An Interview with David Dubois, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Marketing
We recently sat down with marketing and social media expert David Dubois, Assistant Professor of Marketing at INSEAD. Through this Q&A, David walked us through how social media managers can build true social media engagement through a killer content strategy:
What is the biggest mistake you see brands making on social media?
One of the key differences between social medias and other medias such as TV or print is that social media platforms have emerged and developed around people’s relationships. That is, people primarily engage through social media to develop and nurture personal (e.g., Facebook) or professional (e.g., LinkedIn) networks. As a result, adopting a purely “push” approach (e.g., to promote products through ads and encourage consumption through promotions) is a big mistake made by many brands. Rather, brands should engage in social media to create and nurture relationships with their customers and other stakesholders. A “pull” approach through which brands listen to their customers and help them connect at a personal level is much more effective.
What type of content should social media managers create?
As much as possible, social media managers should create interactive, dynamic and engaging content that helps brands reach their goal of creating sustained relationships. The type of medium matters of course: videos and pictures are much more relatable than pure text. Another important aspect of content creation is the extent to which it mixes online and offline. To illustrate, consider Oreos’ response to a power outage during the 2013 Super Bowl: in less than 4 minutes, the social media team had created a unique execution ready to be tweeted (“You can still Dunk in the Dark”). A final key aspect of content creation is that social media managers should align message content with their goals. For instance, if the goal is to create a viral message, paying attention to the amount and type of emotions in the message is of key importance, as research suggests emotionality is a key driver of people’s likelihood to pass on a message to friends or relatives.
How should social media managers create content?
There is no magic formula for good content creation. But quite often, social media managers spend a lot of time and effort searching for inspiration outside their company and ignore potential sources for great content within companies. Yet, opening the door of one’s factories or explaining the production process of one’s products can be a great way to establish initial relationships with customers. A great example of how managers can produce content “from the inside” comes from Blendtec, a small U.S.-based producer of blenders. Noticing that the company engineers would regularly blend blocks of woods to test the blender’s robustness, the marketing team produced videos featuring the CEO blending objects as diverse as gold balls, light bulbs, Nike shoes or even a mini Justin Bieber. This initiated a durable buzz around the videos, with the initial videos scoring 6 million views in the first week.
Should content creation be outsourced?
There are billions of conversations and messages about brands everyday on social media platforms. As a result, having perfect execution and high quality is important to make sure consumers will enjoy seeing the message, and maximize the chances they will pass it to their friends and relatives. Having said that, companies can choose to produce content in-house if they have the capabilities to produce top-notch content, or opt to outsource if they think it will be better executed elsewhere.
How can you be sure your content is shared and distributed?
As Jonathan Perelman of BuzzFeed puts it, “content is King but distribution is Queen and she wears the pants” and allocating a portion of a social media budget to distribution is a must. Some companies such as Intel require at least 60 percent of the campaign budget for any campaign to be dedicated to distribution but there is no “right number”: the proportion of resources allocated to creation and distribution might vary by industry and country.
What kind of resources should be allocated to content creation and dissemination?
The most successful social media campaigns are often transversal, and actively involve the C-suite. For instance, Maersk Line’s social media strategy leveraged both internal and external assets of the company. As a result, social media permeates many aspects of the company, from employees’ regular posts on various platforms about their activities at Maersk Line to the mosaic of #maersk photos hanging in Maersk Line CEO Søren Skou’s office. In addition, some companies such as Intel do a great job at mobilizing internal resources and collaborators to promote content about the brand: after all, are there any better spokespeople out there to promote Intel’s products and values than Intel’s collaborators themselves? In the future, companies that will have an edge in social media will be those who know how to leverage external and internal resources and integrate them in their social media strategy.
About David Dubois
David Dubois is Assistant Professor of Marketing at INSEAD Business School. David holds a PhD in Marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Prior to joining INSEAD, he was a faculty member at HEC Paris, and has experience in the advertising industry.