Coke’s Social Media Focus: Virtuous or Meddling?
Can social media spring-cleaning be a good thing? Coca-Cola in the UK, it is reported, is slashing the number of official websites for its brands in order to streamline consumers’ social media experience. This raises the questions: Can too much online presence for a brand make for a clunky and confusing user experience? And, is it ever okay for a brand to decide where its fans should hang out online?
Coke of course is not the first brand to consider the less-is-more approach to fan outreach and community management. Skittles launched a shortlived one-site-fits-all strategy last year. But brand managers would obviously prefer to keep as much of the conversation under one tent rather than have to scan the lengths of the social stratosphere each day to measure the latest uptick or downturn in public sentiment. As ReputationOnline puts it:
…larger companies have a mass of campaign and microsites for each brand on top of corporate sites. Then when you throw social media activity into the mix, as well as profiles for each sub-brand or sections of the company, things start to feel complicated.
A good example of a company trying to direct brand fans to a few communities is ASOS, the social media-savvy UK clothing retailer, which has built its ASOS Life into the largest of its communities, even though it still manages a successful Facebook page and keeps its Bebo/MySpace/YouTube/Twitter feeds humming along with updates too. The ASOS approach too though has been open to question. Is it favouring ASOS Life over the other communities to “regain ownership of the customer conversation,” as Econsultancy reported a year ago? Interestingly, the first one to respond to the Econsultancy analysis was ASOS itself, essentially saying, “Hey, we don’t tell our customers were they can and can’t talk online!”
Still, the merits of centralizing all conversation to a single source is mighty tempting, and for those brand pioneers out there thinking of making the switch we must remind them of last year’s Skittles controversy. Here’s how that worked: when anyone went to Skittles.com they were given the Twitter page with “skittles” in the search term with a small overlay connecting to all of Skittles’ social media channels. Despite experiencing a huge jump in channel views, Skittles upset some fans this way. One said, “So, whats my take on this? I feel cheated. That’s right, I am not a Skittles fanboy!” And Twitter didn’t forgive either:
Granted, however, Coca-Cola’s revamp of its brand’s internet experience falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. It’s not creating a social network of its own, but it’s also not leaving its brand fully in the hands of Facebook and Twitter. It is centralizing its press-social media hub to a single company controlled website, so consumers on social networks can be directed back to one managed website then find links to other social media channels and promotional offers.
This reminds us of Kodak’s corporate press website. It has all its social media channels conveniently listed in one place for anyone curious. But can it work for Coke, or will it be seen as corporate intervention in the sharing economy?