Last week the Social Media Strategies Summit landed in Chicago, taking place over a three-day period at the Union League Club. Day one consisted of hands-on workshops, while day two began the general summit. The conference boasted speakers from Kraft Heinz Company, U.S. Bank, The Walt-Disney Company, and Coca-Cola to TOMS, Nestle Waters US, and Conagra Brands.

Related: Five social media trends that will impact users in 2017.

Learn more about DEG’s Social Media capabilities

Summit kickoff was then followed by keynotes from GE Digital and Symantec, before attendees headed to breakout sessions in social strategy, development, content creation and storytelling, and video marketing and ROI. The first day concluded with keynotes from Firebrand Group on the future outlook of organic and paid media, followed by Purematter discussing Shareology: How Sharing Powers the Human Economy.

The third and final day of the summit began with Coca-Cola sharing about its College Ambassador program, followed by Miller Lite (accompanied by agency partner DigitalLBi) in a panel discussing live social events and the Miller Lite Summer Kick Back program. Attendees then attended breakout sessions in paid media strategies, social data & analytics, and social media channel optimization. Finally, the conference concluded with a keynote from TCI regarding How to Be a Happy Marketer.

Throughout the conference, keynotes and breakout sessions focused on trends in social media from livestreaming and Snapchat and Instagram stories to justifying ROI and taking visual-first approaches. The presentations were largely case studies and overviews of a specific campaign that worked for a specific brand with a specific task or goal, giving attendees little to take back with them and apply to their own work.

Social listening played a key role in all of the campaigns and case studies presented at SMSS.

As the first day concluded, however, a trend began to occur that was not the topic or title of any of the presentations. Social listening was playing a key role in all of the campaigns and case studies presented. Although not the focus, it was always there: social customer care, real-time marketing, influencer marketing, and content strategy were just a few of the topics being driven by social listening. Take a look at some of the ways social listening is fueling the strategies behind some of the biggest brands in the country.

The Five F’s that Generate ROI – Andy Wang, GE Digital

Dying to know the five f’s that generate ROI? Here they are:

  1. Fuel
  2. Forum
  3. FOMO
  4. Focus
  5. Facts

In discussing focus, where focus is engagement, Wang shared that listening is a key component to social selling for GE, one of the ways it is justifying its ROI. At the end of the day, Wang shares, GE is financial focused, and the ultimate goal is generating revenue. In looking at the funnel, what drives that from social is leads. Additionally, GE uses listening to drive content creation. By understanding what types of content resonate well and testing engagement on various platforms, the brand takes learnings back to its teams to inform future content production.

Achieve your Social Customer Service Dreams: How to Provide a Top-Notch Digital Customer Experience –Tim Lopez, Symantec

One of the most obvious applications of social listening is in social customer care.

Possibly one of the most obvious applications of social listening is in social customer care. DEG has helped numerous clients apply this technology to identify industry trends, as well as listen to what customers had to say about them. In Symantec’s case, Tim Lopez was around before it was providing any type of support through social channels. He identified that this was a problem, and that numerous customers on Twitter needed help through native searches in the Twitter platform. Tim then launched a social channel that was then tied to their forums. He realized over time that the solutions he was providing weren’t working: Customers wanted to be helped in the channel in which they reached out. They didn’t want to be passed off.

This was the early stages of what is now the @NortonSupport Twitter handle, and a full-fledged Social customer care team that provides customer service in social, leveraging social listening, in 13 languages with a three-minute response time. Now using multiple tools, the team listens for opportunities in addition to its direct mentions. Lopez loves those opportunities most because those are the customers who don’t expect a response or to be helped.

Live Social Events: How the Heck Do You Actually Pull These Off? – A MillerLite and DigitasLBi Panel

Miller Lite created a campaign rooted in its customers that was powered 100 percent by social listening.

One of the best campaign applications of social listening presented at the summit was by Miller Lite and DigitasLBi regarding their Summer Kick Back campaign that was powered 100 percent by social listening. The discussion was much less about what it professed — live social events — and more about activating their summer campaign in 2016. Miller Lite enlitened us (see what I did there?) that the largest chunk of beer sales occur in the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Knowing this was the key timeframe for a campaign opportunity, DigitasLBi and Miller Lite worked together to create an idea that was rooted in their customers. They first took a look at the series of events that Miller Lite sponsored during the key timeframe, and in conjunction with social listening, identified common themes where the brand could insert itself.

Some of the opportunities they identified? It’s too hot at Bonneroo, and summer = beach = sunburn. Here are the solutions they provided:

How Conagra is Putting ROI Back into Real-Time Marketing – Emily Peterson (Golin) and Lanie Friedman (Conagra)

The best, most applicable presentation I attended in the breakout sessions goes to Emily Peterson of Golin and Lanie Friedman of Conagra who presented the real-time marketing strategy (fueled by social listening) that Golin has put into place for Conagra brands. Conagra is the parent company of several brands that you would recognize, such as Marie Callender’s, Hunt’s, SlimJim, Ro*tel, Reddiwip, Orville Redenbacher’s, and Peter Pan.

Peterson worked closely with the team at Conagra to define a strategy that focuses on owned vs. earned media. They have been able to justify ROI on their program through the earned media they have generated, which has generated a cost-savings when measuring what those placements would have cost to generate the metrics returned, such as impressions and engagements. Here’s a great example that Peterson and Friedman discussed during the session.

For the brand Marie Callender’s, they have social listening in place to listen for brand-relevant conversations, as well as “industry” conversations (aka, conversations about pie). They identified a tweet from an editor from Cosmopolitan that was purely and simply about key lime pie. Then another editor chimed in. Then Marie Callender’s responded.

The teams collaborated and went through their pre-defined approval process to execute a food drop. The editors took a photo and shared to Twitter, generating a fair number of impressions.

However, what really boosted the success was when the Twitter and Instagram channels for Cosmopolitan used this food drop as an opportunity to created owned media for its channels, which in turn created earned media for Conagra and Marie Callender’s. The end result? A hefty 1.5 million impressions.

If you’re not incorporating social listening, you’re missing opportunities that are readily accessible.

This is just one example of how Golin and Conagra work together using real-time marketing. In just one year, they pursued 712 opportunities, which resulted in nearly 70 million impressions, 2.8 million total engagements, 45 repeat engagements, and a 50-percent response rate (compared to three percent in social and 21 percent in email, on average).

There were several presentations I wasn’t able to attend that I would have loved to sit in on, but at the end of the day, my key takeaway was clear: Social listening is a key component to your social strategy, and if you’re not incorporating it now, you’re missing opportunities that are readily accessible.

Your customers are talking, are you listening?

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