Last week at Econsultancy’s JUMP event in New York, Patel said:

We don’t have the budgets that the big guys do…We don’t have the brand punch that they do, so we have to think differently. For us, it’s about incremental changes, the little things that will deliver big, build our reputation, our credibility,but also bring change inside our organization as well as outside.

For Nokia, that’s meant a larger role for social, and Patel broke down the company’s approach.

Social can live offline

Three years ago Nokia partnered with location-based social networking startup Foursquare to create the Nokia Gift Machine. The free vending machine, which can be found the world over from San Francisco and Dubai to London’s Brick Lane, rewards Foursquare check-ins and NFC interactions. The machine has so far dispensed 4,000 gifts ranging from chocolate bars to mobile devices.

“We really showed and demonstrated how online activity can deliver results in an offline world,” said Patel. 

Social puts the consumer center stage

With the “Switch” campaign, the company chose to revamp its home page to feature only consumer reviews and comments from social media, making sure the page was optimized for local markets.

The effort had measurable results: The progression rate from the home page to Nokia’s main products page showed a 35 percent increase, and users averaged a whopping three minutes on the home page alone, a stat to note when no product information or spec appeared on the page at all.

Social turns employees into advocates

An internal competition called “Switch Pitch” encouraged Nokia employees worldwide to submit a short video to convince viewers to switch from any device to the company’s Lumia. The winner, who has not yet been announced, will receive 10,000 euros, and the video will be featured in an upcoming campaign.

Again, results: Employees from the CEO to board members and others have submitted more than 400 videos so far. Patel explained:

It’s not just the product managers or the marketing managers who know the key selling points of our devices. This is turning our employees into advocates, and they’re the most important people. If our employees don’t buy into what we’re trying to do, then we’ve got no hope of convincing consumers.

Social means being open

One of the first brands to embrace 3-D printing, the company has recently released the design files for its Lumia 820 to allow anyone to design custom 3-D prints of the device’s removable shell. This move helps Nokia build relationships with key communities the company wants to reach, said Patel.

Results once more: Within a few days of releasing the files in January, Nokia saw a 500 percent increase in the volume of online conversations around the Lumia 820. Clearly, awareness has been sown.

Social drives collaboration

In late January, Nokia invited three design schools to reimagine the Lumia 820 shell. Three winners will be invited to a six-month internship with the company’s design department in London, and their designs will be showcased at Social Media Week in New York later this month. Winners will additionally have their shells produced as a limited edition for purchase. The effort again continues to build bridges with communities Nokia wants to reach.

Death to agencies

Patel noted that each of the ideas behind the social efforts was homegrown and low-cost, comparatively speaking.

Over the last year or so, we’ve been very aggressively, proactively cutting down on agency retainers not only because we have the cost pressures everybody does, but also why should we be paying agencies for them to take that knowledge? There’s no real long-term value for Nokia. The right investment is for us to have the right people internally.

That approach seems to be garnering the company the results it craves. In a like-for-like comparison, Samsung gets a 67 percent engagement rating; Nokia gets 65 percent. “We’re in the same ballpark as them with a fraction of the spend,” said Patel. “It’s not about big budgets. It’s about thinking really cleverly about how you spend your money.”

Let’s play ball

The executive underscored her point by playing a clip from Moneyball, the film that traces the efforts of baseball’s low-budget Oakland Athletics to compete against the deep pockets of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and other teams.

The As did get to battle the Detroit Tigers for the division series last year but fell short of the mark. Whether the same fate awaits Nokia in its bid to top competitors remains to be seen, but as Patel remarked, the company is at least in the ballpark.