The future for social brands

Brand Republic's Social Brands conference looked at firms' changing attitudes to social media. Kate Magee reports on the day's highlights.

The future for social brands
The future for social brands

What next for social media? That was a key question at Brand Republic's Social Brands conference in London last week. The day opened with an address from Topshop's chief marketing officer Justin Cooke, who encouraged delegates to embrace uncertainty, and closed with a discussion about the future. PRWeek outlines the day's key themes.


Will McInnes, MD, NixonMcInnes

The issue in 2013 is not getting a fanbase going, but making sense of that. It's not about vacuous, engagement chasing, 'like' hoarding. You could post a picture of a cat on a bike - that will get likes but what is it adding to your brand?

A well known mobile phone company recently conducted research that found people who engaged with its brand on Facebook were twice as likely to recommend it as those who didn't. This gives it a net promoter score which is trusted by marketing and finance departments. It also found that these people were 1.7 times more likely to renew their telecoms contract - that is a powerful business metric.

Our client First Capital Connect started asking train drivers to take pictures of tracks when there were problems on the line. When customers can actually see there's a mudslide on the line, it helps to defuse customer frustration. It's putting information that the company already has into the hands of consumers.

Recent research has shown that 68 per cent of customers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores. If there are no negative reviews, 30 per cent suspect censorship or faked reviews. We've got into a happy talk arena. You have to allow the wholeness of a community.


Lars Silberbauer, Head of social media, Lego

Lars Silberbauer, Lego

Brands don't often get what social connection is about. You need to be focused on customer interaction and create a connection, not content.

Our social media strategy has four goals that have metrics against them

1. Increase sales

2. Improve market efficiency

3. Build brand affinity

4. Risk mitigation and damage control

Humans are social by nature; we like to build things together. We also have pride in our own creations and want peer recognition. So at Lego, we'd rather build a stage around our customers' content than a campaign using fixed assets.

For example, we ran a promotion on Facebook to see if it could drive sales. We asked our fans to send in creative images of Lego. Within six hours, we'd reached one million people, had 14,174 likes and 5,594 shares. It drove 8,378 users to our e-shop and made US$10,136 in sales.

Everyone on social media at Lego has to have a social media driving licence. They have to attend a one-day course and pass an exam at the end of it. It can be revoked if they mess up.


Phil Sherrell, Partner, Bird & Bird

Phil Sherrell

Sherrell said the law was still struggling to keep up with the changing social media environment.

His speech focused on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)'s CAP Code guidelines, which came into force in 2011. The ASA's remit covers marcoms on brands' own sites and social media. In short, if something is considered to be advertising rather than PR, it must be true and is regulated by the ASA. But the distinction between the two on social media is unclear.

Sherrell said: 'The closer you are to talking about a product you sell, the more you should worry.'

One of the most interesting points he raised was what firms did with unsolicited consumer praise: 'It's natural to want to highlight this, by retweeting it for example. But as soon as you use it yourself, you are legally responsible for what it says. If someone tweets: "I love shampoo X. It makes my hair glossy," you are now making the claim that your shampoo makes hair glossy.'

Points to remember

- Social media marcoms must be obviously identifiable as an advert. For example, by using the #spon or #ad hashtags.

- If you make a product claim on social media, you need to be able to substantiate it at the time of tweeting.

- It's a criminal offence to write a review that is fake.

- If you have any agreement that you are giving someone something for a favourable tweet, that has to be disclosed.


Bruce Daisley, UK director, Twitter

Bruce Daisley, Twitter

Twitter is a bridge, not an island. It's great at connecting people. It's also a meritocracy - the best content or funniest line will out.

We don't see it as a social network, but an information network.

Twitter shows the importance of trusted stories to tell people what's going on, but also the power of people with phones who find themselves at the centre of a news story. The ability to respond in real time is a differentiator.

We see a massive difference in how people respond to different TV programmes. During Downtown Abbey there are almost no tweets. People don't want to be interrupted. But during The X Factor, Splash or Strictly Come Dancing we see people wanting to connect.

Twitter stats

- There are ten million users in the UK.

- 400 million tweets are posted a day.

- 80 per cent of users access it on their mobiles, on the sofa or on the move.

- 40 per cent of all tweets are related to TV.

- 40 per cent of Twitter users never tweet.


Vincent Boon, Chief of community, GiffGaff

You need to be able to show what a company gets from social media. How are you helping your company make or save money?

I start by working out what I'm going to measure and how. We measure customer churn. We work out how long customers stay with us if they don't use our social networks and if they do. We also know how much it costs to serve each customer per year. If they come to our community and get an answer, then they don't call customer services and that saves us money. Our customer service budget is 50 per cent lower than other mobile firms because our community is sitting there answering questions for us.


@robskinner Nokia's @craighepburn v good on not being obsessed with follower numbers. Avoid creating just fanboy echo chamber @Brevents#SocialBrands

@stuartwitts 'We don't look at how influential people are. We treat everyone equally' - Nicola Clark, @chilternrailway #SocialBrands #vircomm13

@LoweandPartners Interesting that everyone at Lego goes through social media training including senior management #SocialBrands

@ericswain RT @jeremywaite Sign of a good conference - it only took 13 minutes for someone to run a promoted tweet on the #SocialBrandshashtag

@andismit Highest traffic to Brand Republic site via mobile occurs on Xmas Day #SocialBrands.

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