What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t

March 16, 2009
By Lisa Barone in 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.

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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