using traditional PR to raise awareness that nine out of 10 employees have no back-up plan to support themselves if they lose their income due to illness or injury. The goal wasn’t to sell our product directly, but to alert consumers to the issue,” Jackson continued.

Supported by a small amount of print advertising, the company launched AskUnum a blog answering consumers’ questions and hosting videos from the company’s YouTube channel. Further PR was generated when Unum issued a challenge to lifestyle bloggers to try and live on state benefits. All the time, Unum was gradually building its presence on Twitter and Facebook, while also developing two Facebook apps. The Things I Like app creates a personalised music video, celebrating what’s important to its users, while Penny Jar gives a rough calculation of how long the user would be able to survive financially if they lost their income.

UNUM Penny Jar AppWith the debate underway, and the tools in place, the stage was set for television advertising to finally play its part. “TV gets you scale like nothing else,” says Jackson. “It doesn’t tell you the whole story, but it makes you take notice. The key, however, was that the call to action wasn’t to buy our product, or even talk to your boss about it, but to go online to find out more. The feedback loop was directed back to our Facebook page so we could really start telling the story.” The resulting spike saw Unum’s facebook following rise from 2,000 to 13,000 over a nine-month period.

Of course, Jackson is the first to admit that this is just the beginning of the story. Building up thousands of followers is pointless, unless you engage with them. “In early stages of a campaign, scale is important as you build your community. However, you have to ensure that you have the resource to keep that interaction going, rather than creating a black hole that your customer’s comments and questions simply disappear into.”

The tone of that engagement is also vital. While social media naturally requires a more conversational approach, get it wrong as you can soon alienate the community you’ve worked so hard to build. “A consistent and appropriate tone for the entire campaign was essential,” Jackson insists. “We knew that a presence on Facebook requires a lighter, even slightly humourous touch, but realised that the danger of trivialising a subject that is not trivial. We didn’t want to belittle the problem we were trying to address.” For Unum, the key to effective engagement was to respond quickly to conversation, using clear, positive language.

[caption id="attachment_2093" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dom Dwight"]Dom Dwight[/caption]

In fact, engage your community correctly and you could even discover unexpected marketing ideas along the way. After a disappointing TV campaign Yorkshire Tea found inspiration for a new direction in its Twitter community. The family-run business noticed an ongoing theme in the conversations between its followers – the difficulty of getting a good cup of tea while travelling, especially in America.

In response, Yorkshire Tea sent Little Urn, a converted ice-cream van to the States to provide ex-pats with a real brew. As Dom Dwight, Conversation Manager at Yorkshire Tea, explains Facebook was integral from the off: “Following a television advert introducing the campaign, we tracked Urn’s progress via a map on Facebook, announcing where he would next be visiting on Twitter. Our followers sent in requests for us to visit ex-pats who were living near our destinations and we tried to drop in on as many as possible.”

Yorkshire Tea Little UrnTwitter also provided new marketing opportunities. “Through Twitter we discovered that we had a fan in Dan Smith, the tattoo artist star of the LA Ink television show. We took him a cup of tea and made a short 90-second film about why tea is still important to him, which was then uploaded to our YouTube page.” Footage from the visits was also incorporated into TV adverts which pushed people back to track Urn’s progress on Facebook. In total, the campaign saw the company’s Facebook fanbase increase by 410% and, more importantly, contributed to a 21% sales increase, with an estimated 700,000 new homes stocking Yorkshire Tea since Urn set off on his American road trip.

To track return on investment, both companies employ benchmarks to judge the success of the social aspects of their campaigns, going beyond pure numbers to measure community engagement. “I have metrics in place to monitor the efficiency of every part of my campaigns, on and offline,” reveals Tim Jackson, “from the volume and quality of coverage to the volume of commentary. We constantly monitor the reach of the campaign, looking for what is generating interaction, benchmarking against our competitors.” Throughout the campaign Unum constant ask two key questions - are they getting conversation and are they getting shared?

Yorkshire Tea has also been monitoring how many times its brand crops up in online conversations. “By simply measuring the amount of mentions we get across Twitter, Facebook and other networks we know we’re getting ten times the amount of online chatter that we received this time last year. The full integration of social media hasn’t created the relationship with our customers. That was already there, but our social activity has allowed us to expand and accelerate it in surprising new ways.”

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