London Calling–But are marketers answering?

Forgive the cheesy title, but after studying social media use in six different countries, we are heading to London to work face-to-face with actual clients and The Clash has been in my head, along with numerous other songs about London. London has a particular allure because 1) it’s my favorite city and 2) I assume there will be a parallel between the marketing practices of the UK and the US, thereby making it an interesting study (plus the fact that everything is in English makes the research easier). Upon beginning initial research into the use of social media, one of the first things that I found is the dichotomy between companies using social media and those not using social media. Anybody who studies or works in social media knows that social media is still in its infancy. Though many organizations (government, military, nonprofits, corporations) do engage in social media, there are just as many, if not more, that do not engage. Some organizations do not because they question the value of the current available tools, and others do not participate because of issues with access to the tools.

McCannSurveyA recent survey (table at left) by McCann Erickson Bristol shows that “two-thirds of marketing experts admit they do not understand social media despite acknowledging it is here to stay. The Social Media survey of marketing professionals found that 86% of them thought social media is more than just a fad. However, 65.6% of them said they did not know how to use it for the purposes of marketing.” This survey shows a common refrain. Communicators are beginning to see that social media is a viable tool, yet many are struggling to find an appropriate or effective use for it. Throughout the semester, we’ve seen numerous examples of effective social media, but as this survey shows, there is still trepidation to embrace the tools.

So while this survey shows that marketers do not know how to use social media, there are many UK (and European) companies that are using it effectively. The British candy maker Cadbury recently started a social media campaign to promote the new Crème Egg Twisted candy. “Dubbed “Operation Goo, “the initiative invites British consumers to become CIA agents. (That’s Cadbury Intelligence Agents, of which there are now 9,082.) The participants search out the candy bars across the country by finding clues on Cadbury’s Website. The top ten agents then create videos “with Flip cameras supplied by Cadbury, upload them on YouTube, and win points for generating the most social media exposure via tweets and videos. The agent with the most points by mid-July gets $33,000.” What Cadbury is doing here is creating engagement and conversation. Engagement is probably one of the most important aspects of social media. The sheer numbers of people who participate in social media means that the word can reach many more people than traditional media.  One analysis of the campaign stated, “Overall, it’s win-win for Cadbury. They promote one of their latest products through others via a social media experiment and then use and analyse the successful techniques used by the Super Agents to gain the most attention on each YouTube, Twitter, blogs etc.”

Overall, the biggest take away from my own perspective of managing and strategizing social media at work, and studying at school, is that there are numerous opportunities for brands, regardless of what country they are in. With a little bit of research and a Website survey of the brand’s relevant competition landscape, a marketer can help spread the word very effectively, and cheaply. But brands need to realize that they should not engage in social media just because everyone else is doing it. They need to have a strategy just like they would use for every other communication campaign. One thing that should be readily apparent is that an understanding of social media will be in great demand, so there should be future career opportunities for those of us who study it.

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