Mark Squires Nokia

Mark Squires is director of social media at Nokia, and is responsible for the Nokia Conversations blog, internal blogs, blogger outreach, and more. 

We interviewed Mark about Nokia’s approach to social media, internal and external, as well as its recent ‘marathon PR failure’

How long has Nokia had a social media team? 

We came late to social media, though we had been involved in some ways from the word go, through features such as the life blog on some of our phones. 

Nokia isn’t your average company, thanks to being a phone company we were engaged in many forms of communication already. Before we started with social media, the basis was that, if you are going to talk to people, you need to do so in a sustainable manner. We didn’t just want to do it for the sake of it. 

I wrote a paper on it which helped make the argument internally, then it took time, starting with Nokia’s internal blogs. We already had around 1,300 blogs on Nokia’s intranet. 

We drew up a set of guidelines, using best practice examples from companies like Sun Microsystems. We also changed the rules and allowed employees to blog about our products in company time. 

From all these internal blogs, we identified the ones which were updated regularly, which was around 900. We asked them to change to a common platform and used this to create Nokia BlogHub, which was made available on the company intranet. 

We have since created VideoHub, an internal version of YouTube, and SocialCast, similar to Facebook. This allowed our staff to get used to engaging with each other, and was also a useful internal resource for management. 

We built on this by creating the Nokia Conversations blog, and we decided not to market it in any way.  This blog allowed us to start talking and engaging with people. 

We have a policy of engaging with bloggers, regardless of whether they have said something positive or negative about Nokia, either via social media, face to face, or through leaving comments on blogs. 

A lot of brands came into social media in a way that was akin to bursting into conversations at a party and demanding people pay attention to you, which is a mistake. We avoided this pitfall by simply listening without necessarily joining in every time. 

We also blogged about things other people were sating about Nokia products, sometimes highlighting things that weren’t so positive. 

Were there problems ‘convincing the boss’ that social media was worthwhile?

The problem is not engaging with customers via social media, but in bringing the rest of your company along with you.

You can start a Twitter feed but eventually you will need help from other areas of the company to answer customer questions. Speed of response is key, and so you need every department on board for it to be effective. 

How many visitors does the Nokia blog get? 

We have three versions of the Conversations site, in English, Spanish and Chinese, and we average 1m unique users per month across the three sites. 

Are you gaining any useful product feedback through blogs and social media? 

People within the company read the blog and can see comments by our customers about our products – this reduces the distance between the developers of the products and the people who are actually using them, creating a direct feedback channel. 

We also offer products for review to various bloggers, and this feedback is sent to the R&D department. 

How big is your team? 

I have four in my team now, though it used to be eight. This is because some of the team have moved abroad to join our social media teams in other countries, so one of my old team now works in Latin America, and another in China. 

Our social media strategy is to avoid too much centralisation, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get a local feel on our blogs. For example, in China 60% to 70% of the content is the same as the main blog, but the rest is local, and the same principle applies in Latin America. 

Where does your team sit within the organisation? 

For us it’s all about communications. I spend a lot of time talking to people about Nokia and its products. 

Other areas of the business look after support forums and Facebook, but we manage our Twitter feeds and blogs. We’re effectively an online publishing unit. We predominantly follow and target bloggers, from relatively small sites to things like Guardian blogs. 

How are you measuring the results of social media efforts? 

We struggled to find anyone who could effectively measure social engagement. Some suggested measuring website traffic, comments, or follower numbers. For us, the only way is to use a tool and measure a hybrid of these metrics, comparing the velocity of change. 

It doesn’t necessarily matter what you use to measure, the easiest way is to use multiple tools and have a human being in there making sense of it. 

Are you actively monitoring mentions of Nokia? 

We have a set of keywords around our products and services which we monitor for, and if we see a lot of action around certain keywords, we’ll look into it and try and identify the source where people are reading about it. 

Once we’ve done this, we may go and leave a comment on the blog. For example, we saw one recently on the N8 camera which was factually inaccurate so we left a comment to clarify. 

The beauty of this is that the engagement happens in the public eye. Now, people don’t always make decisions about phones based just on price and product features, it can also take in factors such as strength of brand, functionality, the kudos the product might gain you with friends, battery life and more.  

What we have tried to do is to change peoples’ perception of Nokia and present a broader picture to people, adding things like our commitment to environmental issues for instance, and more personality. 

Any large company needs to show a bit of ankle to convince people that you are not some kind of faceless corporate monolith. 

As you know, we recently published a post about Mulreann Carey-Campbell and her involvement in the Nokia Outdoor Series campaign, what is your take on this? 

With a company the size of Nokia, if you allow everybody in the company to comment and engage with people, sooner or later you may get something that doesn’t work out so well.

We made a commitment to Mulreann and didn’t carry through with it, so we have to hold our hands up. At the end of the day we let her down. 

I though the piece on Econsultancy was well considered, but horribly biased, and I attempted to add some balance to with my comment. I didn’t have the right to argue with the author’s opinion, but offered my own instead. We listen to people and respond to people and try to put things right if we can. 

It would be easy to say that something like this will never happen again, but there will always be mistakes, and what really matters is that we care about making them. 

What’s also interesting is that we didn’t pick up on these comments via an agency or monitoring system, it was spotted by staff within Nokia. You have to engage your own people first; you can’t be everywhere at once. If you don’t empower your employees, you wont be able to work in the social media space. 

We also feel we have to share knowledge. Now, this may be helping competitors, but we feel it helps the whole industry. 

Action and planning are the two enemies of each other, and its important to get the balance right. It also requires people who are capable of planning but are not afraid to take action.