Although I never studied CSR as a discipline, it’s an area that captured my attention since I began living with my brother during his time as a student in Property and Sustainable Development.
In particular, I became interested in how organisations incorporate and communicate CSR and sustainability to their stakeholders (I was lucky enough to write a research paper on it during my Masters study).
One point the panel agreed upon is that CSR needs to, and is slowly being incorporated across every component of business – from community engagement to supply chain management.
Interestingly, moderator Johan Havens likened it to the ongoing evolution and integration of social media in businesses – a point that really got me wondering – what are the parallels between the integration of sustainability and social media within business?
Taking a few of the key points made during the panel discussion, here’s some similarities I came across.
1. CSR Benchmarking is critical for each sector and niche of business to compare performance and strive for improvement.
The same can be said for social media and communication. As new channels, media, campaigns and community management efforts evolve, businesses and communicators need to learn how to measure their efforts. While a universal benchmark for sectors may not be possible given business’ individual objectives, it is only through setting and measuring results that organisations will achieve goals and further develop their efforts.
2. CSR performance is a continuum, with new innovation driving products, processes and engagement that redefines the standard.
I would argue that trail-blazers in social media marketing and communications are doing the same. Every day there are new case studies as brands and organisations develop ways to combine and utilise the spectrum of available media and technology to re-define what is achievable and push other communicators to grow and meet their individual business objectives.
3. CSR needs to find ways to contribute and tie itself to the wider business objectives of the whole company. That is, connect the dots between where the company is going (or wishes to go), and what CSR can achieve as part of that vision.
As the concepts of the connected consumer and social business come to the fore, social media too must break out of the silo and tie itself to the objectives of the organisation, and establish itself as capable of transforming and improving business processes and results both internally and externally to meet a wider vision.
We are at an exciting time for both fields as they integrate further within business – and that’s without even discussing the intersection of CSR, Sustainability and social media (we’ll save that for another time).
How did caffeinated content fuel Costa Coffee's facebook community?
If you didn’t know, in addition to media and communication I’m a bit of a coffee fan – so when I saw an update from my friend Adam Vincenzini at Paratus Communications about the recent growth in Costa Coffee’s facebook community, it captured my attention.
I mean, caffeine + communication – what’s not to like?
In the past six months, Costa Coffee’s facebook page has doubled in size to 500,000 members – an impressive community for any brand.
Ever generous, Adam was kind enough to answer a few questions (below) about this campaign and case study, providing a great glimpse behind the scenes of the campaign – from research to planning, execution and evaluation.
Congratulations and many thanks to Adam and Costa Coffee for sharing these insights – I hope you enjoy the interview.
I’ve included a few of my thoughts on lessons for brands and communicators following Adam’s responses.
1. Adam, what was the brief from Costa Coffee behind this latest growth in their facebook presence?
Costa wanted to create an online haven for coffee lovers, a place where people who are passionate about the subject can receive their daily ‘fuel’.
By creating this environment, the fan base would be better equipped to act as advocates of the Costa brand amongst their networks of friends and help tell the Costa story.
2. Can you talk us through some of the background research that was conducted to determine the strategy for the campaign?
A great deal of research was undertaken prior to this campaign using our four stage strategic process: Listen, Create, Engage and Analyse.
The ‘listen’ element involved a look at what Costa’s competitor set had been doing across social media to identify a unique space for Costa to own.
We determined that in order to be popular, we needed to be different, and focus heavily on the enjoyment that comes the subject matter.
Having a coffee with a friend is a fun part of your day and this applies for the ‘Costa breaks’ you have on facebook.
3. You mentioned in a facebook comment that you attributed the success of the campaign to a new content strategy, a bespoke app and sponsored stories. Could you take us through the reason for each, and why you chose the combination of these three communication elements within the platform?
The approach was quite straightforward once we completed the listening phase.
The new content strategy was pretty obvious, as the previous approach was light on substance and post regularity. As for content matter, once we had an idea of what ‘coffee lovers’ liked sharing and talking about, we just made it easier for them to access this content.
The app was important because it gave people a reason to visit the page every day during March. Encouraging this type of regular interaction boosted the presence of Costa’s page in people’s streams and consequently drove up referrals/likes from those people.
Sponsored stories played a key role too because they allowed this great new content to be seen by a wider audience.
“The Magical Coffee Machine” – A Costa Express Production (embedded on the brand’s facebook page)
4. Doubling the facebook community to half a million across a six month period is a great result. Do you have some metrics and figures around the campaign that demonstrate just how much this strategy has increased engagement and earned media across facebook for Costa Coffee?
