Profile: Jeremy Gilley

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‘Brands need to earn right to sell on social’

Companies need to “earn the right to sell on social” by trusting their customers to become “super fans” according to brands including Barclaycard, HP and TomTom.

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The advice was dispensed at social media support firm Lithium’s Linc 2013 conference in San Francisco where the brands shared insights gained from implementing their social media strategies.

Paul Wilmore, managing director of Barclaycard, Ring – the US arm of its British namesake that positions itself as a “disruptive” force in the US financial services market – said brands need to be patient and trust their social communities.

Barclaycard US launched its Ring credit card in the US last year, positioning it as a customer-focused alternative to rival products, primarily through its online community forums.

Through these forums Ring cardholders can shape potential new product launches, choose which charities Barclaycard will donate funds to as part of its “Giveback” scheme (see video).   

Source: Barclaycard US

“Trust in banks is at an all time low, people trust their friends and family way more than their banks… We [brands] need to known how to become vulnerable [in our social activity],” Wilmore told attendees.   

“The acquisition of customers [via its online communities] has gone a little slower than we initially thought [Barclaycard marks its first anniversary this month.

Speaking with Marketing Week, Wilmore also said the brand had to harness its online community and position itself as an open company to enter in the market – this included publishing its profit and loss numbers on its website.

“In the US, we are a challenger brand and to disrupt things in the market, you have to prepared to be bold… you have to earn the right to sell on social,” he said adding that Barclaycard is now the ninth-biggest credit card issuer in the US.   

During a breakaway session as the event, HP and TomTom explained that identifying “super fans” [i.e. prolific bloggers writing about its products] helped out with new product launches and boost SEO.

Jason Duncan, HP, manager of customer support forums, told attendees demoing its new products to “super fans” now played a key role in its product launches.   

Meanwhile, Kenneth Refsgaard, manager of online support at TomTom, said the launch of its own online communities forum also helped save on customer call centre costs.  

“So far it’s been pretty easy to prove the value of engaging with these audiences… the number of calls to our support centres went down,” he told Marketing Week.

“20 per cent of our community said that it saved them a call to our support centres.”

Refsgaard also says that the constant flow of new content on its site helped improve its SEO rankings.

“Google loves fresh content, now if you search for anything about TomTom our forums are going to be one of the first things that you see,” he added.  

Readers' comments (1)

  • Good article - and it shows a maturing attitude towards the way brands need to interact with social communities (whether online or physical communities.) One of lessons many brands seem to miss is knowing what the limits are. Just because you're in my social space does not mean you can "own" the things I hold dear. Partaking in social space requires tact, and time. If you invited me to your house, you'd expect me to abide by your rules - yet, metaphorically, some brands walk in with muddy shoes, light up a cigar, drop the baby and pocket the cutlery. Paul Wilmore shows respect for his community - and doesn't pick up the baby until we trust him. Listening to those quiet social signals takes skill.

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