Yorkshire Tea's Dom Dwight discusses the value of Facebook likes, paid advertising and how social media helped track the journey of its tea van, Little Urn, around America.
What’s the worth of a Facebook fan or like? BBC’s recent ‘VirtualBagel’ experiment, which suggested ‘likes’ are often fake, has escalated suspicions already circulating in the Facebook marketing sphere over the value of fans and likes.
Brand communications manager Dom Dwight explains that Yorkshire Tea is one company that has long taken a cautious approach to the Facebook numbers game: “Deep down most people know roughly what the value of a like is because they’ve either got millions of people but nobody ever responds or they've got millions of people who say stuff without ever being asked because they’re so engaged.”
Speaking at the Our Social Times Facebook Marketing event in London, Dwight explains that the same is true of the brand’s approach to Facebook advertising. He says: “We’re very cautious about paid advertising because you could essentially be buying fans; we don't want our fan numbers to grow until we’re bigger than the next guy, we want our fans to be actual fans.”
The British tea brand has taken a number of different approaches to advertising over the last couple of years – some strategic and deliberate with an objective to measuring results. But with a whopping amount of attention paid to money spent and ROI, Dwight argues there's still a lot of other aspects to advertising that need to be considered.
He says: “Nobody is really talking about the other expense which is the man hours you put into generating the content. If you're not going to advertise but you’re going to be in the business of trying to acquire likes and drive engagement that's something that takes up a lot of people’s time.
“In terms of relationships, it's very difficult to put a proper value on those. It doesn’t mean that there aren't areas where you can have more clarity over the worth but the continual push towards being able to justify everything in monetary terms is barking up the wrong tree.”
Instead of focusing on advertising, Dwight explains that Yorkshire Tea is using the social network as a listening device or “a microscope” to analyse what its customers are saying. “One of the big things we want to track is something as basic as the amount of times that we’re mentioned online, seeing whether we’re talked about more than PG Tips, Tetley or Twinings is a useful metric for us.
“There was a time about a year or two ago when the average amount of times that Yorkshire Tea would get mentioned online would be say 500 times per month, then early last year we got ourselves up to 12-15,000 times a month and this year that's our lowest figure per month.
“You could get into an argument about what do those mentions mean in terms of actual impact on the bottom line but you can’t deny that that amount of people talking about you is a good thing. Especially when you have sentiment analysis that shows it was 98% positive, 12% neutral and whatever the remainder would be negative. Even then if you dig into the negative it turns out that the sentiment software is just bad at reading sarcasm.”
As well as measuring customer sentiment, Yorkshire Tea saw an opportunity to use Facebook as part of an integrated multichannel campaign. With so many Brits across the pond complaining about poor quality tea, the brand took a tea van, dubbed ‘Little Urn’, across the States to serve cups of tea in LA, San Francisco and Florida.
Dwight explains: “The TV campaign reached millions of households and because it was quite odd and quirky it led to lots of people looking us up online to find out more and when they got to our Facebook page there were loads of stories about what we'd done there, as well as photos and videos.
“Every now and then we had a spike of activity when we were about to go on air with the next chapter of our adventure so we deliberately tried to ramp up the activity online. For example, we had a competition to win a holiday to Florida at the same time the chapter of our van's journey through Florida was hitting the telly. To maximise the attention that was coming to our Facebook page, we advertised on Facebook as well. So we don't just do blanket advertising through the year, we do targeted bursts.
He concludes with some advice: “Even if you're not going to put out any of your own content it's worth being active in social media simply to hear what the world is saying. Try and act like a human being but not a fake human being. The companies that are doing it really well are those that are allowing some amount of real humanity.”