UK brands adapt on social media

30 May 2011

LONDON: Big brands including Nokia, O2 and Land Rover are taking an increasingly integrated approach to managing their social media activity in the UK.

Nokia's communications and PR departments initially took responsibility for this area, when marketers were still gaining an understanding of an untested medium.

"It was there to promote key messages, almost like press releases, so it was a very one-way message in a very corporate tone of voice," Ash Choudhury, Nokia's head, digital marketing, UK and Ireland, told Marketing Week.

While Nokia now employs a team solely for this field, alongside a community manager, a collective ethos defines the overall model.

"The opportunity to have feedback and comment and encourage people into conversation led to a realisation that the space is not owned by PR or marketing or customer relations - it is a combined effort," said Choudhury.

Internet dating platform Match has pursued a similar strategy, and Katie Sheppard, the company's head of marketing, suggested this holistic view was essential to successfully exploiting Web 2.0 properties.

"Brands won't make it work with a singular approach because it's one of the few routes to customers that touches almost every aspect of the business, including PR, customer service, online acquisition and brand," she said.

"For this reason our social media is supported by a core group from across the business to ensure full visibility across the organisation."

"Day-to-day it's run by PR and online and offline marketing, supported by specialist agencies."

Auto marque Land Rover equally believes joined-up thinking is vital as the number of tasks undertaken in the social sector grows, and is developing its current set-up, centred around the firm's PR and marketing units.

"The big problem you have … is that many areas of the business are talking in the social media space - so you have product, design, IT, HR - but there needs to be something that pulls it all together," said Mark Beamont, Land Rover's marketing communications manager.

"There is a move to bring together an editorial board so we have control over what is being put out there."

Mobile network O2 was an early adopter of numerous social media tools, from blogging to Facebook and Twitter, and is thus at a relatively advanced stage regarding refining structures and strategies.

"The last 12 months has been a continuation and acceleration of this investment," said Alex Pearmain, O2's head, social media.

"O2 has a dedicated social media team, but our focus is on true integration, and to have a truly cross-functional approach, involving all aspects of the business.

"One milestone has been the creation of a real-time response team within the social media team, to engage minute-by-minute with people."

For retailer Asda, expert professionals retain the primary role in implementing schemes on this evolving channel, although their efforts are then supplemented by input from elsewhere.

"We look at social media as a conversation with customers and therefore it needs editorial control to ensure you get the balance right," said Dominic Burch, head of corporate communications, Asda.

"We still feel the best people in the business to manage that are the communicators. We don't think of ourselves in PR as being a media relations function.

"That doesn't mean social media can't open up access points to lots of other parts of the business."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff