Editor's Note: Social media is opening global conversations between consumers and brands, says Michael Berner, director of Global Social Media Strategy, who sees that as a golden opportunity for American Express to be wherever its card members and member merchants may be. The Ad Blog asked Michael about his company's global approach to social media, tips to engaging consumers through social platforms, and how to remain authentic in a fast-changing digital world.
Yahoo! Advertising Blog: Your title is director of Global Social Media Strategy; how does your strategy differ for the U.S. and international communities?
Michael Berner: Social media has broken down barriers — opening a dialogue between consumers and brands on an international scale. It has created a truly global conversation.
At American Express, we see this behavioral shift as a powerful new opportunity that can help ensure we are everywhere our card members and merchants are. And so whether we are connecting with our card members in the U.S., or in our international markets, we take a universal approach to our social media strategy.
On a global level, we look to engage, service, deliver unique value, and create seamless digital experiences that surprise and delight. To achieve this, we listen closely, use a test-and-learn approach and align programming to what resonates with our online audience and card members---while still tailoring our work to meet the needs and interests of a specific market.
YAB: There's been lots of buzz about things that American Express is doing with partners like Facebook, foursquare and Twitter. What advice could you give other companies looking to make a meaningful mark with these types of partners?
MB: You have to ask yourself three important questions. What is the unmet need? What do you do better than anyone else? And how do you translate that to social?
Once you've nailed those answers, prioritize your business objectives so that you harness the power of your organization and your partner's by hyper-focusing on driving one specific goal. Lastly, as you work to develop and implement your ideas, foster real relationships with the platforms and partners. This will help you stay true to the native experience, leverage best practices and speak the language that will help you build great integrations.
YAB: Marketers understand the importance of engaging with consumers on social platforms. What are some of the tactics and strategies you think work well to get to that higher level of engagement---to enable users to be advocates, and true dialogue to be developed?
MB: Authenticity is key. Be true to your customers, to your brand and to the platform. Customers are savvy in social and can quickly recognize when something is inauthentic---whether it's a simple tweet or a major campaign. That's part of the reason we so strongly believe in keeping our social media engagement team in-house. We want to establish real relationships with our communities and want them to get to know us. You can't outsource your brand.
YAB: What consumer trends are you monitoring and exploring in social media---and why?
MB: We make it a priority to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in social and digital. We're particularly hot on any digital integration that provides a deeper utility to the user and provides an inherent value true to the native experience of the platform. You can either find your niche within an existing architecture or disrupt and build something new. In either case, those that are succeeding are putting the user experience at the core.
We're also excited about how technologies are playing off of each other. An action taken on a mobile device provides a physical payoff. An interaction in the real world provides a digital connection. The movement from siloed digital integrations to shared, cross-platform, cross-device and importantly, physical engagements is a key trend that will continue to become a bigger part of the social landscape.
YAB: Metrics for measuring social media is still a major pain point in the industry. How does American Express define a successful social campaign?
MB: For us, a successful campaign is one that meets a need for our card members and our merchants by delivering unparalleled value to both. For example, when we launched our recent sync program with Twitter, we saw a win for our card members who got more value out of the platform, as well as our merchant partners who were able to turn their social conversations into commerce.