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Marketing Week Live 2014 special: Trust in a Social Media crisis says experts

26 June 2014 | 12:18 am

This week some of the CrowdControlHQ team paid a visit to Marketing Week Live (@MWL2014) at Olympia, London. The event draws in fantastic speakers and brands showcasing best practice, ideas and trends at the forefront of marketing communications. Attending these events is a critical tool in all marketing professional’s arsenal as it helps develop and flourish creativity and innovation, vital within the social media marketing landscape.

A key theme that featured heavily across the majority of the talks was the dominance of social media but more so, it’s evolution towards content marketing. With over 30% of UK marketers shifting their budget towards content marketing it is definitely an area that can’t be ignored by CEOs and board members who wish to move their businesses forwards.

The emphasis of content marketing via social channels encompasses an element of trust. Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce commented, “The social revolution is a trust revolution.” However this shift towards a fast moving, rapidly evolving dimension of social media marketing, which enables two-way conversation directly with your customers opens up a number of potential risks.

Despite being a last-minute stand-in for one of the ‘Stage Best Practice’ sessions, Jonathan Earle Head of Customer Strategy & Development at Telefonica O2 provided an extremely insightful discussion surrounding O2’s development of their use of social media.

Jonathan began the talk by commenting on O2’s decision to centralise their social media marketing team, so that they sat under the same marketing communications roof. With over 350 staff within their ‘marketing’ team, they had many different departments all wishing to promote various elements of the business through social media. Traditionally O2 used social media to promote its partnerships O2 Rugby, O2 Music etc., however they also had a need to provide customer service (receiving upwards of 5,000 enquiries a week).

o2 Love You

Questions quickly turned to O2’s response to their service going down in 2012.

In the first day of their service being down, O2 received over 120,000 complaints via social media (in just one day) despite having a plan covering worst-case scenarios there are some situations when you need to apply creativity to navigate the storm. O2 had social media brand guidelines in place, however Jonathan iterated that these were importantly a set of guidelines and not a definitive list of do’s and don’ts. In this scenario there was no time to escalate individual responses to various levels of management and receive official sign off from all and sundry for the appropriate response.

Jonathan emphasised that social media cannot be treated the same as the more traditional forms of marketing. As a result the social media team were up-scaled to deal with the demand and given the responsibility to reply appropriately to the enquiries they were receiving. This involved a significant level of trust from the senior board members. Having buy in and an understanding of social media right from the top is critical, Telefonica O2’s CEO Ronan Dunne (@ronandunneo2) is one of very few CEOs who responds personally via Twitter (opposed to having the comms department to manage it). This trusting approach of the experts (the social media team eat, breathe and sleep social media) definitely helped O2 navigate this PR nightmare. 02 Carrier Pigeon Response

Earle was quick to emphasise that although the social media team did indeed save the day with their light-hearted approach to a damaging situation, this approach cannot be applied in all responses to customers. The social media team did need grounding and reminding of the social media guidelines and normal company line.Despite receiving a wealth of complaints often including highly personal hateful remarks, colourful language, not helped by the input from public figures with large followings, O2 dealt with the situation magnificently. Matching their brand’s personality they applied a humorous tongue in cheek tone of voice to help calm the storm. Their response to this potentially business-endangering situation has been penned by marketing industry professionals as a masterclass in social media.

O2’s response to a high pressure situation, although potentially risky does highlight the importance of testing consumer responses and having the ability to adapt your strategy and approach at moment’s notice. An approach that requires a great level of trust from the senior management team, but if delivered successfully can deliver the greatest results.

Keeping up with the changing landscape of social media, Earle commented that O2 is now moving towards a content marketing approach (“be more dog” is only the beginning, watch this space…).

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform helping major brands in times of crisis.