SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 | PDF | Subscribe | Home

Social Spaces
What a long, strange trip it's going to be.

A roundtable on social media and shpoping featuring Dennis Maloney of Domino's Pizza, David Sommer of Facebook, Kevin Biondi of Staples and Tim Austin of TPN.

What is the largest lesson you’ve learned about social media?

Dennis Maloney: The biggest thing we’ve learned is that you cannot bucket social media into one department. Social media needs to be interconnected between public relations, communications, marketing and customer service. That is a huge mental leap for a lot of people. I know it was for Domino’s.

The next thing is that we should never underestimate how engaged our consumers really are. We’ve done projects in the last year where we’ve asked consumers to send us pictures of their pizza and we’ve gotten more than 25,000 responses in an incredibly short period of time. When your customers are engaged, they are really engaged. And that has value.

David Sommer: Social is more than just another media outlet; it is actually a shift in how people find content, products and answers. The ’90s was all about people sitting home, surfing the web and browsing different portals. The 2000s was much more about searching, because we discovered great tools for that.

Now, it’s much more about discovery through our friends, which really is how it’s always been. When we have a question, we’ve always asked our friends about it. That was really a “lightbulb” moment for me about social media. For example, the other night I went to Walmart’s local site because I was researching a water slide for my son and there was a button on it that said “ask your friends about it.”

So, I clicked the button, posted it to my Facebook page and wrote: Do you think my son would like this? Has anybody tried it yet? And within eight hours I had 10 responses. So, that’s what I mean when I say that social media is much more than just a media outlet; it’s about sharing new things through your friends.

Kevin Biondi: One of the most important lessons is that it’s really a channel with two-way dialogue. It’s not just about Staples pushing our message out there, but also about listening to what customers are saying, or what the community as a whole is saying, and keeping track of that pulse.

We try to make sure that we’re putting out relevant content, and not just shooting out deals. We’re putting out good messages to keep things both entertaining and also on-point with what our brand stands for.

Social media requires so much interaction between different parts of the business. It requires different messages. On the one hand it’s about servicing the customers while on the other hand it’s about providing insights about products. It’s also about putting out our overall marketing message. With social media, you never know what you’re going to get.

Tim Austin: The biggest lesson is to learn by doing. You can read all you want about social media, but it’s really hard to understand unless you’re using it and playing around with it.

It can be fairly cost effective to jump in and play around with it and do something with an existing campaign or a campaign that’s coming up. Just make sure that you can measure what you do because that’s how you get better each time.

The beauty of social media is that it’s not being pushed on you. It’s really about friends or trusted advisors that are giving you this information. It’s up to you whether you want to carry through with it. It’s not so much that it’s being pushed at you as it is making it easier for you to access what you’re looking for.

How big is the potential to integrate social media with shopping?

Maloney: You would be surprised how many customers “shop” at Domino’s from a retail standpoint, online. We are a surprisingly large e-commerce platform. We rank among the top e-commerce platforms in the country. Many folks are, in fact, shopping our brand.

So, in that context, and because we’re committed to having a very real and transparent conversation with our consumers, social media has a huge amount of potential for us to strengthen that relationship with our consumers. And it has huge potential to convert those relationships into real dollars.

We recently crossed over to three million fans on Facebook. That’s a really potent way for us to talk with our consumers on a more than daily basis. But that conversation isn’t just happening on Facebook; it is happening on Twitter and on every street corner in every town all across the United States. Every franchisee, every general manager — every time a driver delivers to a consumer — that conversation is going on. Social media is just another way for us to extend it.

Sommer: The potential is huge because people trust their friends more than any other kind of recommendation. For example, Facebook ads have what we call “social context.” Let’s say it’s a Samsung ad and it shows the names of your friends who have “liked” the ad. Those ads are four times more likely to drive purchases. Just the simple fact that your friends are associated with the brand makes it much stronger than a traditional brand advertisement.

This whole idea of bringing your friends with you via your mobile device while you’re shopping is potentially very powerful. When you see your friends have already tried a product, there’s an emotional connection.

There could also be some sort of group benefit, where you get a special deal if you share it with other friends who get the deal,
as well.

You can go to Amazon right now and use a Facebook Social Plug-in that includes all of your friends’ birthdays in a special store along with the items they’d like based on interests pulled from Facebook Graph API. I’m not saying you’d want to do that for 900 friends, but it’s a great example of the possibilities.

Biondi: The potential of social media is big, although it’s still too early to tell exactly how big. It touches so many different things. When you look at it in terms of ratings and reviews, it’s about enhancing the shopping experience. It’s not just about what professionals are saying or what a brand is saying. It’s allowing customers to see what other people are recommending.

