Social Brands: How to be social

Brand Republic's recent Social Brands event explored how communicators can harness the power of social media. John Owens reports on proceedings.

Social Brands: How to be social
Social Brands: How to be social

The world of social media is evolving at a startling pace. To explore this ever-changing landscape, Brand Republic ran a Social Brands conference on 8 February.

The event gave comms professionals the chance to hear from experts in the field through a range of panels, speeches and workshops. Here PRWeek outlines the day's key findings.



Nick Stringer, director of regulatory affairs at the Internet Advertising Bureau, and Phil Sherrell, a partner at Bird & Bird, answered questions on best practice and the law when using social media

- If your brand finds a great photo on Flickr of a consumer with your new car, should you use it?

Check copyright. Also check terms and conditions of the host site. If you are linking through to the original content, however, it's fine. More broadly speaking, when it comes to using third party content on your site, also make sure your terms say the user is responsible for what they give you; make sure they're licensed to use it and have a quick take-down procedure.

- If a consumer posts that you're the greenest brand in the market, is this OK to retweet?

You can, but if you are incorporating it into your marketing in this way you will be held accountable for it, and whether it can be substantiated.

Additionally, if a factual statement is made about a company or product on a company or personal site, the ASA may query it following a complaint.

- If someone tweets about your brand disparagingly and without substantiation, what can you do?

If you are going to complain, first complain to the host website. Then move on to those involved, the ASA or other regulators.




To show the brand as mindful of its customers, innovative and to help build awareness, while promoting the CSR initiative Street to School.


The main idea was to interact with customers. This began with a 'campaign map' plotting how every element was connected, with social media at the core. People were encouraged to upload pictures and films of themselves on to, with the company signposting users through its Facebook page and offering to donate £1 for every entry to its Street to School charity initiative. The pictures were then temporarily beamed on to major buildings in capital cities across the world. Those who contributed their pictures were then able to see their moments of fame online.


Over the three-month campaign, Aviva gained around 100,000 fans on its Facebook page. An Aviva survey showed an increase by 16 per cent of people who thought the company 'understands my needs'. The firm donated £150,000 to Save the Children through Street to School.



Magnus Cormack, Director of strategy & intelligence EMEA & APAC, Syncapse Corp

  • Measurement of performance must be tied to reach, in terms of the size of your audience and their engagement online
  • The past few years have been about acquisition of followers but it is now time to think about propagation of the message. How far has it been travelling and how many times it is retweeted are key
  • Standards of measurement must be normalised, as the channel with the biggest number of followers may not be the best or most efficient. For example, the channel with 10,000 followers might be more effective in terms of delivering engagement than the one with a million
  •  When measuring anything there has to be context. You need to set benchmarks, whether they are comparisons with the rest of the industry or historical comparisons within the company


James Warren, Chief creative officer, digital, Weber Shandwick

According to Warren, a survey Weber Shadwick carried out with Forbes last summer revealed only 12 per cent of EMEA brand executives involved with digital believed their 'sociability' was world class. Here are some pointers for joining that minority:

  • It's not just about the medium and it's more than the message. Social media success needs relentless engagement
  • Integrate or die
  •  Comms used to be a bowling ball - you spent ages getting the perfect ball then aimed it at your pins, i.e. the customer. Now it's pinball - the brand has to keep active, keep moving and be agile
  • Make social media central to your business
  • Listen more than talk
  •  Measurement is key so count what matters
  •  Think global
  •  Bring in external consultants if necessary
  • Be vigilant
  • Be nice to those you interact with



Pearmain spoke about how the comms team dealt with a situation where the firm accidentally disclosed customers' phone numbers online last month.

He cited the fact that 'the content we produce needs to follow the same set of principals as when putting out "fluffy" viral content so that we are part of an ongoing conversation'.

He said that the first thing the company did was put up a blog explaining to customers what the situation was, while using other social media to signpost towards the information.

Journalists were directed to this information in the same was as everyone else, meaning the consumer knew exactly what was going on as developments happened.



5pm Uffindell - Facebook's definition of friends: 'people you care to talk to and hear from' - now we know @alexanderschlaubitz #SBevent

4pm Dannyrogers2001 - Interesting that @JamesdotWarren described Weber Shandwick as 'the world's largest social media agency' at #SBevent

3pm Dave Reed - Founder of syncapse started company after turning down offer to head up Facebook in Canada. Doh! @DaveRReed #SBevent

12pm nickykc - Sky's new social media restrictions for journalists are unmanageable says Alex Pearmain head of social at O2 #SBevent

10am MarketingUK Marketing Magazine - Facebook is becoming increasingly important in the overall decision-making process says More Than #SBevent

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