Taking stock of social media

18 August 2011

Recently I was asked about some of the best ways that global luxury brands can try and optimise their social media strategies. It is important for all brands to continue to review their objectives and current strategies to evaluate their performance and drive improvements. Here are some thoughts which are relevant both for luxury brands and brands from other industries.

1. Local knowledge counts

Among the many approaches to consider, brands must decide if they want to take a global approach to social media or opt for separate localised accounts. Finding the best operating model depends on several factors:

  • the existence of local barriers or constraints
  • how important is it for the brand to communicate in a local language
  • what local resources are available to support the activity
  • what platforms are important locally
  • the amount of sufficient regular and relevant local content (commitment to finding & sourcing)

A good example where brands need a separate localised strategy is China, due to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter being blocked. Local social media platforms include Kaixin or RenRen (a Facebook equivalent), Youku (YouTube), Weibo (Twitter) and P1.CN – a popular new social network similar to A Small World or LinkedIn.  To put things in perspective Weibo has over 100 million registered users and RenRen has 140 million – with 30 million being active on a monthly basis. Comparing this to the US, Facebook has 140m and Twitter has over 30m active users. 

2. Time to payback?

Today, many brands use social media for exciting initiatives such as video catalogues, live event streaming and e-brochures. However, a key question remains for the majority of brands using social media – how to turn loyal fans and followers into commercial value?  One way is to integrate e-shops into Facebook.  The potential is vast – Facebook commerce or social shopping – which has been referred to as ‘ F-Commerce ’ – has been predicted to reach a value of $30bn globally by 2015, according to Booz & Company.  Retail brands such as ASOS and Banana Republic already have an established Facebook Store, and so brands should certainly be considering their strategy to monetise this community or following.

3. It’s a team game – but needs clear leadership

In addition, the question of where responsibility for social media activity resides is a key consideration – whether at global level or delegated to regional headquarters – and within which function (e.g. PR, marketing, brand communications, customer service etc).  This last point can often be a contentious issue in siloed organisations – and can result in inefficiencies, lack of buy in and barriers to implementation. Brands like Virgin Atlantic were one of the early businesses to orientate themselves around social media – setting up a dedicated Social Media Team to be the conduit for all customer service, PR and marketing related activity.

4. Nothing to it

It’s easy to get involved with social media, right?  Technically yes, you can set up an account in minutes, but any brand undertaking this activity needs to ensure that social media is fully integrated with their wider marketing strategy and accurately conveys their brand promise. It’s very easy to create a Twitter or Facebook account and jump straight in, however without knowing how this fits into wider marketing activity, brands risk not getting the most out of social media.

At a campaign level any social media activity should be integrated as a multi-channel approach. This might include print, advertising, online, mobile and even events. Mercedes-Benz is a great example of a brand that has successfully integrated social media into multi-channel campaigns which include mobile and online – a 360 degree approach (see article).

5. Finding the influencers

Nowadays it’s more than just having a presence; brands need to fully understand their social media audience so that they can identify and consider how to best utilise the key influencers that will help them to broaden their reach, increase brand awareness and create advocates. It is worthwhile considering a separate targeted approach to these users, as would be the case if communicating by more traditional methods.

6. Stay engaged

Finally, brands need to proactively engage users with relevant and exciting content to ensure value is delivered back to them. Whether this is timely insight, product information, service updates, exclusive offers and promotions or competitions, the challenge is to continually push the boundaries to ensure people have a reason to stay engaged.


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  • Loyalty in Asia according to Mary English

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  • The State of Customer Devotion in Retail: Part One

  • Loyalty in Dubai according to Sanjit Gill