When you look at some of the capabilities that you have with Facebook and Twitter, where people are now consulting with their friends, that’s another level
of potential to consider. And search engines are evolving too — both Bing and Google continue to integrate social media into their results with Google+1 and Bing’s social search. This evolution will surely impact the way people shop.

Austin: Groupon is the fastest growing company of all time and it is fusing shopping with the social world, so clearly the potential is big. Groupon is creating a sense of urgency, where people are using it on a daily basis because they don’t want to miss out on anything. You can essentially create the excitement of a Black Friday every day if you want to. But that’s really just a spike and it’s not sustainable.

Smartphones add to the immediate gratification and social aspects of shopping, but we have only scratched the surface on what we can do to communicate with shoppers in a meaningful way via mobile. Social media outlets are adding new features every day, however two-thirds of users don’t touch more than the basic features. It is just going to take a little while for shoppers to get used to communicating through this new medium and all of its avenues.

Long-term, the potential is to develop CRM, post-purchase relationships with shoppers or just being there with shoppers along their path-to-purchase. That’s not as hard-hitting as these big Groupon deals, but if you make the shopping engagement easier, they’re going to go back to you, especially if you can give them relevant information and added value, post sale.

What is the greatest opportunity to monetize social media?

Maloney: Everybody tries to put some dollar value on their social- media efforts, and yet businesses, going back to the beginning of time, always understood that there is true value in having a strong relationship with their customers.

That said, there are definitely ways to value social media. There’s media value associated with having a strong social-media program. I love the ability to have an on-going conversation at very low cost with three million-plus consumers on a daily basis. That’s huge.

The question of where it goes is a really interesting one. People are going to be learning how to monetize social media and Domino’s is really well positioned to take advantage of that because we are so focused on that relationship with our consumers.

Sommer: People appreciate the value that Facebook provides in their life but sometimes they don’t understand our business model per se. There really are elements of paid, owned and earned media on Facebook. The unique thing about Facebook is that if you find something that’s truly compelling, you’ve got a global platform with 750 million users who may hear about it from their friends.

Gillette did something with Derek Jeter when he got his 3,000th hit, where fans could go to and write a congratulatory note. Gillette set up a huge greeting card for Jeter at Grand Central Station that displayed all these notes. For people who want to interact with the Gillette brand and for Gillette, which wants to make a deeper connection between that brand and Derek Jeter, it was a nice way for people to share an experience.

Biondi: When we look at monetization, typically it’s about driving sales. But before you can drive sales you have to have a connection with your customer. Social media allows you to have that connection as well as the ability to listen to what customers are saying. It really paints that picture for us so that we can have a deeper relationship.

One of the interesting things about social media is this new term, “earned media,” that’s come out across the industry. It’s not just about buying some ads and driving sales. It’s really about finding people who can actually help influence and drive your brand. It’s also about finding like-minded people who would fit into your customer base. There are definitely a lot of opportunities to monetize social media.

Austin: The opportunity is to use social media to simplify the shopping experience. Procter & Gamble has its store online right now. This started as a sampling program for Pampers, where they sold a thousand diaper samples in an hour.

Burt’s Bees has a cool e-commerce part of their Facebook page where you can shop without leaving Facebook. It’s awesome. So, having e-com embedded within social media is great. Dell did a great job selling discontinued items on Twitter. They made millions off of that.

But there’s more to interaction with consumers and shoppers than just social. There’s search as well as value-added conversations we can have with people on e-commerce sites that have retail locations. Being able to move people between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail locations is a really good opportunity.

How does the promise of social media compare to its reality for marketers?

Maloney: The first question you have to ask is, what is that promise?

For Domino’s, we’re looking at creating a channel for communicating with our customers efficiently. Does that channel allow us to have a real relationship with those consumers that eventually drives value back to the brand and the company? From that perspective, I would say that social media is already delivering on that promise.

Sommer: The promise starts with the idea that on Facebook you use your real identity. Then there is the power of real connections and sharing. If I’m explaining this to somebody who has never heard of Facebook (like my grandmother who is 90 years old and says to me “What’s this book of faces that you’re working on? What do they do?”) I say that it’s a place online where people use their real identities, connect with other people and brands who are using their real identities, and share stuff with them.

That is not going to change, but it could play out in a million different ways. There are still people who flip on the television, go to the guide and waste a whole half hour trying to find what they are going to watch. The half hour ends and then they have to start over.

What if the first thing you flipped on instead highlighted the shows you like best or that your daughter recommended for you? Not only that, but she set your DVR to record it for you. It’s this whole idea of social connections that’s the real promise and we’re just now at the beginning.

When we talk about the potential, a term we’re using a lot now is “social by design.” If you were starting your company now, how would you build it social by design? What would you do differently?

