Social Happiness: A look at Coca-Cola’s social media policy


Coca-Cola, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, understands the importance of managing relationships with their fans and consumers – particularly on social media. The company embraces the fact that consumers have thousands of conversations surrounding Coca-Cola each day, and has laid out a social media policy with a detailed set of Online Social Media Principles a to help guide its employees through “the new frontier of marketing and communications.”

According to the company document:

“These Online Social Media Principles have been developed to help empower our associates to participate in this new frontier of marketing and communications, represent our Company, and share the optimistic and positive spirits of our brands.”

Coca-Cola’s document includes seven shared values to live by, five core values specific to its involvement in online social media, five guidelines for associates’ personal social media behavior, and 10 principles guiding the behavior of certified Coca-Cola online spokespeople. These lists clearly spell out the Coca-Cola’s expectations of both personal and corporate communication in the social space, and encourage employees to be personable yet mindful of their ultimate representation of the company.

Coca-Cola’s success on social media (64,000,000 Facebook fans and 717,000 Twitter followers) is likely due in part to the autonomy the company places in its social media representatives. Coca-Cola encourages its employees to engage and explore in social media to the extent they feel comfortable, and reminds employees to “have fun, but be smart.”

“The best advice is to approach the online worlds in the same way we do the physical one – by using sound judgment and common sense, by adhering to the Company’s values, and by following the Code of Business Conduct and all other applicable policies.”

The advice and expectations are fair and relaxed, while still maintaining the importance of ultimately being a brand ambassador on social media. While there is a distinction between personal and company-representative communication on social media, Coca-Cola recognizes that the line is blurring, and that employees must be mindful of how their online presence could be representative of the company. For that reason, it was a wise decision to include expectations for personal usage within the company’s overall social media policy.

More importantly, Coca-Cola has laid out several guiding principles for its Certified Online Spokespeople. The guidelines are as follows:

  1. Be certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
  2. Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
  3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
  4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
  5. Keep records.
  6. When in doubt, do not post.
  7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
  8. Be responsible to your work.
  9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
  10. Know that the Internet is permanent.

Of that list, #6, #9 and #10 are the most prominent and relevant to recent times. We’ve seen (too often) brands fail to think of the larger-scale implications of the material they post, especially surrounding sensitive events and issues. By reminding spokespeople of the implications a global company can have through its social communication, Coca-Cola is aiming to avoid any significant mishaps or controversy.

Overall, the social media policy for Coca-Cola seems to cover all of the company’s bases – from personal to professional communication by employees. This type of management style seems to be effective in allowing employees the ability to be themselves, while still maintaining expectations and company guidelines. Coca-Cola provides a social media policy that could serve as an example to other brands, the result of which has led to clear success in the social realm.


#Mad4Koss: Hearing is Believing

It’s not often that a captivating hit show focuses on the world of advertising. And it’s not often that a local company plays an unexpected major role in the season premiere. 

But when those times do come around, that brand better be prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.

ImageSuch was the case for Koss Headphones, a company located right here in Milwaukee. The company was thrust into the spotlight in the Season 6 premiere of Mad Men, when Peggy Olson and company were charged with recreating Koss’ 1968 Super Bowl advertisement. A good portion of the two-hour episode centered around Peggy’s efforts to formulate a new tagline for Koss and alter the advertisement itself. Here’s the catch: Koss paid next to nothing for the major exposure, and wasn’t made aware of the placement until the last minute.

Talk about having to think on your feet. The company, less than three years removed from a major embezzlement scandal, was now facing an incredible opportunity to rebuild their brand image in front of millions of Mad Men fanatics. The brand building had to extend beyond the Sunday night AMC premiere if they were going to be successful, so the company worked overtime on social media. In the days leading up to the premiere and the weeks that have followed, social media managers for Koss have worked tirelessly to populate the company’s Facebook and Twitter with relevant content, while also managing countless interactions since their placement.

The results have been phenomenal. Koss, which prior to the April 7 premiere was tweeting Imagesparingly – sometimes going days without posting new content – sent out more than 100 tweets in the 24 hours surrounding the episode. It initiated dozens of conversations with new followers, editors, celebrities and Mad Men characters on Twitter, often directing them to a newly launched sweepstakes to win free headphones and autographed posters. Not to mention, the company got significant coverage from outlets such as Advertising Age, raising their profile in the advertising community immensely. 

