Weber Shandwick partnered with Forbes Insights to identify what makes brands social – and how. The research report “Socializing Your Brand: A Brand’s Guide to Sociability” was conducted via an online survey in Spring 2011 with 1,897 senior executives from high revenue companies across 50 countries in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

Executive respondents were selected for their personal involvement in marketing, communications or public relations strategy and utilization of digital channels as part of that strategy.

Becoming social is an imperative for brands today, and while many are embracing the digital revolution, substantial improvements have yet to be made to build a brand with a distinctive social identity, according to the new global Weber Shandwick study in partnership with Forbes Insights.

According to the study, global brand executives believe that sociability is growing rapidly as a contributor to a brand’s overall reputation, from 52% today with a projected estimate of 65% three years from now. Yet, a large majority (84%) report that their brand’s sociability is not yet up to world class brand standards, despite the fact that nearly all of them (87%) say they have a social media brand strategy.

What does it take to be among the elite set of world class brands?

The study found that being a world class social brand means interacting with target audiences and creating original content that heightens the interactive experience, going beyond broadcasting news, deals or events. World class brands get their communities of interest engaged and develop meaningful ties over shared passions or commonalities. They demonstrate a genuine interest in what their audiences say and listen carefully to responses. World class sociability rests on the collaboration of the entire organization to integrate the brand personality across all communications channels and means that brand managers are prepared to accept all the risks that come with the rewards of venturing into this new era of customer engagement.

Socializing Your Brand – Risks vs. Rewards

“While there are inherent risks in socializing a brand, it is no longer an option to go without a social presence.” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist, Weber Shandwick, adding that “Now, more than ever, executives need to harness this opportunity to connect with customers, facilitate a conversation and encourage feedback. Their reputations and livelihood depend on it.”

Despite the rapid integration of social media into marketing plans, only a handful of global organizations are mastering its potential for brand-building, according to Weber Shandwick. Never before have marketers been presented with the vast and meaningful audience engagement opportunities that social media offers and adopted these promising tools. Yet, tapping into the opportunities takes careful consideration, enterprise-wide commitment and ample resource allocation.

Weber Shandwick put its collective heads together to identify nine drivers of brand sociability, which are the following:


1. It’s not the medium - and it’s more than the message

World class APAC brands are much more likely than the average APAC brand to create original content, 49% of them create content specifically for social media purposes, compared to 23% for all APAC companies. World class brands depend upon much more than just the medium to make themselves social.

2. Put your brands in motion

World class APAC companies do more than experiment with social media tools. They apply their tools in more social ways than the average APAC company. For example, they are 52% more likely to have a branded YouTube channel, 39% more likely to offer brand-related mobile content and 36% more likely to have a dedicated SMS/text address for customer service.

3. Integrate or die

APAC world class organizations are much better integrators of brand personality - they are more than twice as likely as other APAC organizations to have a consistent brand personality across all social and traditional media channels and to include a social media element in their traditional print or broadcast messaging.

4. Make social central

58% of APAC world class organizations coordinate social media from one department vs. 41% of all APAC firms. “The most important thing we can do is to centrally plan social media activities across all channels to amplify key messages.” survey respondent.

5. Listen more than you talk

APAC world class companies fine-tune their messages to customers and integrate what is on their fans’ minds into their brand stories. More than twice as many APAC world class brands have changed a product or service based on fan recommendations compared to the average APAC brand.

6. Count what matters - meaningful engagement

APAC world class brands place more weight than other APAC brands on metrics that impact the bottom-line when measuring social media effectiveness. “Revenue driven by social media” is ranked #1 by APAC world class companies but only #8 by other APAC companies as a key metric.

7. Think global

Executives managing APAC world class brands consider global reach the most important driver of corporate reputation while the average APAC executive ranks global reach last. “Our social branding goals involve a very firm commitment to increase the recognition of the company’s globalization.” survey respondent.

8. Go outside to get inside

APAC world class companies are more than twice as likely as average APAC companies to engage outside support to evaluate their brand’s social performance.

9. Be vigilant

To protect their social brand integrity, APAC world class brands are always on high alert. Compared to the average APAC company, they are 129% more vigilant since WikiLeaks has been in the news and are 92% more likely to be concerned about privacy violations.

“Socializing Your Brand” did not find many differences across regions, which Weber Shandwick and Forbes Insights explain is due to the fact that the social media phenomenon is a global one. Although some geographies are more technologically developed than others, they all embrace the same opportunities and face the same challenges of using social media to connect with customers in a meaningful way.

So, for instance, APAC brand executives are significantly more likely than executives in other regions to report difficulty in quantifying social media results/gauging ROI (27% vs.19% in North America, 17% in EMEA and 14% in Latin America). In fact, this is, according to the report APAC executives’ number one barrier to using social media more extensively. APAC is also the most likely region to cite lack of talent to effectively implement social media as a barrier, which could be a reason for or by-product of ROI challenges. (Source: Weber Shandwick)

By MediaBUZZ