Six principles for social business (and three brands getting it right)

Low Lai Chow

Samsung Asia's regional Marketing Director for digital and social media, Damien Cummings, has a major task on his hands.

He related to the SES Conference in Singapore how the company is overhauling its marketing strategy and internal organization to embrace digital marketing and social media. From a company that, when Cummings joined it in August 2012, blocked internal Facebook usage, it now wants to spend 50% of its budget on digital media, with social media at the heart of its offer to customers.

As Samsung sets out to become a social business and make social media a core part of its operations, Cummings listed the six guidelines it will be implementing:

  1. Things go wrong when you're not prepared
    As the social web is unpredictable, it's best for brands to be prepared where they can. Cummings stated the importance of a social media policy, or social media guidelines for staff. For example, he is wary of how personal opinions expressed on social media can easily be perceived as representative of the company one works for: "It's not going to be as Damien Cummings the person, it's me as Damien Cummings, the spokesperson for Samsung… I'm not that important, but I make a pretty name for Samsung when I make a controversial comment."
  2. It all starts with listening
    Social listening allows for priceless consumer insights, and also allows quick action with customer service. Cummings singled out Starbucks as doing an admirable job of this with its MyStarbucks idea that invites customers to send their ideas for products (such as beverages), experiences (such as locations) and involvement (such as community causes).
  3. People want to connect with their friends and family, not brands
    Cummings cited findings from a March 2012 report by Planet Retail that refutes conventional thinking that people want to engage with brands: "People want to connect with their friends and family, not brands… Research tells us that 57% of customers do not want to engage with brands on social media. That means only 43% of people out there want a relationship with the brand. Typically a user who does connect with brands will only connect with six." It is time, then, for marketers to question whether their brand is important enough to make it to their consumer's top six list.
  4. When they do connect with brands, they are your advocates
    Brand advocates are people who "love your brands so much, they just want to… share the latest smart TV Samsung has, or talk for hours about the Chelsea jersey that we sponsored". Further findings from the same Planet Retail report confirmed their importance: 56% of customers are more likely to recommend the brand after becoming a fan, while 71% of shoppers rely on reviews from family and friends; 68% are more likely to buy a product or visit a website based on referral from a friend. "If you're going to have these brand advocates, don't treat them like everybody else, like everyone does right now. Treat them separately. Treat them like a CRM list. Segment them. Do cool things with them."
  5. Influencers are the most important part of social business
    And yet, not all influencers are equal. With influencers, Cummings felt that niche was the way to go, such as food bloggers and fashionistas. "If I put them in the top tier and get a Samsung camera in their hands, or Samsung smartphones, that is so much more powerful than talking to the tech reviewer who will review my product on his blog."
  6. Be authentic, honest and entertaining
    When a Samsung fan made a wall post on Samsung Canada's Facebook page, listing out all the Samsung products he owned, attaching a drawing of a cartoon dragon he did and asking for a free Galaxy S3 in return, Samsung Canada countered in a refreshingly authentic tone of voice. It replied with a picture of a kangaroo on a unicycle. Samsung Canada also went on to make sure the fan received – as a bonus – his very own Samsung Galaxy S3 with his drawing custom-printed on the back of the phone. The exchange went viral online and received attention from influential tech blogs such as Mashable. "This is what we hold up as best practice," said Cummings. "You could argue that's kind of a shameless grab for publicity. Well, of course it is. That's what it's all about. We are PR people… The important out-take of this: be authentic, have a human tone of voice, don't always redirect people over to the corporate blog or the corporate customer service page, be cool, take a chance, try something new." He acknowledged that such authentic responses are difficult to reproduce, but stressed the importance of training and staff empowerment.

Three brands doing it right