The community managers at Koss have, to this day, done an extraordinary job of connecting with consumers, particularly in the light of their Mad Men exposure. They developed a hashtag to drive conversation, #Mad4Koss, and offered Koss prize package to those who tweeted along during the premiere. Since then, the company has kept the pressure on by tweeting frequently about their sweepstakes, which runs through May 1, while continuing to engage with followers. While the focus has been on the rapid response capabilities that Twitter provides, the company has been equally as vigilant on Facebook

Koss provided a prime example of how to manage your brand image on social media while in the spotlight of a national television show. We now expect brands to be humanized and interactive, and it would be somewhat irritating (and inexplicable) for a brand not to be responsive during this sort of situation. Surely, the social media managers at Koss had to spend long nights and busy weekends preparing for their coverage, but did an exceptional job at seizing the opportunity. There’s no doubt that the exposure will have positive business results for Koss, and it certainly boosted the national awareness of the Milwaukee-based company.


Social Strategy: What’s in it for me?


It’s a cut-throat world for brands on social media today. Not only do consumers expect a flawless approach on social media (i.e. instant responses, rewarding engagement), it can take but one false move to spark national outrage or even global boycotts. Social strategy, therefore, boils down to one thing: keeping consumers at the forefront.

Let’s look at this from an outside, Average Joe’s perspective (something social media managers sometimes forget to do). It’s nice to see a brand post photos of their hot new product, reveal a giveaway or announce their next big sale. But what will really get our attention? Brands that are engaging and responsive with us. If we have a problem, we’d like to have someone there who is at the ready willing to help out. In the past, it could take several phone calls and 45 minutes of horrible “on-hold” music before we could talk to customer service. Now, companies like McDonald’s have dedicated social channels  to address customer concerns, and others, like Starbucks, are able to craft personal responses to customer complaints within the hour.Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 11.40.16 AM

Now, let’s take a look at the opposite end of the customer service spectrum. Some brands don’t respond to customer inquiries at all, but equally irritating are brands that merely use canned responses with no serious effort for engagement.

I was going to dig through my old interactions to use a personal example, but I was pleased to find that Belkin had plenty of other opportunities to show off. Not only is 80% of their Twitter feed dedicated to apologies (what does that say about your product?), but each response is canned, in broken-English, and nearly identical, offering no real opportunity for engagement and no serious concern for the problem at hand.

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 11.49.14 AM Thanks, Belkin, but I don’t think I’d get much out of talking to “customercare.” Granted, they seem to be receiving far too many complaints to address each one specifically, but this seems to be an example of a brand that doesn’t take customer satisfaction all too seriously. What’s in it for me with Belkin’s social strategy? A phone call to a customer service call center – not how I’d like to spend my Saturday afternoon.

If a brand engages with me and is genuinely responsive, I tend to have better opinions toward them. Social media provides a direct channel for brands to build relationships with consumers, and passing up this opportunity can surely have a direct impact on the bottom line. You can’t tell me that Laura Ellen didn’t develop lifetime loyalty to Kit Kat when they publicly challenged Oreo to Tic-Tac-Toe to win her affection (Oreo politely, and cleverly, declined). That case was an example of a consumer without much to say (“Can tell I like chocolate abit too much when I’m following @KITKAT and @Oreo hahahahahah”) still being valued enough to warrant an inter-brand “competition.” Heck, I’m not even involved, and it made me want to follow both brands!

Of late, we have seen many brands start to bring their social media strategy to life. What seems to be common denominator of the most successful social brands? An emphasis on putting the customer first. When I want an answer, I’ll turn to social media. And I’ll know when my business is valued by the way brands handle my engagement. Plus, who doesn’t like it when they begin to receive threaded interactions from some of the most engaging brands on social media? (I’m looking at you, Tara): Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 12.40.17 PM

What other brands have you had positive (or not-so-positive) experiences with on social media? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Cultivating a Better World: Chipotle goes “Back to the Start”

Chipotle LGBT Ad.inddLet’s face it, there are probably better options for your waistline than a chicken burrito. But we’ve all been there – it can be hard to resist the temptation for that juicy, spicy, tin-foil wrapped goodness from your local Mexican grill. One such establishment took to the Internet  in an attempt to help us feel a little better about ingesting those caloric monsters, and wound up with a viral video and a wildly successful campaign.

Chipotle set out on a mission to change the way people think about their food with their first national television spot, an animated two-minute film overviewing the recent industrialization of farming. We’re (regrettably) reminded of the negative effects that food processing has on us and the environment, before watching a farmer go “back to the start” by reintroducing open grazing and naturally raising livestock. Watch the video below:

Here’s the good news for Chipotle: It worked. The video received over 7,000,000 views on YouTube, drew remarkable chatter from advertising blogs to the New York Times, and most importantly, helped drive sales. Chipotle saw a 20.3% revenue increase in 2012 over 2011, which was likely due in-part to the new brand messaging.

The unique approach was reminiscent of an old Mad Men pitch for Lucky Strike cigarettes – “we’ve got identical companies selling identical products…we can say anything we want.” In reality, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Qdoba burrito and a Chipotle burrito. But if we know Chipotle is committed to sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility, why wouldn’t we prefer them? That was the goal of “Back to the Start,” and consumers took notice. Heck, I’m a former employee of a Chipotle competitor, and even I now prefer my ex-rival. There is just something different about choosing a company that you know is committed to more than the bottom line, and it makes you feel good.

