NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is seeking to build love rather than "likes" on social media – a strategy it is pursuing by enhancing its listening, knowledge-sharing, analytics and measurement capabilities.

While the firm's flagship cola brand generated 17.5m mentions and 46bn impressions during the last year, it is now attempting to forge deeper bonds with the digital audience.

Douglas Busk, director of connections innovation at The Coca-Cola Company, told delegates at the ANA Real-Time Marketing Conference that these figures alone were not sufficient for the organisation's needs.

"I'm not saying we haven't done tremendous work over the last five years in building the following we have on Facebook, but saying you 'like' Coca-Cola is like saying you 'like' truth, justice and the American way," he said. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Why Coca-Cola prefers love to "likes" in social media.)

"Branded conversation will get you the like, but it won't get you the love. And it certainly doesn't get you respect in many instances … What we want to do with our engagement is move beyond a simple branded conversation into those conversations that truly matter for our consumers."

To augment its understanding of internet users, and deliver content of value to them, Coca-Cola formed The Hub Network, a "nervous system" linking over 300 people who run its social media output worldwide.

One of the main tasks of this division was described by Busk as "global awareness" – that is, tracking web-based conversations in different nations, and empowering marketers in these countries to respond in real time.

A related role for The Hub Network rests in leveraging the firm's "global strength" by constructing a knowledge base of information covering everything from scientific findings to regulatory issues, and which is accessible at any time, around the world.

The third priority involves analysing the tone and growth of conversations on social media, alongside the geographies they spread to and the leading influencers in a debate, to help determine how and when to reply.

Having established when to get involved, the next step is to guarantee the "global consistency" of its communications, not so everyone utilises the same language in each market, but to ensure that the message is framed correctly.

"This is about empowering her with the vetted language so that she can then put into the context of the conversation itself," said Busk.

A final mission for The Hub Network is to find a set of "global standards". This common set of metrics will go beyond "likes" and impressions, and be applicable across brands and markets. This is a critical goal for Coca-Cola and, indeed, every other major brand owner.

Data sourced from Warc