Coca-Cola: The creation of Expedition 206 — Live from BlogWell

1:30 — Andy Sernovitz introduces Adam Brown, Coca-Cola’s Group Director, Digital Communications.

1:31 — Adam: If we were to rewind a few years ago, I would have said our homepage was Google. And it many ways it is — this happens about 1.2 million times per month. But if you look today, our homepage has expanded a bit — to Twitter, to YouTube, to Myspace. And that’s just domestic.

1:32 — Adam: The first mantra we came to live by at Coke was to fish where the fish are. We realize the importance of putting content in the places where our fans already are.

1:34 — Adam: The second ideas is keeping fans first. Online, our brands are really what our fans say they are. When we participate on Facebook and Twitter, we’re in many ways invited guests.

1:35 — Adam contrasts their own blogs (where they control the content) against spaces like Facebook, where they don’t.

1:36 — Adam lays out Coke’s 4Rs: Review; Respond; Record; Redirect.

1:36 — Adam: I really believe video is the future. Adam explains how video is a great way to tell a story in an authentic and interesting way.

1:37 — Adam says their big focus is to help subject matter experts respond. Adam doesn’t want the marketing and PR folks be the only ones to respond through social media. For example, he’d love to see Coke’s dietitian experts get involved in health issues, or environmental experts speak on green initiatives.

1:38 — Adam: We’ve got a million people who would be great online spokespeople for Coca-Cola. But, oh crap, I’ve got a million people who would be great online spokespeople for Coca-Cola.

1:39 — Adam lays out Coke’s social media guidelines, involving protection of customer data, online spokesperson guidelines, and online associate guidelines.

1:40 — Coke is rolling out an online spokesperson certification program to train employees on proper use of social media.

1:41 — Adam describes their Facebook page created by two fans in L.A., and how they still give them a role in managing the page.

1:41 — Adam explains how they’re in more countries than the United Nations. They came up with the idea to have two or three young people to travel the world to search for happiness — and to blog, tweet, and share it in real time, all as part of Expedition 206.

1:42 — Adam’s team wondered what these individuals would do in each country, and then decided to let the fans to both pick the team (that Coke narrowed to 9 ambassadors), as well as decide what they’ll do in each country.

1:44 — Adam shares a video of Expedition 206, giving a background into the project.

1:45 — Adam says the big components are 1) Doing something amazing and 2) Taking their fans along for the ride.

1:46 — Adam says that although they promoted this mostly in domestic media, 75% of votes for the projects came from international fans.

1:47 — Adam says they’re not only building Expedition 206 as the place where people can follow the journey, but they’re also going to put content on Twitter and Facebook — part of their effort to “fish where the fish are.”

1:48 — Adam: In many ways, we’re going to allow our fans to be the ones to tell the story.

1:49 — Adam says there journey is going to cover 150,000 miles and that they had hundreds and hundreds of applicants for the journey.

1:50 — Adam: I’m really excited about this journey. It’s like a reality TV show, without the TV.

Q&A

Q: Has coke used social media to influence policy changes?

A: Yes, we do. We have the benefit of having about 12 million people who have opted to receive information from Coke. We have an opportunity to use those people who may be passionate about our brand for issues like the soda tax, for example. What we’ve found is that when we post messages related to that, our fans on Facebook for example, aren’t really keen on that. That’s not why they’re there. We made some mistakes early on such as putting general press releases and announcements about board of directors on our Facebook pages, and that didn’t fly. What we’ve found is that what we need to do is let our fans opt in to different levels of information, to find out what types of information they’re really interested in. Now, I”d much rather have a 100,000 people who are really interested in a topic than blasting out to a generic forum of fans.

Q: How did legal checks on applicants work with your legal team?

A: We wanted it to be an open enrollment. We wanted it to be open to anyone in the world. And what we quickly learned is that there are only about 10 countries in the world that let their citizens travel to 206 countries. We partnered with some great organizations to find people who were eligible, such as people who had dual citizenship. We did some background checks. There were some things we could do before we hired them, and some we had to wait on to do (until they were hired by being part of the final 9).

Q: You’re dealing a lot with language issues. How do you handle that?

A: One of the things that we really try and strive to do — especially with Expedition 206 — is to show how Coke is a global company. Many of our Expedition 206 candidates speak in two or three or four languages. Within 24-48 hours, all the content these evangelists create during the journey will be translated. But what we’re encouraging them to do is create content that knows no language boundary, such as photos and videos.

Q: How do you monitor? I imagine that the term “Coke” shows up a lot.

A: In terms of monitoring, there are lots and lots of false positives. We’re using a variety of tools in lots of different languages. What we’re trying to do is find one tool — or at least one repository — to consolidate all our information.

Q: How do you handle your Facebook relationship with the pages’ founders?

A: We have a great relationship with Michael and Dusty. While we don’t compensate with them, we do work with them when they create content, videos, etc. We’re really trying to stay behind the scenes and not control the message — which for a big brand like Coke, is sometimes hard to do.

Q: How do you manage the editorial rights of your Expedition 206 team? How did you get past that hurdle of never knowing what they will say?

A: It was a challenge, and it will continue to be a challenge. What we’re doing right now is creating a content management tool. They won’t be going directly to Twitter or Facebook – they’ll instead log in to this content management system. We’ll probably have a queue of their content for my team to review initially, but so far we’ve seen that they’re creating great content. We tested them by sending them around Atlanta and they did a fantastic job. We will be moderating the content that people upload — questions and comments to them — like we do on Facebook right now.

Q: What’s the budget for this thing?

A: It’s actually a lot less than you might expect.

Q: What about product placement? Are you asking them to squeeze a bottle of Coke into their filming or their writing as they blog?

A: We thought long and hard about that. We’ve tried to be as true to this as possible. But because Coca-Cola is where it is, we don’t feel we have to jam in Coke product placements everywhere. This might not be possible for every brand, but we really are trying to keep this as authentic as possible.

Q: At what point in this project do you push your products in this project?

A: We’re hoping this is going to create an opportunity for us to push relationships with our younger audience. If this just gives us 206 great media opportunities around the world, then we’ve succeeded. When you friend this project on Facebook for example, you’re not friending Expedition 206, you’re friending Coca-Cola. What we’re doing here is building a relationship with the brand, not with a campaign.

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