Blogging

How General Mills creates conversations with influencers through social media

Last week I was at the BlogWell conference in Cincinnati where David Witt, Manager of Brand Public Relations for General Mills shared how General Mills is creating conversations with influencers through social media.

David shared some specific insights from the launch of the Fiber One 50-Calorie Yogurt from April 2009 – March 2010.

Conversations Work at Driving Sales

The Fiber One snack bars launch showed that online conversations were the second most important driver of sales (after being on shelf).  Generating and encouraging online conversations worked better than any other marketing tool (other than of course, having the product available to buy).  While David couldn’t share a specific ROI from the conversations, they know with certainty that conversations drive sales.

David also shared a chart that shows that conversations and sales are highly correlated – sales grew when there were more conversations and declined when there were fewer.

Getting Set Up For Success

David said that having clear objectives & strategies was important to be able to measure success.  For Fiber One the objective was to build awareness and position the Yogurt as a great dieting tool.  They planned to leverage Hungry Girl (a well known weight management blogger) as the spokesperson.  The goal was to drive trial and conversation.

Tying your metrics to your goals and strategies is important so that you know what success looks like.  You can also develop more strategic campaigns.

What Fiber One Did

Fiber One used a lot of different social media tools in different ways to create a comprehensive social media strategy.

  • Hungry Girl, a blogger who sends a daily email, and said that Fiber One bars taste better than Snickers.  She has over 1 million subscribers to her email.  Fiber One brought her on as a “celebrity” endorser and even has Hungry Girl featured on the package.
  • General Mills has a program called “Pssst…” that provides “insiders” with special information about the company and a preview of news.  The newsletter included Fiber One Yogurt messaging with a coupon.  They also featured a video message from Hungry Girl and a Hungry Girl book giveaway.  They also did a personal mailing to people in the “Psst…” community who were active dieters and sent them free product.  They got very positive feedback from the people in their community who they sent the mailer to.
  • To launch the product they also worked with Bloggers in a program called My Blog Spark.  They send bloggers product on a relationship basis to let them know about new products.  They created a “snack attack” video featuring Hungry Girl and her staff and did some early product seeding – bloggers had the opportunity to try the product first and share a product review.
  • They also connected to Facebook and Twitter where consumers like to talk about Yogurt, and through key partners like SparkPeople (a diet/fitness site).
  • Part of the key is to find tools that the bloggers want to use.  Fiber One created a Embeddable Micro site that provided blog readers with coupons and free product.  This makes it easier for bloggers to share their opinions.  As a part of a live taste-testing the brand recorded consumer testimonials that were then available to bloggers.
  • Consumers are willing to participate and be included with brands.
  • There is a natural gravitational pull towards a niche (like a weight management community).  Leverage the community.
  • Provide meaningful and relevant brand experiences for consumers.
  • Provide content in a format and in a location that they find useful and familiar.
  • Be respectful and treat consumers as friends.  Be respectful.  Don’t lie to or embarrass your consumers or “friends”.
  • The brand experience must be remarkable.  Set clear objectives upfront but test and learn as you go.

Key Learnings

A Note on Blogger Disclosures

When General Mills created the blogging network of My Blog Spark one of their key elements was disclosure.  My Blog Spark already had guidelines similar to the new FTC guidelines. My Blog Spark requires bloggers to disclose that they get product for free and if they get a free flipcam.  They also request that bloggers do not make product claims that can not be substantiated.

The key to working with legal is to ask them “what is needed for you to say yes?” and engage them.  The two key areas are product claim liability and disclosure.

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