Defining Success for Brands Through Social Media

Today’s guest blog post is from David Ernst, Kerry O’Brien and Pam Pearce on Discovery Communications’ Ad Sales Research team, with special thanks to the Discovery Research and Social Media teams. You can also read about the study detailed below in MediaPost’s coverage.

Influencer QuoteWhile brands of all sizes grapple to determine the payout of social investments – from human capital to advertising, new research conducted by Discovery Communications (download the full research report) examines consumer uses of social media and individual motivations that sheds some light on how brands can better leverage social media to meet their business goals.

Before digging into the results of our study, it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple ways to measure social media effectiveness, each tied to specific goals. At Discovery, social media plays an important role across functions: marketing, communications, digital media, ad sales and production, to name a few. A solid social strategy will put the consumer at the center, delivering experiences and engagements that offer value to fans while advancing functional goals. For example:

  • One of our primary objectives is to deliver innovative and targeted solutions for advertisers. Recently, we partnered with Toyota for our What Not to Wear Keep It or Toss It Facebook and online app. The app, which allows fans of the show to upload outfits and source advice from fellow fashionistas, not only meets our audience filter but was also a perfect fit for the 2012 Camry’s reinvention-themed campaign. Our Facebook and online footprints and ability to deliver an engaging experience was a win-win.
  • Shifting attention to programming, social media is more than just a companion to linear TV viewership. In our case, fan commentary on social media can often help us create new content, as Discovery Channel has done with Gold Rush and Deadliest Catch. Social editions of both shows, editing in carefully placed viewer Tweets with previously aired episodes, breathe new life into programming and, in our case, generate strong ratings and deepen audience engagement.

These are just two examples of clear ROI that don’t necessarily fall cleanly within dashboard metrics.

However, taking a deeper look at harder stats, our recent study found that 97% of people who follow brands on social platforms pay attention to their messaging…at least sometimes. So what can brands do to increase the chances that their fans and friends of fans will pay attention to them? In our Discovery Research survey of the company’s influencer panel (casual to frequent viewers who have opted in to preview programming, etc.) we aimed to find out which brands “are getting it right” when it comes to social media.

The results showed that businesses are best served by focusing social media strategies on selective audiences to amplify results, realizing intimacy trumps mass-messaging in this medium. According to our study, the “universe” of social influencers begins with the four in 10 who say that they “like” things to let their friends and family know about products and services they like. These active socials will in turn have an impact on the 29% who use social media to get recommendations about new products/programs. Brands that want to influence the influence, can design programs that target the active “likers” as a starting point, but realistically need to dig deeper to find those with affinity for the brand.

The responses from our influencer panel also revealed four key strategies that can drive success in social media:

  1. 1. Contests and Coupons
  2. 2. Humor Me!
  3. 3. Inside the Velvet Rope
  4. 4. Saving the World, One “Like” at a Time

Contests and Coupons
Incentives for discounts or the chance to win free products is a great way for a brand to elicit positive brand interactions on social media forums. Social media-only contests often include voting and/or poll elements that lead to more share ability for the brand and its messaging – encouraging fans to look to the social space for opportunities they cannot find anywhere else. However, care must be taken to not use such promotions to artificially inflate your footprint. As noted earlier, the best strategy is focusing on true fans and loyalists and growing your likes or followers should take quality into consideration. For example, TLC is partnering with Southwest Airlines to give away trips in conjunction with their new series, On the Fly, that profiles the airline’s operations and passengers.

Humor Me!
Social media users want to be entertained, and satisfying this desire means more opportunity to have brand messaging travel further and reach new audiences. Our panel gave us feedback and examples of entertaining posts by brands that included posting short video clips or sound bites, fun surveys and engaging and funny posts that are not commercially driven. Across our networks, we regularly share online-only aftershows immediately following premieres or film custom content for social featuring our talent answering fan questions, etc.

Inside the Velvet Rope
Granting users “insider status” by becoming a social media follower was often cited as a successful use of the social space. Our panelists like the way that some brands use social media to “let fans in on information” about new offerings and knowledge you “might not have found another way.” For entertainment brands, putting up exclusive videos and spoilers resonates well with users and is ripe for the re-sharing. In the case of What Not to Wear, TLC actually enlisted Facebook fans’ opinions during the production of an episode that premiered this week, allowing them to vote on outfits and hairstyles for the contributor.

WNTW Fuzzy Vest Keep or Toss
‘What Not to Wear’ Fans Voted During Film on Facebook

Saving the World, One “Like” at a Time
Another way brands can effectively engage and involve their fans is to use their social media platforms for pro-social campaigns. Empowering people through their “likes” and shares can help make a difference in areas such as pet adoption or finding cures for diseases provides multiple benefits – both increasing awareness for a brand, as well as serving to enhance the level of trust and meaning in a friend’s recommendation. With the U.S. premiere of Frozen Planet in March and April, Discovery Channel did just this by inviting viewers to check into the show on GetGlue and donating a dollar for each sticker unlocked to partner nonprofits.

As the majority of people on social media platforms are passive consumers, it is critical to identify, target and engage the active-socials, as these are the users that are driving the conversation and shaping the social media experiences of their more passive network of friends and family. Ultimately, brands are best served by growing this base knowing that their influence extends well beyond Facebook and Twitter to the real-world and real-life decisions.

Download the full Discovery Communications study.