Thoughts on Brand Republic’s Social Brands conference

SocialBrandsLast Friday, the team from Precise attended Brand Republic’s Social Brands conference in London.

The conference was packed with marketers from across a range of business, and a range of marketing disciplines, but the event was focused on the lessons to be learned and the opportunities presented to brands by social media.

Much of the conversation identified uses for social media outside the sphere of public relations, though there was discussion about how communications professionals could address the opportunities presented by social, too.

Here are a few of themes that we noticed through the day, that were prevalent in more than one of the excellent presentations and key note speeches.

Content curation over content creation

Lego’s Lars Silberbauer provided an overview of how Lego is using two of its own online sites – Rebrick and Cuusoo – to provide users with a platform to share photos of their own Lego creations.

Whilst few brands are so intrinsically connected to creativity and fun as Lego is, it was the stand-out example of many cited by brands as diverse as Carlsberg, First Capital Connect and Nokia, of encouraging and empowering an enthusiastic community to create and share content on behalf of brands they want to engage with.

Increasingly, for social media and community managers, the skill sets needed may be as much about selecting, curating and promoting the best of user or externally generated content for wider use as it is about creating it.

Social Media is increasingly important for customer service professionals

According to Rob Skinner, head of PR and social media at PayPal, over 60% of consumers have turned to social media to complain about a brand in the last year.

O2 were cited throughout the day as the “gold standard” of companies offering customer service via Twitter, but there were other great examples cited throughout the day, including First Capital Connect and giffgaff.

Social media offers a unique channel for customer service teams, and it is important that this activity is tracked and measured ongoing, to help benchmark performance.

Social media offers brands unique consumer insight opportunities

Chiltern Railways Nicola Clark provided an excellent example of how social media can be used to better understand your customers and their needs.

She detailed how her team use social media as a way of measuring consumer sentiment, and as a source of product development. In response to consumer feedback garnered from social media, Chiltern Railways provided Wi-Fi to its customers.

For forward thinking companies, the opportunity to use social media research for a better understanding of markets, consumers or categories is an exciting one.

Nokia’s Craig Hepburn cited examples of projects they had undertaken internally where his team had used analysts to help them gain insight into consumer trends from social media.

At Precise, too, our market research-trained Brand Insight analysts undertake similar work for clients, and we fully expect this area of the business to grow significantly in 2013 and beyond.

Tools alone are not up to the job

A theme repeated throughout the day was that, whilst the multiplicity of social media monitoring tools available are helpful to provide “listening” services for corporates, they are weak at offering genuine insight. Indeed, in some instances they only contribute to more “noise” within an organisation.

Sainsbury’s digital media manager Thomas Knorpp was asked what tools he used to measure sentiment, and he replied “human beings”.

GSK’s Kai Gait discussed how the problems of irony and sarcasm presented to automated sentiment analysis can be increased when you have to track social media on a global scale, in multiple languages and across numerous time zones.

Social media offers a great platform for good, old fashioned, PR opportunism.

In November 2001, Manchester United’s goal keeper Fabian Barthez had what was described as a “calamitous performance” in a football match against Arsenal, letting the ball slip through his fingers, and leading to the team losing 3-1 in one of the season’s most high-profile games.

Following his “butter fingers” performance, the next day Tesco generated front page national news coverage saying that they wanted him to front a national TV campaign for own-branded butter.

In 2013, as Knorpp said, “Twitter is the front page of the Internet”. Accordingly, when Chelsea’s Eden Hazard kicked a ball boy during a match, Specsavers tweeted this picture within hours of the match, which became a viral hit.


The platform used may be different, but the opportunity is there for smart, witty and topical PR to reach a large audience, quickly.

The most frequently cited example of this during the day was the Oreo cookies Super Bowl meme. During a power blackout at the recent Super Bowl, Oreo cookies managed to produce and tweet the following picture in less than an hour, saying “you can still dunk in the dark“.

Good, old-fashioned PR opportunities abound for the brave and the fleet of foot.

Further reading

There were also numerous books citied throughout the day which could form follow-up reading material on the event. We took note of as many of them as we could, and here they are:

Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital by Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander
Culture Shock: A Handbook For 21st Century Business by Will McInnes
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt
Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts by Olivier Blanchard
Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter

We hope you find this summary useful. It’s worth looking up the tweets from the day on the #SocialBrands hashtag here.