Originally posted on Forbes.com.
In this Brand Innovator Spotlight, Brett Groom, VP Content Activation at ConAgra Foods shares how the CPG doubled down on Facebook for their Slim Jim brand and discusses how brands should approach the social network.
Brandon Gutman: What made the Slim Jim brand double down on Facebook?
Brett Groom: The key for us was witnessing the natural enthusiasm and passion from folks interacting on what initially began as a naturally occurring (non company supported) Facebook presence. So when we stepped back and linked this to our target’s natural inclination to use the social space and our commitment to invest over a longer timeframe…we felt it was a great place to start. Another factor is that Slim Jim is a brand with attitude…so we can throw things out there and mix it up a bit – maybe make some mistakes but also try new stuff. Not only does that help us get better feedback it also reinforces the attitude that Slim Jim has as a brand, so it is sort of a virtuous cycle.
Brandon Gutman: So many brands are still only dabbling in Facebook. How are you activating a long-term strategy?
Brett Groom: The first step was letting our people – internally and externally at our agency partners – know we had committed resources to try and do it right. This was not intended to be a quick in and out flavor of the month. We appointed a fully dedicated community manager to lead the interaction (we even submitted them to a Slim Jim Guy Aptitude Test to make sure they really understood our target). Then we provided them with some strong support and used the tools and efforts of the broader social and brand teams to both map out the strategic vision…and sweat the nuts and bolts tactics. We knew that a plan in this space has to be nimble and evolve; therefore, our strategy and vision would be long term but how we executed has and will continue to change – a clear “true north” but the roads we take to it will vary.
Brandon Gutman: How are you measuring success?
Brett Groom: Clearly one of the toughest jobs is tying this directly back to sales – doubly so given we sell through our retailer partners. So while we look at the overall impact and effectiveness of our social investment through marketing mix models that are longer term in nature. We also look at a host of social/engagement measures. Some are industry recognized tools and some are internal analysis. I would be lying if we said we have it figured out – but we have seen some very impressive gains in what we view as the intensity and level of engagement among our base since we have actively managed our presence. So we know the growth of the community and the higher engagement levels which we can apply towards activating in events/experiential, mobile and other promotions to drive more specific sales initiatives.
Brandon Gutman: Please point out a specific success.
Brett Groom: Interestingly, some of the best success is the insight side of social. While it is exciting to get your message out and engage your fans around the brand, the ability to listen and learn from your fans is equally important. They are spending the time to engage with you, and they will be better brand ambassadors (which is really what they are in the social sphere for us) if they feel we are listening to them – and engaging with them. Talking at them is not the right approach. Actually one of the early things we learned was around new products – the one I can talk about is a spicier stick – and so we are launching Slim Jim DARE and we used this group to validate the concept, help with naming and to seed excitement as we launch. And there are more flavors, forms and varieties to follow. We are also doing this for another one of our brands and using a combination of a closed social research community and traditional research to help flesh out and drive new product innovation for one of our other categories.
Brandon Gutman: What is your advice to brands that are ready to do more than dabble?
Brett Groom: Pick the right brand – from the targeting, to the personality, to how you see this adding value for you and your consumer over time. Just being there is not a strategy…just trumpeting the brand tagline is not a strategy…and occasionally making a post – is not a strategy. Be purposeful but willing to adapt and change. Also don’t forget it is two way. You may find, as we did, that what you hear and learn is at least as valuable as using it as a messaging platform.
Disclosure: ConAgra is an Edelman client.