How to Talk Social Media to Big Wigs

Social media managers often lament over having to discuss social media with high-level executives who just don’t get it — or think they do, since they have a Facebook profile.

Wes Crnkovich, cross media strategist at ad agency Plan B, said that brands need to give top executives a better understanding of today’s platforms, devices and services if they expect executive support. Crnkovich also spoke specifically about social media’s opportunities for food brands, which he defines as any company that sells food, from Kraft, to Chipotle.

How should brands “talk social media” with top execs?
The social media/digital managers at a brand need to approach the c-suite at their company with the tangible benefits of a robust social strategy. The benefits of social media can greatly outweigh any expense, and an illustration of the ROI speaks to the interest of c-level executives. Properly implemented social media can support and extend the reach of new product launches and awareness campaigns. It can also effectively shape the tone of the entire business, making it more relevant and ultimately boosting sales within certain targeted demographics.

Broad social media campaigns can even supplement or replace tasks such as customer inquiry management. Customers can be pushed to sites such as Twitter where company representatives can answer questions that reach a much broader audience than traditional one-on-one interactions. Company executives will respond positively to examples of using social media to improve the customer experience and potentially decrease staff levels.

How/why should brands keep open communication between digital teams and business teams?
Open communication ensures consistency of the brand messaging, a vital component to be sure the two sides are working as one and not confusing the consumer. For example, business teams that manage the brand’s PR and marketing efforts need to be in tune with the digital strategists as social media is an extended version of traditional PR and allows reputation management.

Social media is a critical piece of business improvement, and the information gleaned from social interaction can inform changes in multiple aspects of the business including R&D, manufacturing, marketing, and quality assurance. Without real communication and knowledge sharing between the digital teams and business units, then material change will not likely occur, and the business growth can stagnate.

Is social media right for every brand?
Yes! Social media is the right choice for every brand when it’s well implemented and managed. It needs to provide tangible benefits for consumers, with consistent monitoring and feedback performed by experienced social media strategists. Food products, specifically, by their nature are “social”, and lend themselves to real-world gatherings and enjoyment. Social media is a natural fit, as it exists in or to connect people and experiences. Conversations about food and even the brand’s own products are already occurring online through forums, blogs, and other content, so brands are remiss if they don’t actively join and shape the conversation.

How can food brands use social media appropriately and effectively to drive business?
The food brand needs to inject itself into conversations that aren’t simply about just the product. Compared to say a new tablet device that has dozens of functionalities and coexists with other applications and services, food items are much simpler. There are limits to how much of a food brand’s social conversations can focus on actual product attributes such as taste or consistency, or even “gluten free” or “high in protein.” Food brands need to find the right mix (perhaps 90/10) of content that fits within the interests of their target audience and is brand specific.

Before launching social media campaigns, the social media team needs to establish their products’ place in the marketplace and its goals. These goals can vary widely, as established brands might need to just drive sales, while smaller brands need to build a brand identity. Social media should only be used after a baseline is established for future evaluation. Appropriate usage of social media also means relevance and frequency. Proper social management is not a part-time gig that should be relegated to disinterested interns. Participation must be active and immediate for it to resonate with an audience that expects immediate gratification.

Can you give some examples of food brands doing it right?
Chobani Greek Yogurt is a good example of a brand that dives into the lifestyle conversations of its consumers instead of simply focusing on the health benefits of its products. By careful review of their target audience’s social habits, they are able to craft appealing content including snack ideas, tips on staying fit, and other similar content. Chobani was also ahead of the social media curve compared to many other food brands. They quickly embraced the female target audience on Pinterest and were early users of Instagram, establishing their credentials with savvy and sometimes jaded audiences. Chobani also used social connections to align themselves with non-competing brands that fit also presented content for their preferred audience. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is an iconic brand product that still uses social media to stay current. It complemented television advertising by utilizing consumer tweets about their product and transforming them into TV ads. This is a great example of a company that recognized the value of consumer-generated content, and was willing to spend capital to develop and broadcast television spots based on this content.