Some of the key metrics included:
- Page views of the Costa page increased from 1,500 to 10,000
- Average reach of each post / status update increased from 50,000 to 100,000
- The ‘talking about this’ figure peaked at 38,000 in March 2012 after hovering at about 2,000 in December 2011
- Average ‘virality’ of each post increased from less than 1% to 2.5%
5. Did any of these results surprise you?
Yes and no. This community has been asking for this type of presence for a while, and once we were able to get everyone on the same page, the response was as we’d expected. However, the speed in which the results were delivered was a pleasant surprise. Most encouragingly, people haven’t been leaving the community either. We are adding new fans and retaining them.
6. Which form of content is driving the most engagement for Costa, and why do you think this is the case?
Photos, definitely. Your facebook stream is such a busy and competitive space and unless you are excited by a updated in the blink of an eye, you’ll scroll down to the next thing. The right imagery, supported by a fun and light-hearted commentary, seem to generate the best results.
7. The digital space is moving so quickly – something you keep a running commentary and analysis of on your own blog. With that in mind, were there any challenges in bringing this strategy to life given the rapidly shifting landscape of paid, owned and earned media?
Luckily, people don’t change. What is interesting to you and me will always be interesting even if the way we discover it changes relatively rapidly. While each platform has its own nuances, the theory doesn’t.
8. We’ve seen in the past brands build a significant following and community, only to disengage from the space after a defined period. How is Costa resourcing to make this content and community engagement part of their ongoing communication efforts?
This is the blessing and the curse of social media. Once you have established a ‘service’ expectation in the mind of your community, it is very hard to walk away from that.
From this overview, there are some great lessons and take-outs for brands and communicators, including:
While the brand may set-up and play host to a social space, these spaces are a place for your fans and consumers. Plan your content strategy, engagement and design accordingly.
Consider how you will take the offline elements and experience of your brand online within the given channel, and how this fits within your consumers’ online behaviour and use.
Be selective and strategic with your tactics.
Consider using the full suite of paid, earned and owned media available to you (within budget and objectives, of course).
One thing I was prepared for when I returned to New York recently was queuing – especially at restaurants and cafés.
Out in Brooklyn last weekend, some friends and I managed to score a spot at a popular local café with a wait time of an hour or more (yes, there was a crowd of people patiently queuing with take-away coffees outside), while right across the street another venue sat half-full on a bright and warm Easter Sunday.
Why? The popular venue had a better product (and no doubt better word-of-mouth marketing to go with it).
The same can be said for brands, organisations, consumers and content.
Just as consumers are happy to wait out on the pavement for a spot to sit and a good meal, so too are fans happy to subscribe to brands online, and interact with and share content they deem of value.
After reading this post from Jay Baer earlier in the week about the make up of users’ facebook news feeds and Americans’ distaste for receiving brand promotions in social media (according to this study from Exact Target they prefer good ole email), I started unsubscribing to a number of brands that were blasting away with the promotions.
Much like we all have a magic number for the amount of social networks we can maintain engagement with (hat tip Scott Monty), I believe we also have a limit to the number of brands whose content we wish to queue for and welcome into our news feeds – and we don’t need to wait an hour in line to join or unsubscribe.
The good news is that in general, I feel that the current content being produced by a lot of brands is falling short of what fans would like to see and genuinely engage with or share.
Why is that good news?
While it may sound pretty negative, I believe it equals opportunity for brands to step up to the plate and provide value in their online marketing and communication.
Doing a bit of an audit of the brands I follow, subscribe to and share, I identified only one brand that I would actually rave about, and whose content I actually look forward to receiving in my feeds.
That said, there’s still plenty of room for more brands to capture my attention and to be added to my list.
Just like I’ll always be happy to wait for a great café or restaurant, I’ll look forward to new content from those brands that I know care and are in tune with what consumers find of value in these online spaces (hint: it’s not coupons).
The question is: Is your content worth queuing for?
What do you think?
Are the brands you follow producing content you deem of value? How many brands would you actually rave about when it comes to content marketing effort? Or am I being too harsh here as brands begin to learn these new channels and develop their ongoing content marketing strategies?
Before heading over to New York, I was fortunate enough to record a discussion with my friend and mentor Des Walsh about his new social media course – Get the Edge.
As a social media strategist and LinkedIn expert, I always find it incredibly thought-provoking chatting to Des, and was delighted that he was able to join me to explain a little bit more about this course aimed at professional services, and the current wider influences in human communication and social media that influenced in.
What we planned as a 10-minute chat turned into a half-hour discussion (in three parts below), during which Des and I cover a range of topics, including:
- The lost tribes of social media
- Social business
- Email vs social media
- Fear, business and the loss of control in the social space
- Social policies and parameters
- Agencies and social media departments
- Language and social media
-Reputation vs popularity
Thanks to Des for taking the time to share his thoughts and experience. I hope you find the discussion of interest, and look forward to seeing Get the Edge launch this month.
In the meantime, you can swing by Des’ blog to enjoy some of his great content covering not only LinkedIn, but social media and communication for business.
Get the Edge (Part 1) - apologies for the audio-visual sync issue