62 Million Fans = 0 Sales

April 1, 2013
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No one studies the social space and what it means for radio more than Lori Lewis.  She is a student of the game, always working overtime to learn the in’s and out’s of what brands do socially – and how fans respond.  In today’s guest post, Lori outlines Coca-Cola’s recent revelations about the impact of social media and what they mean  for radio. – FJ

The social media and advertising worlds were agog recently as Eric Schmidt (no, not the exec from Google), Coke’s senior manager of marketing strategy and insights, told an Advertising Research Foundation crowd that online buzz has no apparent impact on short-term sales.

Think about that.  As a brand, Coke leads the universe in the number of Facebook fans – over 62 million strong.

Now we’re not talking about sharing, forwarding, retweets and other social media activities here – just Coke’s measures of buzz sentiment.  But this was a significant admission to the marketers in attendance, as well as those who are involved with brands from around the world, many of whom are already (once again) questioning the effectiveness of social media.

For radio specifically, I get pelted with questions such as, “How does social increase ratings?” and “How can we make money off Facebook?”

And while all of those questions are fair, they miss the point.

In response, Coke’s senior VP of integrated marketing communications and capabilities, Wendy Clark, spoke out in this debate that has obviously erupted in her own company. She noted in Journey, a Coca-Cola company website, that looking at social media in isolation is a mistake.

The value of marketing is in using the right combination of integrated tools:

“None of our plans are simply social, or TV, or mobile or experiential. On the contrary, it’s the combination of owned, earned, shared and paid media connections — with social playing a crucial role at the heart of our activations — that creates marketplace impact, consumer engagement, brand love and brand value.”

Fred and I have had some deep conversations about the impact of social media, especially as Twitter turned 7 years-old recently.  And in fact, that adolescent milestone says a great deal about how marketers and brand managers are still hacking their way through trial-and-error programs and campaigns.

Coke’s Clark reminds everyone (as well as those in her company, no doubt), “These are new skills and capabilities, and we don’t always get it right.  But we’re trying, we’re learning and we’re unquestionably committed to continuing the journey of executing wholly integrated campaigns, with social at the heart, to fuel better outcomes and impact for our company.”

When I work with brands – I often quote one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, which is “Begin with the end in mind.”  Every piece of social communication must bring value to the brand.  As Wendy Clark reminds us, “Social by itself is not a silver bullet, but social will make everything you do better.”

Rehashed toilet paper memes and cat videos may offer up lots of likes and shares, but the reality is that your brand derives no lasting value from such common tactics.

Every person who speaks for your brand socially must be required to connect with why fans like your station in the first place.  That’s the first step in eliminating these random acts of social we still see playing out – or even these premature notions that social is a time suck.

Social media is not a silver bullet – especially for short-term gain.  It is all about the lasting power and value of brands.

Work this space by serving the fans first and rethinking the approach of “what can social do for me right now?”  Social media is here to strengthen the long term health of the brand – but only when you begin with the end in mind.

Have a Coke and think about that.

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