Coca-Cola builds new social media model

01 June 2010

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is building its social media strategy on four key pillars which can inform the creation of truly "compelling" content.

The company estimates there are 5,000 “mentions” of its flagship product on English-language websites every day, a total that could be three times higher worldwide.

"When you think about what your homepage is ... it's not necessarily just your brand page. It's It's Digg. It's Twitter. It's YouTube. It's Facebook," said Natalie Johnson, its digital communications manager.

"It's all of these other sites, because that's where people are going to obtain their information."

In seeking to react to this trend, the beverage maker has built a model based on the "4Rs" - reviewing, responding, recording and redirecting.

Firstly, services offered by firms like Radian6, Sysomos and Scout Labs allow Coca-Cola to track the online "buzz" surrounding its brands.

This provides an insight into popular sentiment and helps generate ideas that can genuinely connect with this vital demographic.

"We're trying to make sure ... as we listen to the conversations that are discussed online, as we review them and we start to engage, that we're creating compelling information," said Johnson.

Coke has also tasked "subject matter experts", extending beyond its marketing and PR departments to encompass technical and nutritional experts, to respond to the queries of netizens.

It also has a "blog squad" of social media "power users" tasked with dealing with the questions of individual authors on the internet.

Two people are currently responsible for this activity in North America, and Coke plans to appoint at least one member of staff with the same remit in Asia in the next year.

"It's hard to get headcount and, basically, to add more resources as they need to be added in large companies, but there is a vision out there to make sure that we are engaging with the audiences online," said Johnson.

"Recording" requires producing material, from blog posts to short viral videos, which entertain and inspire, Johnson continued.

"People don't want to hear sales talk ... they want information that is relevant to their daily life," she said.

The redirecting stage enables people to find this content via interconnected routes from Google and Facebook to MyCokeRewards, building what is known as "link love."

"The more ‘link love' or ‘link juice' that we have out there the better our Google scores are," said Johnson.

"By doing this, by working with search engine marketing teams and doing natural search we have the ability to share information with various different audiences quickly."

More broadly, Johnson said Coca-Cola's approach was inspired by "four truths" that have been key in leveraging these emerging channels.

"We believe that we don't own our brands," she added, citing its partnership with two consumers who originally created its Facebook profile as one demonstration of this strategy.

This also showed that Coke is "fishing where the fish are" by participating in areas already populated by its customers, rather than merely looking to establish its own rival properties.

Elsewhere, Expedition 206, an on-going initiative where three bloggers travel to every country where Coke is sold, is an example of the brand's belief that success revolves around creating "compelling content".

Finally, marketers must realise "every day is an election day" and remain consistently involved in the social media world.

"That gets back to the importance of listening to what's being discussed online, and it also gets to the importance of knowing what your audience wants," said Johnson.

Data sourced from PSFK/YouTube; additional content by Warc staff