General Mills: “Using Social Media to Reach Online Influencers” — Live from BlogWell

1:30 — Andy Sernovitz introduces Mark Addicks, General Mills’ Chief Marketing Officer.

1:31 — Mark: I think General Mills “going social” is really the theme here. We’re really learning in the space.

1:32 — Mark: One of the best places to start might be within. Mark describes how a few years ago they built some internal portals to demonstrate the power of social to senior management and peers.

1:33 — Mark: We’re very externally focused. We didn’t used to be. We look at everything pretty engaged.

1:34 — Mark describes how General Mills still faces challenges on building communication internally to share ideas, best practices, etc.

1:34 — Mark: As you look today, lots of innovation isn’t coming necessarily from big companies, it’s coming from small companies. So, there’s really no reason to be a big company unless you’re leveraging your scale.

1:35 — Mark shares a bunch of the history behind some of their iconic brands, and how long before social media, their brands had an inherent following and “social network” behind them. People sent in letters, shared ideas, and talked amongst themselves about their favorite General Mills products and brands.

1:37 — Mark talks about how what’s getting really exciting, is that there’s a huge potential to get ideas on how to make products and brands better by opening up and asking consumers how they use the products and what they love about them.

1:38 — Mark describes “Save Lids to Save Lives” — this year, General Mills saw a 50% increase in the program’s participation (which raises money for cancer research) by asking people to create their own communities and invite friends.

1:39 — Mark: The job of marketers sometimes, is if you’ve done a great job and have made a great product, you have to step back and trust the wisdom of the crowds.

1:40 — Mark describes how they’re sending their brands out before they’re in the marketplace. They’re asking fans to share thoughts, post videos, and interact with General Mills and how the company is using their feedback to make the product better.

1:41 — Betty Crocker is now almost entirely digital, and is now a part of communities such as MySpace and Facebook.

1:42 — Mark shares statistics behind Fiber One Bars. The number one driver of its success has been distribution, but number two: It was driven by online conversations. Mark shows how unit sales almost perfectly related to the amount of online conversations about the brands.

1:43 — Mark explains MyBlogSpark and how his team is measuring the conversation about the brand from using the network.

1:45 — Mark explains their “Pssst…” campaign which sent talkers samples of their new product, stories behind why they made it, and how it helped their Progresso brand.

1:48 — Box Tops has gone social, using discussion groups, etc — allows for folks to share ideas on how to raise money for their schools. Mark describes how a lot of schools raise $150,000 annually through the program, and what it means to communities.

1:50 — Mark describes how Totinos Pizza Rolls has worked with the X Games, and has now evolved into something where they encourage participation by encouraging folks to submit short videos on why they love the X Games and sports they play for a chance to win a free trip to the real games.

1:51 — Larabar is one of General Mills’ brands that is built almost exclusively on highly enthusiastic brand evangelists. General Mills is using this as an example to drive this thinking across more of their brands.

1:53 — Mark quickly shares a bunch of examples of how they’re using tools like Facebook and Twitter to start engaging with consumers, such as sharing a “Recipe Of The Day” on Twitter.

Q&A

Q: Was this an organic effort? Or from the top down?

A: This was organic. Where we truly are, authentically, we’re at the stage where we’ve tried a lot of things and have proven that we’ll be rewarded for opening our brands. The next phase is, how do you get your company to embrace social as a way of living?

Q: Can you talk about your process for creating content?

A: We created everything. We created every recipe. Except for this great example of the Pillsbury Bake Off, where we got a bunch of recipes from fans around the world. We saw that there were many great ideas about how we could improve our brands, or where they could go. We know there are thousands of experts in the world, and what we want to do is create a larger community, and the best ideas come forward, are rated, and are used by people. You move less from technicians, to almost editorial functions. We have just started, but we’re looking at food editors and building almost editorial teams.

Q: How are you finding your influencers online?

A: There’s a couple ways: One is, as they are profiling themselves and opting in. It’s not a secret, you can ask them questions. Probably the best way, is to ask them to volunteer and raise their hands. You’ll usually find those people that want to participate. They’re usually the community leaders, and are the ones that want to be the first to know. I think the most powerful thing is let them self-identify, and let them go further and dictate the things they’d like to participate in based on what they’re interested in.

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