With 900m customers and a yearly turnover of 21bn euros, it’s easy to think of Danone as just another giant corporation.

However, with its core values dedicated to helping mums and children during the most vital time in their lives, it has a resolutely customer-centric approach.

Tom Benton, Head of Digital at Danone, spoke at the Festival of Marketing about how the company uses social media to engage with its core consumers.

Here’s a quick run-down of what he said:

Identifying social as being key to digital transformation

Digital transformation was not a phrase used before 2008, however, Danone is a company that has always been at the forefront of digital.

Since launching its very first website in 2002 it has gradually evolved its digital presence, implementing live chat features, as well as entering into the world of YouTube, and by 2013, launching its very own app.

Despite digitisation in these areas, the brand recognised social media as still being an area of opportunity.

Starting with insight

In order to execute a successful social strategy, Tom stated that it is vital for a brand to gain insight into its core consumer.

Danone is intent on finding out exactly how mums in the UK use digital, so last year it created a bespoke panel in order to gain greater insight.

The results showed that mums were using Facebook an average of 18 times a day, and that very few were using other apps.

While you might not assume this behaviour would have changed much in a single year, Tom demonstrated how quickly the digital landscape can change. 

Drawing on the very latest insights, he explained how Facebook Messenger is a platform currently in decline, with a 31% usage drop year-on-year. 

Conversely, Snapchat has seen growth of 588%.

By using the most up-to-date insight into how mums are using digital platforms like this, Danone is able to shift and adapt its strategy accordingly.

Social enables brands to see the obvious

As well as engaging with consumers on a general level, social media also enables brands to see the blindingly obvious.

Customer surveys and data might be helpful when thinking long-term, but by looking at customer posts and comments directly from mums on Facebook in real-time, brands are able to respond and react to feedback far more quickly.

An example of Danone's social customer service

Further to this, Tom suggested three key areas of action for reinventing social media, as well as how Danone has succeeded in each:

1. Processes

Danone previously had a total of 63 processes in place for answering someone on social media.

Since reinventing its strategy, this has been whittled down to just three.

2. Community management

Community management does not simply mean copying and pasting FAQs or ingredients.

It means actively managing and responding to customer queries. Danone does this by employing a dedicated team, working 24/7 to achieve it.

3. Extensive FAQ’s

In a highly regulated market like Danone’s, it is important to have extensive information to back up its stance on the health and nutritional needs of mums and babies.

4. Personalisation

By using the customer’s name when addressing them on social, a faceless brand can automatically become friendlier and enable personal interaction with consumers.

5. Private messaging

Lastly, a private messaging service means the brand can have conversations with mums that wouldn’t be possible in a public domain, enabling them to provide as much help and advice as possible.

Response times

One example of Danone’s progress in social is how it has managed to massively reduce response times on Facebook.

In April 2015, it took an average of 7hrs 16mins to respond to a customer’s message.

Today, it takes around 20 minutes or less.

This demonstrates how, with a dedicated team and a far more streamlined strategy, brands can successfully increase engagement and loyalty on social media. 

Key lessons to takeaway

  • Listen to consumers: Find out where they are and what they are saying.
  • Innovate at pace even inside large businesses.
  • Work with great partners.
Nikki Gilliland

Published 6 October, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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