Talk about marketing success. I now feel good about eating a burrito.

Chipotle could have just chalked it up as a win when the video went viral. Instead, they brought their new brand messaging into the stores, and focused on remaining one of the most responsive brands on social media. They were able to successfully change the way consumers felt about their product, and carried on the conversations necessary to build brand loyalty.

What are your thoughts on Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” campaign? Let’s have a discussion in the comments below.

The Quiet Winner of Super Bowl XLVII

This Super Bowl was home to perhaps the most expensive 30-second time slots ever. Brands shelled out close to $4 million to have their brief, often forgettable moments in the spotlight. However, one brand received nearly 40 minutes of exposure for much less than market value. 

For the first time, the focus was not on the actual event. It wasn’t on Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick or that whiney Harbaugh brother. The Beyonce show – albeit wonderful – had come and passed. And when you looked up after drooling over Oreo’s quick response to the blackout, you saw and heard one brand’s name.


The Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The stadium had stolen the show. For better or for worse, Super Bowl XLVII will forever be remembered as the “blackout game.” As the news stories continue to pop up over the coming months, years, or even decades, Mercedes-Benz will always be getting indirect media placement.

Now, whatever the reasoning for the blackout, we can be fairly certain that Mercedes-Benz didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m sure there is something to be said for the negative association between the brand and the electrical malfunction, but I just can’t see that harming Mercedes-Benz long-term.

What I would focus on is the fact that in every panorama during the blackout, the logo was visible. In every news story since that moment, the brand name has been in the headlines. And for nearly 40 uninterrupted minutes, the flustered sideline reporters kept things moving as the cameras panned the stadium, inside and out. All the while, Mercedes-Benz soaked up massive exposure beyond the already invaluable two weeks of sports coverage leading up to the game. 

That alone would have been enough to win them the Brand Bowl, in my opinion. However, not to be forgotten is their 60-second advertisement that followed the blackout, featuring such eye candy as Kate Upton and Usher, that effectively sealed the deal as far as brand recognition goes.

So, for $8 million plus the long-term cost of stadium naming rights, Mercedes-Benz was able to put a significant stamp on Super Bowl XLVII. Where they took home the cake, though, was through the unplanned exposure that came as a result of the Super Blackout.

I know this is an unconventional perspective, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. What effect do you think the blackout had on Mercedes-Benz? Did they benefit from the increased exposure, or will there be too much negative association to overcome? Leave your two cents in the comments below.

Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Your Social Media Manager Is.

social-networks-V2The firestorm ignited by Cathryn Sloane’s article Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 was full of the typical Generation Battle rhetoric that we are beginning to see so often. A Millennial with plenty of great ideas and valid points went a little too far, and practitioners like Hollis Thomases took the opportunity to not only discredit her, but also criticize the rest of our generation. And so began an intense battle of pride and wits between two parties with strong disagreements that has since led us nowhere. That seems to be a theme in this country, but I digress.

My thoughts? It doesn’t matter, and everybody’s wrong.

Like any profession, those who are most willing and able to succeed are the ones who should be given the opportunity. Social media was born at a time when both Millenials and those who came before us have had the opportunity to raise it, and together we have brought about so many changes to the various platforms that nobody can claim responsibility or true expertise.

Without the input of seasoned marketing practitioners who were hard at work while most Millennials were still in Driver’s Education, brands like Starbucks would not have been able to leverage Facebook as a platform to reach 33 million customers today. Similarly, the continued passion (read: addiction) that the early-adopter younger generations have had for various social channels has been the driving force behind the polishing of each site’s user experience.

We have all played a major role in shaping social media over the past decade, and effective management is completely dependent on each company’s unique needs. Like Sloane mentions, Millennials grew up with social media, and for many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without it. We may sometimes know the best strategy for reaching our peers and target audiences, because we’ve been doing it since middle school. Social media is second nature to us. Many smart, young professionals have been able to bypass the learning curve and launch a brand to prominence through social media, and they didn’t need years of marketing experience to do so.

But seemingly for every 23-year-old social media superstar, there is another who has put a company’s image in serious jeopardy. As Dennis Jenders alludes to, there is something to be said for knowledge and expertise. People who have spent time in the industry have made and learned from mistakes along the way, and can bring level-headed wisdom to the table. They also carry with them years of experience in the traditional forms of marketing, many of which are integral to the effectiveness of social media.

What seems to be lacking is a mutual respect and appreciation for what each group is capable of. The right person for managing social media is the person who is not only willing to accept input and criticism, but will seek it out. They will understand the immense impact that working across generations will have on their success. And they will laugh at the bickering between the big egos – young and old – who all think they know best.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment, and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@_JCleveland).