New study: Deep brand engagement

Charlene Li · July 26, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/991

Social media is no longer the responsibility of a few people in the organization

 I’m releasing today a new research report that I wrote in conjunction with Wetpaint called “ENGAGEMENTdb." The study looked at how the 100 most valuable brands — as identified by the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking — engaged in 11 different online social media channels.

We critiqued the brands on not only their breadth of engagement across these channels, but also their depth, such as whether they reply to comments made on blog posts. Each brand was given a numerical score. The top 10 ENGAGEMENTdb brands with their scores are:

  1. Starbucks (127)
  2. Dell (123)
  3. eBay (115)
  4. Google (105)
  5. Microsoft (103)
  6. Thomson Reuters (101)
  7. Nike (100)
  8. Amazon (88)
  9. SAP (86)
  10. Tie - Yahoo!/Intel (85)

The report is available at https://bit.ly/KRGNt and the main site is at engagementdb.com (includes ways for you to do a quick ranking of your engagement). A very neat interactive feature of the site is the ability to see the rankings in different ways, from highest to lowest scores, alphabetical, etc.

Engagement Correlates to financial performance

But even more interesting is that we also looked at the financial performance of the brands, grouping the companies with the greatest depth and breadth into a group called “Social Media Mavens”. These Mavens on average grew 18% in revenues over the last 12 months, compared to the least engaged companies who on average saw a decline of 6% in revenue during the same period. The same holds true for two other financial metrics, gross margin and net profit.

Note that we are not claiming a causal relationship — but there is clearly a correlation and connection. For example, a company mindset that allows a company to be broadly engage with customers on the whole probably performs better because the company is more focused on companies than the competition.

The study also looks at the engagement best practices of four companies: Starbucks, Dell, SAP, and Toyota. Some of the key findings include:

  • Emphasize quality, not just quantity. Engagement is more than just setting up a blog and letting viewers post comments; it’s more than just having a Facebook profile and having others write on your wall. It’s also about keeping your blog content fresh and replying to comments; it’s building your friends network and updating your profile status. Don’t just check the box; engage with your customer audience.
  • To scale engagement, make social media part of everyone’s job.
    The best practice interviews have a common theme — social media is no longer the responsibility of a few people in the organization. Instead, it’s important for everyone across the organization to engage with customers in the channels that make sense — a few minutes each day spent by every employee adds up to a wealth of customer touch points.
  • Doing it all may not be for you — but you must do something.
    The optimal social media marketing strategy will depend on a variety of factors, including your industry. If your most valuable customers do not depend on or trust social media as a communication medium, or if your organization is resistant to engagement in some channels, you will have to start smaller and slower. But start you must, or risk falling far behind other brands, not only in your industry, but across your customers’ general online experience.
  • Find your sweet spot.
    Engagement can’t be skin-deep, nor is it a campaign that can be turned on and off. True engagement means full engagement in the channels where you choose to invest. Thus, choose carefully and advocate strongly to acquire the resources and support you will need to succeed. If you are resource-constrained, it is better to be consistent and participate in fewer channels than to spread yourself too thin.

Qualities of Success

Companies that scored well in the study generally have dedicated teams, however small, active in the social media channels they utilize. The study found that the most successful teams evangelize social media across the entire organization to pull in a broad range of stakeholders. These companies view social media as an indispensable tool to help them achieve results, and their approach is conversational. This mode of operation differs from the approach of traditional communications and early corporate blog experimentation, which emphasizes messaging and talking points.

“This is the first study of this depth on the top global brands and we think the results provide a good guide for corporations and brand marketers in every industry,” said Charlene Li, Founder, Altimeter Group. “The success stories we have uncovered provide a blueprint for companies making decisions about how to best apply their marketing and consumer relations resources.”

“The ENGAGEMENTdb study goes a long way towards validating the importance of social media for business,” said Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint. “The closer any company is to its customers, the better, and it’s hard to argue with the ability for social media to create such proximity. In this day and age, companies should feel much more comfortable investing in social media — the correlation to results is so clear.”

Four Quadrants of Engagement

While each company in the study received a quantitative score, the ENGAGEMENTdb study revealed that companies fell into four specific categories in terms of their breadth and depth of investment in social media channels — Mavens, Butterflies, Selectives, and Wallflowers.

  • Mavens – brands that have made social media a core part of their go-to-market strategies and are very active in many channels; usually driven by dedicated teams assisted by company-wide awareness and participation.
  • Butterflies — brands that recognize the need to be in many channels but have only met with real success in a subset of their activities; these companies are usually spread a bit too thin.
  • Selectives – brands that focus on just a few channels and excel in those; these efforts are usually initiated by an internal evangelist.
  • Wallflowers — brands present in only a few channels and very lightly in those; these brands are sitting on the sidelines and are wary of the risks. They are still trying to figure out the best next steps and investments in social media.

Disclosure/Acknowledgements: The research report was done in conjunction with Wetpaint as a partnership - neither Altimeter Group nor I were paid to write the report. I designed the study, created the criteria, developed the engagement scoring, and wrote the report. Wetpaint provided the people-power to conduct and execute the evaluations, helped with the data collection and analysis (thank you Jean Lee!), developed the Web site and handled public relations. All in all, this was a model of partnership and I am grateful to Wetpaint’s Kevin Flaherty and Ben Elowitz for their support.

(For more from Charlene, visit The Altimeter Blog)

(Image source: smartcanucks.ca)

 

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Charlene Li

Helping leaders thrive with disruption as a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company

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