We think those companies — companies like Spotify, for example — are going to be very, very successful. Spotify is premised on the idea that I like to find out about music from my friends. So, if my friends create a playlist, I want to be able to hear it for free. And they can do the same with me. It’s great and I think it’s going to be huge.

Biondi: More and more people are interacting with social media, whether it’s through the traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or getting deeper into chat rooms or blogs. It’s definitely happening, and that’s where our customers are. Social media has lived up to its promise from that perspective.

From a sales perspective, it’s still a little too early to tell. But we expect that to grow as social media evolves and as people become more and more comfortable with it. The other factor is the growth of mobile devices. Mobile is exploding, which gives people access to social media more prevalently in their day-to-day life.

Austin: It’s like the Wild West in the social media world right now. When I was at SXSW in March, I couldn’t walk 50 feet without running into another QR code or the greatest new thing social media had to offer.

Most just aggregate or filter your information differently, focusing on one part of your life or another. In fact, some media are becoming so niche that there is nothing social about them. Sure, you have a select group you share with, but what about learning new things from outside influences so that you have more to share?

A friend told me, “You don’t just fish where the fish are; you fish where they are biting.” Just because Facebook and Twitter have huge numbers doesn’t mean everyone wants to interact with your brand — or any other, for that matter. Find the social media outlet that is right for you and your target, and use it in conjunction with your other trusted media outlets, instead of throwing all of your eggs in one basket with everyone else.

Who has done the best job with social media and shopping?

Maloney: I’m interested in some of the large players that are going all out to succeed in this space. Coca-Cola is a huge, monstrous brand, and yet they continue to be incredibly innovative in this space. Recently, they partnered with their customers and their Facebook fans to co-create a song with Maroon 5 through social media.

Here’s a brand that’s been connected with music for decades and they’ve spun this into a user-generated play with one of the biggest bands in the country. That is a really fascinating way to engage your consumers. Their happiness machine, which melds a vending machine with a human being into a viral video, is really cool.

Intel’s “Museum of Me” is a great way to highlight the power of “Intel Inside” and its ability to aggregate data. You visit a website that aggregates all of your social media activities and constructs a curated show about you. That got huge play within my own social-media circle.

Sommer: American Express did something very cool with “Small Business Saturday.” With social efforts, you have to first think about why people would care enough to share something. American Express realized that a lot of their customers, which are small retail stores, were hurting between Black Friday and Cyber Monday because the major national retailers were getting all the attention.

So, AmEx created a holiday for them between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and called it Small Business Saturday. They put substantial media around it, and drove traffic into those small stores by giving anyone who registers $25 dollars off if they purchase $25 dollars or more in those stores. This drove a ton of foot traffic and increased American Express card usage.

If you go to any of Procter & Gamble’s major brand pages, you’ll see that they are creating a very strong conversation that leverages paid, owned and earned. For Secret, and its “Mean Stinks” campaign, P&G recognized that they needed to drive sales but they are also finding ways to bring together paid, owned and earned and have it be a regular part of their marketing communications to consumers.

Biondi: Starbucks has done a great job and it’s reflected in their following, but also in the conversations that are happening about their brand. Dell has done a great job, especially on the customer-service side.

The thing that’s surprised me, and that I’m excited about, is seeing the social-media activity among small businesses.

They’ve really embraced social media and I’m seeing more and more of them use it to drive their business. They are using “earned media” to find customers and get their name out there. Small businesses are playing a great role in the social-media space.

Austin: In terms of a purely digital social-shopping experience, I think Amazon gets it right. They created a social-shopping experience with simple tools and features on their website that drive purchases.

Walmart has done a great job over the last few years — from better ways to engage moms with their Eleven Moms blog experiment, to their great use of social video with their YouTube channel.

Zappos does a great job of using Facebook and Twitter to bring their brand persona to life and maintain a relevant dialogue with their customers. Fifteen years ago, people would talk about e-commerce and say that items like shoes would never sell online — and now here is Zappos doing over $1 billion a year.

A large part of their growth and differentiation is how they’ve effectively leveraged social media to build and evolve their brand.



DENNIS MALONEY is vp of multi-media marketing for Domino’s Pizza, leading all digital marketing activities. Previously, he launched P&G’s and managed Coca-Cola’s global e-commerce business.

DAVID SOMMER is client partner, global marketing solutions for Facebook, working with top brands to build strategies that are social by design with a primary focus on packaged goods, retail and shopper marketing.

KEVIN BIONDI is director of digital and technology marketing at Staples, leading digital media and analytics. Previously, he held digital and product marketing positions at Citibank and J.P. Morgan Chase.

TIM AUSTIN is chief creative officer of TPN, developing retail campaigns for brands including Bank of America, Frito-Lay, Miller, Hershey’s, ESPN and 7-Eleven.

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 | PDF | Subscribe | Home