Nokia is facing perhaps its toughest time yet as a business.

No longer Finland’s most valuable company (electric utilities company Fortum took the lead last month on Helsinki’s Stock Exchange) it finds itself a challenger brand after years of dominance – with the Lumia 900 positioned as the way to break into the sophisticated US smartphone market.

But with this adjustment also comes opportunity: the company is able and prepared to take risks and try new approaches. Nokia’s approach to marketing and the success of this is critical to the business’ transformation, including driving a more connected organisation that is able to build and thrive in a new mobile ecosystem.

As such, the company has worked with Brilliant Noise to structure and roll out its social strategy across the business  – focusing on integrating this into every employee’s daily life, becoming a more social business from the inside out. 

Nokia’s global director of social media Craig Hepburn told us that the opportunity now is to take the best examples of social media it has and ask how the business can scale the behaviours and successes even further.

Across a global organisation that interacts with consumers in more than 150 countries globally, that’s no small task.”

Hepburn explained that he expects Nokia’s marketing teams to practically support other parts of the business with the insights they gain from actively listening to consumers in social media, and that those teams can pass on the lessons they learn about how to work with social media: what’s needed in terms of skills and capabilities, how to build networks and communities, and how to effectively manage many-to-many communications. 

He explained that a large part of this is explaining social media in terms that make sense to non-marketing teams.

As part of this process, Brilliant Noise went out and spoke to Nokia employees from around the world. After stripping away the jargon or technical speak, it seemed that people referred to ‘social’ in three key ways: 

  • Stories: The large and small ways in which Nokia and its products are changing people’s lives. Content assets, insights, folklore, the scattered matter that makes up what the brand is both for its employees and its customers. Stories bring to life the essence of Nokia’s brand for customers and employees alike.  
  • Conversations: The connections with customers and other influencers online; the dialogue that keeps Nokia open and honest; the conversations between customers that Nokia can learn from.
  • Numbers: The data and insights that flow from Nokia into the social web and vice versa; the measures and evaluation methods to understand what is happening and how decisions can be made.

Hepburn said that these are a loose but useful construct with which to think about social media and the value it can deliver, and as such will be looking at two valuable behaviours as signs (and causes of) success: 

  1. More interaction between Nokia employees and its consumers.
  2. More consumers talking to each other about Nokia.

Brilliant Noise founding partner Antony Mayfield said that both of these support advocacy and recommendation – ultimately the most effective kind of marketing in the world.

They are both also evidence of a growing ecosystem of conversations and relationships.”

Based on this, Nokia has created six guiding principles that will be rolled out internally for all staff to use as a starting point for any social strategy, a memory-aid during planning and to challenge existing tools or processes: 

  1. Consider the social opportunity in everything we do 
  2. Engage in better conversations with more consumers 
  3. Deliver personal experiences, be authentic, and earn trust 
  4. Sharing is more important than control
  5. Define clear objectives from the outset 
  6. Invest and commit to social presences

There are hundreds of case studies to support existing work in these areas, acting as supporting evidence to the rest of the business that a ‘social approach’ has already produced great results.

Its sponsorship of the film Tron inspired a “takeover” of key Nokia social presences (Facebook, Twitter and its blog) by the fictional Encom business that features in the movie. Working with 1000heads, this produced a 150% increase in daily activity on Nokia’s Facebook page, where 70% had never spoken about Nokia before and at its peak 80,000 were talking about the campaign.

The company is using Socializer to provide a real-time action framework for marketing, and launched Agora, a six plasma-screen installation showing visualisations of real-time conversations back in February.

There’s also the work around its global sponsorship of Social Media Week, which the company used as an opportunity to develop its “random acts of kindness” approach to creating advocacy, an internal communications project called Nokia Follow Friday – and videography competition Nokia Shorts 2011.

Plus, there’s promise in f-commerce. The promotional tabs on Nokia’s Facebook page (before the switch to Timeline at least) were the most popular after its wall, while average CTR for a promotion on the Nokia global Facebook page is 13% and the Lumia’s The X Factor/One Direction promotion generated CTR of 37%.

Nokia has good social stock at its core, and has approached its success with humility while recognising that the primary challenge now is to scale.

With structure in place, and increased interest in what’s been done internally from many within the business – a focus on the three pillars of “listen, engage and commerce” could prove to be incredibly valuable.