Brands

Sony’s Director of Social Media Seeks Not Followers But ‘Loyalists’ [INTERVIEW]

It took Sony less than a year to quintuple its Facebook fan base. Writers logging the company’s Facebook following as recently as December 2011 measured its fan volume at about 666,000. Now, as of July 2012, Sony enjoys more than 3.2 million likes.

Guess what’s there? Go to the page and you’ll find the answer: Sony’s Facebook presence is rich with content.

Readers get articles on borrowing e-books. Digital artists get stop-motion movie tutorials. Nostalgists get pictures of the old-school Sony Playstation.

This is a place for people who want to absorb, learn, even just remember good times — but, yes, also perhaps plug into a new game based around Sony’s newly released Xperia phone.

Apparently, there are a lot of people like this. Millions of them.

Sony has built and refined its online community to such an extent that the content the company offers it has started to represent real and quantifiable marketing results.

For example, in 2011, Sony’s Catch the Tablet campaign — a kind of Twitter- and Facebook-fueled treasure hunt — not only got out the word regarding the new device, it drove new potential adopters to their social-media platforms. The campaign netted an 8% increase in Sony’s Facebook fans and a 4.5% jump in its Twitter followers (according to company executives).

Point is: Sony is clearly interested in content and how it works. Online. Interactively. Massive numbers preferred.

Such efforts are about attracting loyalists, says Chad Kaszer, director of social media at Sony Corporation of America. To find out what that means, The Content Strategist plugged into Kaszer’s world to find out what Sony has been — and will be — up to in that arena.

TCS: Sony took its Facebook platform from about 700k to more than 3 million in one year. How did content drive this achievement?

Kaszer: Content has always been at the core of our social media strategy, but during this period, we really committed ourselves to refining our curation methods through hard-data analysis.

With a company as diverse as Sony, we have spent a lot of time working internally with the key social media teams at our different U.S. businesses to understand their publishing strategies, working to complement their individual efforts, not duplicate.

Of course, we have employed many strategies to continue to grow the Sony community on Facebook, including consolidating some of our channels, but creating and curating great content that is relevant to the fan and reflective of the brand remains a constant priority. 

TCS: Social media: I’ve been told you’ll put it like this: it’s not a department but a discipline. Can you elaborate on that concept and provide some tips for others who want to transition from one kind of thinking to the other?

Kaszer: Sure, though this isn’t a new school of thought. In fact, many companies have adopted this perspective when it comes to articulating how corporate social responsibility, for example, integrates into their business.

At Sony Corporation of America, having this type of mentality helps us understand our role in enhancing and amplifying the social media efforts of our various U.S. businesses.

Here’s an example to help explain: A few months ago, I came across a comment about Sony from a fan who, in a very honest and natural way, gave a personal opinion about our products that spanned marketing, customer service, and product development across three different Sony companies. So, which Sony company or department “owns” the relationship with that customer? The fact is, they all do, because it is a valuable relationship for each team to nurture.

We view social media as a platform for listening and engaging with our communities and that responsibility for it must be shared by employees in existing departments across the company with proper education, as opposed to compartmentalized within a single department. After all, social media is horizontal, not vertical.

That’s not to say that best practices, knowledge, governance, and compliance should not be centralized, but there’s a big difference between centralizing and compartmentalizing. I think a lot of big companies are struggling with how to scale social media, falling into the habit of expecting company-wide strategy and execution to exist in one department. It can’t. Not only is social media too foundational to the success of your business for that type of thinking, but it is not scalable or sustainable if approached in that way. 

TCS: When it comes to these content and relationship curation ideas, what’s at stake here, for you and for Sony?

Kaszer: I have been on the corporate side of social media for nearly ten years; I have always worked for big companies, so I understand the challenges and opportunities that come with big brands looking to evolve in this space.

The one term that has survived the last decade is not “social” (it used to be call “consumer-generated media”), but “community.” Brands love the idea of a protective and loyal community, but the question is: how can a community form in a virtual space where the members may never actually meet?

In my experience, the answer boils down to three commitments a brand must make in order to succeed: vision, consistency, and shared responsibility. If a company is unable or unwilling to express its unique perspective on the world, commit time to engage with those who share that perspective, or take responsibility for its part in making its vision a reality, then it is amassing a crowd of followers, not a community of loyalists.

That is what’s at stake, not just for our business, but for all companies that want to thrive in the digital age.

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