What do Leading Consumer Companies Plan to do Next with Social Media?

What do leading consumer companies plan to do next with social media? The responses of the companies we studied provide clues. Jon Accarrino, a former NBC digital marketing manager who was a catalyst in getting the network to embrace social media in 2008, expects that social media will eventually become less of a fringe activity and more of a mainstream activity. “I believe it will be taken out of the hands of resident social media gurus and become just one part of the overall marketing mix,” said Accarrino, now vice president of marketing and communications at Red Touch Media. “The workforce coming in needs no social media training. Social media guidebooks will now be part of employee handbooks, not standalone documents.”

Similarly, a global cable company executive said that once more cable viewers embrace social media, TV will have to change to accommodate this. More importantly, because digital video costs one-tenth of what traditional TV programming costs to produce, the company is creating more original videos for social media that then get picked up by the broadcast side of the house. YouTube is a very important platform for the firm. The younger audience increasingly defines its own prime time, and that has nurtured platforms like Netflix, digital video recorder, video on demand, and YouTube.

Cable companies must have a presence on all of these technologies and make sure they are part of their DNA. According to one executive, music companies are also relying more on video for social media channels, especially ‘B roll’ and outtake videos that are less formal and help fans feel as though they are getting to know the artist personally.

A large bank we spoke with is already beginning to think about creating an even bigger core social media circle. It sees consolidating global teams for efficiency and consistency like it did with its Internet and mobile teams previously. That model has been rolled out globally to create one infrastructure to be used in many countries.

A women’s fashion company hopes to use social media more and more to educate consumers on its products, especially its use of unusual, more lifestyle-type fabrics. The company is rolling out a new marketing campaign about empowering women. The promotion features influential people and uses social media to showcase their thoughts and experiences in wearing the company’s products. The company has invited rock musicians, entrepreneurs, and other luminaries to participate.

Several company executives talked about extending their social media activities to suppliers, licensees and distributors. The fashion company wants to involve licensees for products like accessories that have their name on them. Social media might be the ideal way to help the company connect to its channel partners.

To be inventive with social media along the lines mentioned above, companies need to do much more experimentation with social media. “There needs to be social media R&D. It’s very important,” said Frank Radice, who as head of the promotion department at NBC News helped increase its social media following in 2007 and 2008.1 “Every company that’s using social media needs to have it as part of its DNA.”

In all these companies, social media has not only registered itself as a marketing and customer service must-have, but also as an increasingly critical source for new inputs to new product development, distribution, manufacturing and production and their existing product lines. These companies told us they are just beginning to harness the power of social media – one that delivers what was previously impossible: the ability to get continuous input from thousands (or more) of the buyers of their products or services, and to engage with each and every one of them.

With that potential in mind, the consumer companies that capitalize on social media the most will be those that create a big inner social circle – one that can tune in and respond rapidly to a big outer social circle of avid fans of their brands.

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  1. Radice is now managing partner at VIDA F.R. Company. []

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