The most recent Advertising Week focused relentlessly on social media. I saw this firsthand as co-emcee of OMMA Global. I also saw it as an attendee of several other events. But for all the excitement and expert pontification, most people are getting it wrong.
The fundamental problems and opportunities of social media don’t lie in creating Twitter profiles or Facebook pages. Not through Facebook apps, and not mobile social networks. They don’t lie in viral videos, or co-opted conversation through bloggers and payola. These can all be important venues, tactics or risks, yet they’re superficial. Most of all, advertising has little relevance at this point.
When it comes to social media, the fundamental problems and opportunities for marketers lie in culture and scale. Following are two great examples that explain why — pulled right from Advertising Week.
Frances Allen, Brand Marketing Officer, Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. delivered a wonderful presentation at OMMA on “How Dunkin’ Does Social.” She took us through a savvy Facebook social media campaign, success outcomes, and lessons learned. I especially liked her opening emphasis on living out values. Yet after searching “Dunkin Donuts” on Google during her talk, I became less interested in the Facebook campaign and very interested in the third search result: Dunkindonutstalk.com. This fan blog “about the chain’s donuts and coffee, including news and reader comments” assumes a dominant position for Dunkin Donuts’ most valuable brand search term.
According to Dunkindonutstalk.com‘s About page, it was created not by the brand, but on a whim by Scott Lewis,Â “a husband, father, and consultant – who loves Dunkin’ Donuts original blend coffee.” He has no affiliation with Dunkin’ Donuts other than his regular purchase of two chocolate frosted donuts and a large coffee with extra cream and extra sugar. While the site has become stale in recent months, one important fact remains: a single, passionate customer left a prominent social-media footprint on the Dunkin Donuts brand. And it’s assumed a long shelf life.
Dunkindonutstalk was not the result of a calculated social media strategy by the company or its marketing agencies. It was the digital residue of a fan’s liking of brand, product and experience. Importantly, these elements are most influenced by a company’s culture and leadership, not a Facebook page. With thousands of employees, franchises, suppliers and other partners that create (or destroy) the product and experience, for a large company cultural alignment means everything. As this example underscores, a company’s cultural alignment drives its marketing and social media halo in powerful, credible and often unintended ways. In this case, it was a customer compelled to share his passion. But it can just as easily be an employee or partner — happy or disgruntled. That’s why companies typically need less social media strategy and more purpose and cultural alignment. Again, that’s why I admired Allen’s emphasis on living out cultural values.
Also during OMMA, Ford Motor Company’s Scott Monty presented his work as the company’s lead social media ambassador. With institutional trust eroding, Monty’s social media mission is to “humanize the company by connecting consumers with Ford employees and with each other when possible, providing value in the process.” He’s making headway, as evidenced by growing companywide support, including from the CEO, frontline engineers, designers and customers among others.
Monty underscored that half of social media is simply showing up; it’s the other half that’s hard. When I asked what is the greatest friction to carrying out his mission, his answer was simple: scale. If he could get only one percent of his colleagues to become active social media participants, he’d instantly gain an army of 2,000 online employee ambassadors. This platform would be bigger, more effective and more sustainable than any single social media campaign that could possibly surface from a single department or agency.
Think about that: just one percent. How can a global company of 200,000 employees achieve that? Presuming strong leadership and culture, a company can reach that sort of social media scale only through thoughtful integration across divisional silos, grassroots education, training and incentives. Scale is a massive hurdle, but it’s a huge opportunity.
It’s Not About Advertising
While Advertising Week was a celebration of advertising, the greatest problems and opportunities around social media really have little to do with advertising, and a lot to do with culture and scale. Advertising agencies and advertising people need to start figuring out where they fit in that mix. The hard truth is that media and advertising is not the answer.
(The above also was a recent column in MediaPost. Photo credit: Signgenerator.org)