Social strategies evolve

09 December 2010

NEW YORK: General Mills, Samsung and Intel are among the organisations enhancing their social media strategies to deliver authentic conversations with consumers.

General Mills, which makes products like Cheerios and Häagen-Dazs, combines a degree of flexibility with company-wide schemes covering education and best practice to achieve consistency regarding quality.

"It can be challenging to develop meaningful social capabilities for each [brand], while also providing synergistic platforms for the whole," David Witt, General Mills' senior manager, social engagement, told Mashable.

"With our brands managing their own presence online, that helps keep the personal touch."

Consumer electronics giant Samsung has adopted a more unified approach, deliberately branding its numerous Twitter feeds.

"Our social media team is setting the example by including 'Samsung' on their Twitter handles," said Esteban Contreras, social media manager, Samsung USA.

"Everyone that has the 'Samsung' name is passionate about Samsung and is committed to add value."

In proving this to customers, the firm is highly proactive when interacting with netizens via Twitter.

"We read every single tweet directed at our accounts and try to respond to as many people as possible," said Contreras.

"We sometimes reach out to people who may have questions, even if they didn't directly reach out to us. We also try to surprise people by responding at times they might not expect."

Microchip pioneer Intel operates a Social Media Center of Excellence that takes overall control for such efforts while seeking to equip all interested staff with the necessary tools to participate.

"We have a hub and spoke model," Ekaterina Walter, a social media strategist at Intel, said. "Our goal is to empower any employee who would like to engage in conversation with customers on Intel's behalf.

"There are hundreds of thousands of conversations happening online about Intel, so it would be impossible to reply to them all."

Intel's training incorporates a 30-minute seminar discussing the main points from its official guidelines, alongside potential legal issues, and how to ensure communications are personalised.

Electronics retailer Best Buy now runs the "Twelpforce" on Twitter, but initially thought carefully before formally using social media.

"Our 'Blue Shirts' and agents were already doing it," Kelly Groehler, Best Buy's senior manager, corporate PR, said. "Are we worried about this? Do we endorse it and encourage it? We chose the latter because it's very true to our culture.

"There's no better demonstration of having expertise in technology than by being able to show a customer how you actually use it yourself."

Best Buy has also sought to promote its social media guidelines both internally and externally,

"Making the policy public … increases the chances that we're going to reach more of our employees and that they understand what that policy is," said Groehler.

Monitoring is another key area, and networking company Cisco has partnered with analytics specialists like Radian6, Cymfony and Sprinklr to assess relevant discussions and assist in determining which unit should reply.

"These tools help us organise and prioritise the conversations that are happening, as it is impossible and unscalable to participate in all of them," said Petra Neiger, a social media manager at Cisco.

"This model makes it so we are not trying to funnel every conversation to one person or team … It also makes it so that each group, or account has its own style and personal voice based on its contributors."

Data sourced from Mashable; additional content by Warc staff