I had a chance to sit down with Ashley Brown, Group Director, Digital Communications and Social Media at The Coca-Cola Company to discuss some of the topics that you will see at the Social Shake-Up Conference (where Ashley's colleague, Neil Bedwell, will be speaking). The following is a transcript of our conversation.
SMT: How does a company like Coke corral all its social efforts? And what do you do to enable people within the organization to be social?
A: We do have comprehensive training that's available to all associates. There are actually two separate classes. There's one that's called Being Social, and if you're on social media, this is what you should and shouldn't do. We have another training class, a 201, called Social Media in Action. This call covers if you want to be an advocate for the company, here's how you go about doing that.
We haven't put a lot of rules around it. People tend to want to protect the company naturally. So we don't want to put out too much prescriptive guidance. We've made our social media principles public. They're available on the Coca-Cola Journey webpage. If you search for social media principles, you'll find them.
That's your run-of-the-mill resources for all associates. For those of us who actually touch social as part of our job, obviously, there's a bit more organization behind it. We have a social business council that meets once a month. And we're a large, global company, so we have virtual communities. For us on the Public Affairs and Communications side and the content creators and the people behind the Journey site, we have editorial meetings that we regularly do with the field. And we do pretty intensive training for people who sign up to help us do things like geo-target Facebook status updates, or tweets, or LinkedIn posts. Then there's a real high-touch training that goes along with that to make sure that we don't have snafus that embarrass us.
Then we have common editorial calendars that get cascaded down to the field and virtual communities that work together. I don't think we have it completely figured out. It still can be quite cumbersome. We're constantly trying to find ways to make it easier, faster, and cheaper. I suspect that's a struggle that every multinational, large company faces. When our corporate structures were designed, they weren't designed to be newsrooms, and that's a transformation we're all having to live through.
SMT: Talk to us about how social tools are breaking down barriers within Coke. Are people sharing data and efforts?
A: We have a five-generation workforce at Coke. It's been really interesting to see. And we have people who don't sit behind desks all day. We have people who work in plants, drive trucks, and put Coke on the shelf in your local grocery store. So it's been really interesting to see how social tools are enabling us to knit our workforce closer together. We rolled out Chatter internally (part of Salesforce.com). It's almost a Facebook-like interface, but it's behind the firewall. When I need information or who do I call to cancel a plane reservation, it's so much faster to just ask the global community on Chatter than it is to try to call a helpdesk. Chatter has really broken down the geographic and spatial boundaries that divided us. So that's been fascinating to watch from an internal productivity perspective.
SMT: If you've got Chatter, do you have some sort of external listening engine and if so which one?
A: As you can imagine, we're very interested in what social listening can do for us. First and foremost, we want to protect the brand. We use a variety of tools, but the two primary ones are Netbase and Sysomos. They're plugged into a central command and control framework to help us aggregate and make sure that as we track all of our top brands in the conversations so we're not missing anything that's potentially damaging. That's sort of like the table stakes of social listening.
But we're much more interested in and building a framework now that enables us to take a look at what is proactively going on out there. What are the proactive, great, fan-based conversations that are taking place about Coke, and how do we become a part of this conversation? If social listening 1.0 is protect the company, social listening 2.0 is how do we now move to the next level, find super fans, and join those conversations in some way to make them even bigger.
SMT: I'm hearing a lot about the Coca-Cola Journey. It looks like you made a major big bet in content and developing real share-worthy kind of stories. Can you give us an update on how this campaign is going?
A: Yeah it's going great. We've now launched localized versions in Germany in German, obviously, Japan. We launched Arabic and French versions for right now only in Morocco, but great plans for expansion there. We are about to launch Australia and New Zealand. So part of my team is very closely focused on driving international expansion as fast as possible. We have so much great content around the world. We're in a real race against time to figure out how we can make sure that we're leveraging that to the best of its ability and potential.
There are obvious trends on the horizon that we're paying attention to, video and audio, of course, being number one, two, three, and four. Great imagery. The iPhone and any one of your Android phones can turn everyone into a great photographer, and how do we leverage the power of that? I can't talk specifics, but I can promise you there's lots of innovation going on on-top of the platform right now.
From a metrics perspective, we're tracking ahead of expectations, which is great. We're six months in, and we're ahead of where we thought we would be. In certain places, things like social reads, Journey content that's being syndicated by folks across social media, referral traffic, Journey stories that are being picked up by other media outlets, all of that's blowing the doors off our expectations. Seven thousand people have left us comments on Journey stories. That blows me away. When we first designed and rolled out the platform, we said we'd be happy if we get a few comments. We've gotten 7,000.
And there's a whole business transformation on our side, too. Journey and what content performs and what content doesn't perform gives us really great insight into what our consumers want to hear from Coke about. We're at the six-month mark, figuring out how do we take some of the insights that we're gaining from high-performing, low-performing, and even average-performing content and feed that back into the business and into our communications teams. Maybe we should put out some more content on cooking with Coca-Cola? Recipes that contain Coke as an ingredient have turned out to be some of the best-performing content on the site. Maybe we should do something around recipes with Coca-Cola as part of the communications campaign? We're starting to take insights like that and try to feed them back into the business to make ourselves smarter. Things like the single-most read piece of content we have ever published is the recipe for Coca-Cola Cake!
SMT: Well that's great Ashley - thanks so much for your time today - its these kinds of stories we are looking to explore in September at the Social Shake-Up Conference - so we hope to see you there too!
The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.