Social media's risks for big brands


Nick Johnson is the founder of Useful Social Media, which runs social media conferences in the US and Europe. His next event, the Corporate Social Media Summit is on Wednesday 17th to Thursday 18th November in London.

According to a recent survey from eConsultancy, no less than 83% of in-house marketers said they expected their social media spending to increase over the next year.

And yet at the same time, only 41% of inhouse marketers said they have a strategic plan in place according to this report from Digital Brand Expressions.

It’s a worrying statistic, and it lays bare the struggle that big companies face when it comes to incorporating social media into their marketing and communications strategy. Companies understandably want to get involved in this burgeoning space, and reap the benefits of engaging with current, and potential, consumers through social media.

And yet a badly thought out (or non-existent) strategy can do far more harm than big brands realise.

Look at Habitat, who decided they wanted to use social media, but didn’t want to spend much money on it. They tasked an intern with looking after the company’s social media presence. The intern promptly created rather a PR disaster by ‘hashtagging’ a post about Habitat’s current sale with #iranelection. A popular hashtag at the time, but not particularly relevant. The company looked opportunistic and foolish.

However, far more often a company starts out using social media – setting up Twitter accounts, creating Facebook pages, writing company blogs – and then either forget about it or don’t really know what do from there. Apparently, only 25% of corporate twitter accounts actually respond to other peoples’ Tweets. And only 38% of brand Facebook pages actually feature any interaction with or from consumers.

This is still a very new area for large (and perhaps inevitably, slow moving) companies. There will be plenty more unused Twitter accounts set up, and plenty more Habitat-esque faux pas before this is over.

And that’s where a new conference called the Corporate Social Media Summit comes in. It is aimed at large brands, and is designed to help them use social media for better marketing and communications.

In June of this year, I put together a US-version of the show which was enthusiastically welcomed by the corporate social media community:

“I normally find social media events frustrating – they don’t provide content on my level. This event was different. I learned new things…because of the real world experience and expertise.”

Kelly Feller, Senior Social Media Strategist at Intel.

The ‘difference’ that Ms Feller alludes to is in the speaker line-up and focus of the agenda. Every speaker invited to contribute is a senior practitioner working for a large business – these are all corporate speakers and experts from the brand side, not ’social media gurus’.

If you’re a practitioner working within a big business, you’re not necessarily going to want to hear from agencies and consultants all the time. It is tremendously useful to hear from your peers, from people working in other big brands – who understand where you’re coming from, and have made this work at their own companies. Getting best practices you can use in your own job is really very useful.

Some of the companies sending expert speakers include Dell, Vodafone, Toyota, PepsiCo, Nokia, Honda, First Direct and the airline BMI.

It seemed to work in the US – with a huge 95% of attendees confirmed that the conference had taught them useful strategies and best practice they could take back to the office. The European version of the event is set to deliver just as valuable best practice, insight and assistance for big brands on setting up a social media strategy that will work for them. Some of the companies coming along to learn and network include Diageo, Shell, Royal Bank of Scotland, PokerStars and SEB Bank.

If you would like to learn more about the Corporate Social Media Summit then download our brochure which sets out the agenda, gives you detail on every speaker contributing, and lays out who you’re likely to meet in the audience. As an added bonus, we’ll also send you a free mp3 recording of Samsung’s presentation at the US conference – focusing on how to use Twitter as part of your marketing strategy.

Nick has kindly offered We Are Social readers a £200 discount by entering the discount code “WAS200″ when buying a ticket directly from the Corporate Social Media Summit website.