April 28, 2010
How To

Developing a Social Media Strategy: 6 Lessons from Kodak

SUMMARY: Consumers are talking about your brand in social media channels, and you need a strategy to engage in these conversations. Ignoring them – or jumping in without a plan – is a missed opportunity.

Read six lessons a team at Kodak learned from more than two years’ worth of social marketing efforts. Includes advice on when to engage in conversations, how to add value, and the importance of creating and sharing your company’s social media policy.
There is a lot of online discussion around Kodak -- about 470 million brand mentions on Twitter last year alone, says Thomas Hoehn, Director, Interactive Marketing and Convergence Media, Kodak.

"We can’t ignore that," he says. "We have to engage in these conversations."

That’s exactly what Hoehn’s team has done for more than two and a half years. When they started listening to and engaging in social media conversations, they noticed many consumers had a vague familiarity, at best, with Kodak’s products. They also noticed their competitors were mentioned more often than Kodak in certain categories.

The team worked hard to reverse those trends, and in the process developed a comprehensive social media strategy.

"The fact that I don’t see any conversations such as ‘Kodak, they make digital cameras?’ is an improvement. Whereas two and a half years ago, I did see that," says Hoehn.

Also, Kodak’s direct sales and online share-of-voice are on an upward trend, Hoehn says, due in part to his team’s social media efforts.

Below, we highlight six lessons the team learned about using social media to shift brand perceptions and increase online sales. Consider them as you develop you own social media strategy:

Lesson #1. Listen before you speak

Listening and researching your market are well-known prerequisites to entering social media. However, once you’ve entered the space, you should keep your ears open.

Kodak recently hired a "Chief Listener" who monitors daily social media activity around Kodak and their industry. This person has a rare blend of marketing, business and social media expertise that was not easy to find, Hoehn says.

The Chief Listener monitors the blogosphere, forums and other social outlets for opportunities to bring Kodak into conversations and to assist and enrich conversations already involving Kodak.

- Study market sentiment

Listening to social channels gives Kodak insight into the market’s reactions to their brand, products, competition and trends. It also can guide the team’s response to negative feedback.

For example, the team saw that many consumers were raving online about their new Zi8 Pocket Video Camcorder. However, they also found a review that liked the product but said it had a terrible name. They responded by launching an online contest to name their next pocket camera, the Playsport.

- Use social monitoring tools

Monitoring social networks and blogs manually is not practical. Many tools have sprung up in the last two years to help marketers keep track of online conversations related to their brand or industry keywords.

Kodak’s team uses a paid tool for their efforts. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started, Hoehn suggests trying free tools such as:
o Google Alerts
o Technorati
o TweetDeck
o Seesmic

Lesson #2. Add value when joining conversations

The team looks for opportunities to add their input to relevant conversations. Here are examples of how and when Hoehn’s team reaches out to add value:

- Discussing related topics

Kodak’s brand is relevant to many related topics, including:
o Scrapbooking and photo crafts
o Digital printing
o Digital camera history
o Film

The team developed resources to help people interested in such topics. When the team finds a group of people online discussing a related topic, they often add Kodak’s point of view and share a link to their online resources.

- Comparing products

People often compare products in forums and blogs, or wonder aloud in social channels which product they should buy. In these cases, Hoehn’s team can respond with third-party reviews and sample photos or videos from their products. The key is to provide information to help the consumer decide -- not to barge in and offer a discount.

- Complaining

The team often responds to social media complaints about a Kodak product with links to potential solutions. For example, the team will send a person complaining about a Kodak printer links to the printer’s manual and to customer service contact information.

"Some of the most powerful words you can say in social media right now are ‘How can I help you?’" says Hoehn.

- Correcting misinformation

The team also listens for misinformation surrounding its products and services. They are quick to dispel myths, such as a rumor that a product might be discontinued.

When the team finds these cases, they respond as quickly as possible. Using tools that monitor real-time conversations is a must for quick response.

Lesson #3. Don’t be intrusive

Knowing when to refrain from joining a conversation is just as important as knowing when to add input. Hoehn’s team avoids becoming "the Kodak stalker," he quips, by not reaching out in these situations:

- One-to-one conversations

A conversation between two people, such as on Facebook, is not a good place to add your company’s point of view. Doing so would be intrusive and could upset them. Places such as public forums and blog posts are much more appropriate places to add your commentary.

- Simple mentions

Comments such as "I bought a Kodak camera today" and "I’m loving my new Kodak printer" often do not require a response. At most, the team might write "That’s great. Thank you," in response, Hoehn says.

- Offering promotions

The team also avoids pitching promotions in social media, because "barging in with offers" does not fit with their strategy of listening and adding value, says Hoehn.

Lesson #4. Use real people behind the brand

The team strikes a balance between having social media participants speak for the brand and having them show their personality.

For example, their Chief Blogger’s Twitter profile features her picture above the Kodak logo. In the feed, she maintains a personal tone, but everything she says is with the knowledge that she is representing the company.

Showing real people behind your brand is important, Hoehn says:

- First, no one wants to talk to a logo. They want to speak with a person.

- Second, if someone is angry, they’re more likely to tone down their language when dealing with a person.

Lesson #5. Treat consumer and business customers differently

Although consumer purchases make up the majority of Kodak’s transactions, 60% of their revenue is attributable to businesses customers through Kodak’s commercial printing, high-speed ink jets, printing plates, and other products.

The team interacts differently with business customers. They strive to raise awareness and establish thought leadership by:
o Creating relevant content, such as whitepapers or blog posts
o Contributing to relevant conversations online
o Referring commentators to their educational content

"It’s deeper in the engagement in terms of the kind of information you share," Hoehn says. "It’s not about a Facebook wall post."

Lesson #6. Transparency is paramount

When engaging in social media, team members make it easy for consumers to identify who is speaking. This transparency engenders trust.

The company created a formal social media policy for all employees. They have taken transparency a step further by publicly releasing a social media tips book which contains this social media policy (see Useful Links below).

Their guidelines include:
o Uphold Kodak’s values
o Be transparent and be yourself
o Protect confidential information
o Avoid unsubstantiated product claims
o Be aware that linking to another site may imply endorsement of its content

Publishing this information shows consumers that Kodak has nothing to hide in the social space, says Hoehn. The document also features social media tips and industry information, which helps establish the team’s thought leadership in the category.

Useful links related to this article

Members Library -- Establish a Social Media Code of Conduct: 5 Actions to Protect Your Company’s Reputation

Members Library -- New Chart: How Effective is Social Media in Achieving Target Business Objectives?

Radian6: The tool Kodak uses to monitor social media

Google Alerts




Kodak’s social media tips and policy PDF

Kodak’s social media links


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