Social media plays an integral part when it comes to the relationship between consumers and brands. 

These social channels are more than just posting a status or image on branded pages. Marketers are using them to interact with their customers and get feedback about their products.

Social media gives the consumer a seamless way to connect with a brand without having to go through a website or a feedback form.

Which-50 and Amobee recently held a roundtable with a number of executives and experts from various industries — including telecommunications, fintech and digital banking — discussing the role social media has played in changing the relationship between consumer and brand.

Not all participants were authorised to speak for their companies, so we have included their ideas and insights without reference to their organisations to enable them to share freely.

The role of social media

For some marketers, social media can be used as a litmus test for brands to see how they are viewed in the public eye.

If a brand is having a bad week in the market, you can guarantee it will be having a bad week on social media, according to a content manager for an Australian health insurance brand.

Social media can work in two ways for brands: either an advertising channel or a marketing channel.  

Angela Greenwood, Director, Digital Marketing & Customer at Optus

Angela Greenwood, Director, Digital Marketing & Customer at Optus, said social media needs to play a role in driving traffic, not only through online sales but through telesales and retail.

She says, “Social media has a lot of really interesting data points that we can leverage for all of that. We’re in the transformation to be more than a telco, and we’ve made some heavy investments in content.

“For us again, obviously, that really goes hand in hand with being able to serve that content through social platforms and being able to understand what different audiences are interested in, and how we tailor that to them.”

Greenwood noted the importance of social media from a branding perspective and said Optus uses it to amplify its big branded pieces and sponsorships.

For instance, this year Optus took advantage of its Snapchat account for the Commonwealth Games. “We had a filter you could use. So that’s an example of leveraging our big sponsorships into specific social activation. We then use it as a conduit for delivery for exclusive content in the Optus sports channels in various social platforms. We see huge engagement in that.”

Changing relationships

The relationship between brands and consumers has changed over time. Where it was once a platform to try to get more hits to a website, now brands are using their social channels to communicate with consumers, advertise products and drive sales.

Greenwood said advertising and marketing are two sides of the same coin for social media.

Social media gives them a great channel to be able to have direct conversations with consumer, but also harness technology like chatbots for service and competitions.

She said, “Whenever we plan our campaigns, we basically are hand-in-glove with our social response team. We need to make sure that whatever we put out there, if it’s likely to generate a response, that they are ready for that, and they’d be able to respond to that.”

In the context of social media, Greenwood says it gives brands a “really good feedback loop”.

social media facebook phone instagram icon appsAccording to Greenwood, “I am not just meaning from a service context, but actually from a ‘what is working with our marketing?’ context. And I think we very heavily use social for test and learn.

“Particularly with our creative, and also with audience targeting, and what it allows us to do is we can get real-time feedback about what’s resonating, what messages are resonating, what calls to action, what designs, and so on.

“We then take those learnings and we take them into our above the line channels. Where a lot of organisations have played in the past has been a much more top-down approach to marketing.”

More than a communication channel

Camilla Cooke, Chief Marketing Officer at banking startup Xinja described the company’s business model is based on helping customers.

She said, “We have a different business model, which is that we think that if we look after our customers well, they will like us and they will take out more products and they will recommend us. So we think actually helping customers is a good business model.”

She noted that the model is facilitated by technology and the company relies on social media. “[With] social, we can reach a lot of people, we get a lot of feedback, and it’s pretty cool, because that then goes into the design process. So we get ideas. Mostly we’re looking for pain points or whatever that might be.

“Social’s actually building our product. It’s not just our communications channel.”

Good use of social

The majority of companies use social media, but some excel at taking advantage of these digital channels.

Social media can help brands explain their products better. Ian Laurie, head of social at Amobee, noted that when Optus landed the rights for the EPL, a number of consumers were confused and voiced their concerns on social media. The telco took those concerns and turned them into a campaign.

He said, “There was a lot of chatter on all the social channels, and from a technology perspective, it was quite evident that people were confused what the product was. How to pay for the product and things like that.

“Within a matter of weeks, there was a complete new campaign off the back of social chatter to answer those questions because it was a complex product at that point. I think that’s a really good example of how to use the social chat and pivot your campaign within a matter of weeks.”

During the roundtable, an attendee pointed out the Medibank Marathon guide as a great way of using social media.

Nearly five years ago the health insurer wasn’t doing much with its marathon sponsorship, so it came up with the idea of releasing a marathon guide and then used that to generate leads off the back of that event.

It was able to expand the reach of the guide over social media, which worked as people were looking for marathon guides during that period.

Since then it has expanded its guides and created a food newsletter and wellness newsletter.

The attendee said this is an “incredible example of the way that you can test something out, use social to scale it, but also be tapping into what people are actually interested in rather than trying to bombard them with brand communications. It’s getting value out of something that [Medibank] weren’t getting very much value out of.”

How not to use social media

Marketers aren’t always savvy when it comes to social media. There are also poor ways of using these tools to gain understanding of consumers.

One expert at the roundtable pointed out a bad use of social would be not looking at the key objective of what the business is trying to achieve, and working to that point.

They said, “I think some brands just want to be on social and use their existing content and put that on social. But put in the right measurement in place and at the end of the day if you’re trying to measure brands or trying to get leads or acquisitions then the correct format or correct measurement needs to be in place to actually prove, hey we’ve done something in social that’s actually achievable.”

Laurie at Amobee said what marketers get wrong about social is not adding value to the consumer.

He explains, “Ultimately they are there for content. They are there to get something out of it. It’s not about you necessarily pushing your product, it’s what can you do for them.

“It’s how do you drive value in that engagement and it’s that two-way engagement as well so that people actually do something within it — not just talk about it.”

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