What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t

by on 03/16/2009 • 21 Comments | Social Media

I’ll make this quick.

I told myself I wasn’t blogging today. I love you all, but liveblogging PubCon has left me completely swamped. But then I came across an article in AdAge about Coca-Cola and how two brand evangelists (and Coke’s reaction to them) brought Coke a world of attention. And as I read it, I could feel my cold little blogger heart begin to flutter. It’s almost as if there is hope for big brands looking to succeed in social media. You don’t have to spam the damn thing to death, after all!

[swoon]

Do you know what I learned from that article? I learned that Coke has the second most popular page on Facebook, second only to Barack Obama? I also learned that Coke, the beholder of said second most popular page, had absolutely nothing to do with creating it and have instead, only benefited from the attention, increased engagement and buckets of awesome it delivers. That’s amazing.

God bless brand evangelists, doing your work for you since the advent of social media.

Here’s how it happened: Coca-Cola fans Dusty Sorg (coolest name evar) and Michael Jedrzejewski (hardest last name to spell evar) wanted to make their love of Coke official on Facebook. Only problem was that Coke didn’t have an official Facebook page, only 250+ lame looking ones. So the boys tracked down a high resolution photo of a Coke can (seen above) and created one themselves. Less than seven months later, the page now has more than 3.3 million fans. And even better, it has the full support of Coke.

Back in November, Coke had a choice. Facebook instituted a rule that regular users couldn’t create branded Facebook pages. Only those authorized by, or associated with, the brand could. Coke either had to take control of the page or allow Facebook to close it down. Coke was smart. They created a third solution: Let Dusty and Michael keep the page, but this time, work together.

It’s a story that grabbed me for two reasons.

  1. It shows a maturation by big brands. Not long ago, Coke publicly disapproved of the Diet Coke + Mentos viral craziness because they felt like it didn’t fit their brand image (whatever the hell that is). Now it’s 2009 and Coke’s been around the block a few times. They know that you can’t control your brand 100 percent in social media and that sometimes its better to embrace it.
  2. We’re seeing companies empower those who are empowering them. It’s the acceptance of brand evangelists and lifting them up to do great things in your name.

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And just like that, the ice around my heart began to crack. Unicorns began grazing my apartment and a box full of puppies was dropped off on my doorstep.

Coke did itself a huge favor here. People want to interact with companies that care about them. When Coke had the choice to choose between corporate bureaucracy or its brand evangelists, it picked its brand evangelists. They didn’t just let the two fans keep the page, they flew them out to Atlanta and gave them a tour of the World of Coke museum. They brought them into meetings where they discussed how they could leverage the Facebook page together. They brainstormed ideas. They made them part of the company.

They showed these two guys, that behind everything else, they gave a shit. And that’s what consumers want. To know that their favorite brands give a shit.

I don’t care what size company you are, you need to empower those who empower you. We saw what happened when Ask.com turned their back on brand evangelists. It makes people stop caring about you. It makes them stop talking about you. It makes them move on. Coke could have done that here and arguably been justified in their actions. But they didn’t. Instead, they showed what happens when big brands learn how to play in social media — we all benefit.

And that’s something that can brighten anyone’s Monday. I don’t drink soda (carbonation freaks me out), but if I did, I know that I’d be buying a few dozen bottles of Coke right now.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

21 thoughts on “What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t

  1. Wow, I never knew that Coke had the 2nd most popular FB page. I wonder where Pepsi places? Anyways, thanks for sharing this story Lisa. It really shows just how far some big brands have come and also, how much farther they (and the rest of the corporate stiffs) need to go. The Internet is not going away and it is only going to keep changing. They better all jump in now before they are too far behind.

  2. Clint- Of course it is a real unicorn. Fake unicorns don’t graze. They don’t need to eat.
    Great post. It’s nice to see companies realizing the power of the little people who support them.

  3. Who is Ask? Oh yeah, the guys who wrote me a year after our last campaign ended and said (my fave) “Hey, your credit card is expired.” Not “Um, did we do something wrong” or “Want some help with the results?” No activity, but the credit card expiration made an email get pushed to us.

    So Coke. Some of the best marketers in the world, right? You don’t catch anyone dropping Skittles into a can of Coke.

    There are 3.3 million people who actually cared enough to put allegiance to a soda on their social graph. They may not think about it that way, but 3.3 million is a mighty big number. So Coke’s challenge is how to activate some tiny percentage of them as street teamers.

    My favorite Coke quote before the Atlanta Olympics: “If it moves, sponsor it. If it doesn’t move, paint it red.”

    • Conversation will happen, with or without the brands involvement. That’s for sure!

      Also it’s for sure that brands who are not involved in social media conversation with their respective clients will vanish on the long term.

      An old saying: ‘Be seen and you will be visited’

      If you are not where your clients are, you become invisible, so you will disappear in the long term. There is no question if, but when?

  4. Coke has popped out and made a pretty smart move…3 million coke followers in facebook, dint know that too……thanks for sharing Lisa

    @George: Thanks for the quote….

  5. I have been reviewing some of the most popular pages and am kind of glad Coke did not do their page as IMHO the branding/design is pretty poor; but now I know why.

    Of course, design is not everything…..

    Nice post.

  6. The “evangelizing moment” of a customer is when they touch the soul of the company. They become “branded” aligning with the meaning of the company’s true purpose. Think of Apple providing Seekers (those in search of new adventure or experience) the ability to “Think Different”. It connects to the Seekers core value – to be unique and nonconforming.

    That connection between the core values – the soul of the company and the soul of the customer – is why they evangelize. They have found a temple of core value at which to worship. It’s mythic. It’s epic. The brand becomes icon because it connects to the subconscious yearnings of the customer, imprinting on the brain. The pictured emotional experience becomes a conduit through which the customer can again be touched by those core values.

    Those pictures and emotions then become language in the brain of the customer. And it’s the language of evangelism.

    It’s simple. No soul, no brand.

  7. Great post Lisa. I’ve had situations in the past working with companies that are so concerned about their “brand” that they don’t let the evangelists go out and do good things…I agree with Michael D above.

    It’ll be interesting to see how many large companies follow suit on this one.

  8. Corporate Bureaucracy “0” / Social Media Engagement “1”. Great post Lisa.. I love the part about unicorns and puppies LOL … I laughed soo hard!
    Keep em comming!

  9. Thanks for linking back to this again. I wasn’t aware of Outspoken Media when it first posted, and while I always *mean* to go back and read the archives, I haven’t 100% accomplished it. Great post.

    Is it bad to want a Coke for breakfast now?

  10. Carbonation freaks you out??? Can’t believe no one has commented on that little tidbit! I feel even more connected to the mythos of the Lisa brand now. Great post. What I find really exciting is it seems I keep stumbling across stories like this related to big brands. I think for the most part, corporate has gotten the message, it just takes time to make things happen. Sometimes it is just sheer dumb luck and right place, right time but at least someone recognized the opportunity. BTW, can I ride your unicorn?

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