Philips CMO says social media is a “red hot mess” of brand communications

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 10.26.01Interesting to read that the CMO of Philips, Damien Cummings, thinks that social media is a "red hot mess" of communication for brands, according to this article. Philips is "moving away from using social as a platform for brand messaging because it's not as effective as many brands believe it to be", according to the same article. Its nice to have a third voice joining myself and Mark Ritson in trying to cut through the hype and hysteria about social media.

So, what is Damien's take on social media for brands?

1. Social is largely a customer service channel.

Damien suggests that the main use of social media is as a customer service channel, saying that "The reason you go there is you've broken something or you want to buy something, it's either customer service or sales". Customer service was one of the main uses I suggested Twitter had for brands back in June 2012, here (the other main use is as a platform for celebrity CEOs). This seems to be especially true for more technology-based brands, which makes sense as they are more complex and likely to go wrong, or be hard to use. Damien says whilst around 40 – 50% of what's on social is customer service, in telcos it's  c.75% and banking c. 80 – 100%.

A caveat here is that even in the domain of customer service, social is a niche channel, accounting for only 8% of customer service interaction, according to this report. Guess which channel is six times bigger, and by far the most important: talking to someone!

Action point: how useful is your social media as a customer service channel? Have you got the right resource in place to respond quickly and helpfully? We are all now incredibly demanding and expect answers in hours or even minutes, not days.

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2. Brands' social "value proposition" isn't clear.

Damien believes that “Very few brands have thought about the value proposition of their Facebook page," going on to say that "You're dealing with a graveyard of likes from people who have entered a competition and never gone back.”

Many everyday brands are just simply not interesting enough to create a constant stream of interesting, exciting and relevant content. And that's fine. Many brands are there to do a simple job (clean the toilet, feed my dog, make my lunch) and do it well. This is why consumer goods brands come rock bottom in DDB's league table of brands liked on Facebook (8%). The most-followed brands being in sexier categories like media (55%), charities (51%) and fashion (46%), as I posted on here.

Action point: have you really thought through the "value proposition" of your Facebook page? Why would anyone want to read it once, never mind read it on a daily basis? Would you be better off following Damien's suggestion and re-focusing on customer service?

3. Centralise social for economies of scale

Damien explains how Philips has developed a regional 'command centre'  bringing together five regional agencies alongside Philips marketers to develop content. This has helped "drive efficiencies in its marketing, including a 20% saving on costs and encouraging its agencies work together in better alignment."

Action point: do you have opportunities to better centralise and co-ordinate your social efforts, to both reduce cost and increase clarity of communication?

In conclusion, Damien's comments are a useful reminded to really think the value proposition of your brand's social media presence. Ask "What the hell is it really for?", looking at this from a consumer and customer perspective.