Lessons in Social Business from Virgin
By Mark Cameron
In 2011, Branson asked a question on his blog: “Keep Virgin’s iconic shiny salt and pepper shakers, or replace them with cheaper versions?” Virgin airlines social media followers were quick to make their voice heard. They were overwhelmingly in support of keeping their in-flight condiments glossy. Branson replied with: “Thanks social media!” while announcing that the shakers would stay they way they were.
A recent article by Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media engagement and monitoring platform HootsSuite said: “Richard Branson doesn’t think small. The genius behind the Virgin brand heads a group of 400 global companies that specialize in everything from airline flights to mobile phone services to … soda … Branson is the first to admit that a huge factor behind recent successes has been social media. Everyone at Virgin group is expected to be socially active, from Sir Richard himself down to new recruits. Virgin uses social media company-wide to tap into conversations that its customers are having and find out what they’re doing right… and wrong.”
The article goes on to link to a video which looks at the way Virgin has embedded social media into its organization. A large focus of the video is that every single employee in the company, from new recruits to the chairman, is engaged in social media. Virgin’s Content Manager Greg Rose is featured in the video saying: “Richard tweets and blogs 24/7 every day, so it’s knitted into the fabric of the whole company now.”
Every employee is encouraged to listen and interact. Social media innovations are highly regarded and social media data, positive and negative, is distributed throughout the company. They focus on positive messages but also have a clear method for dealing with negative stories—and ignoring them is not an option. Their view is that they need feedback to improve—and social media gives them access to direct feedback in a way never possible before.
Virgin views social media as a competitive advantage and uses monitoring tools to view the conversations about its competition. There is no better way to stay one step ahead and ensure the Virgin culture stays connected to the markets it competes in.
There are many other insights in the HootSuite video providing two minutes of valuable viewing. But for me the real message is just how quickly and easily a company, even the size of Virgin, can implement a social business strategy. All it takes is leadership and courage.
Photo credit: HeraldSun.com.au
Mark Cameron is CEO and lead strategist of social media conversion and commercialization agency Working Three. While his agency is based in Melbourne, Australia, he works for some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands. As a regular speaker and writer on social media and digital strategy, Mark stays focused on customers and outcomes, not the technology, leading to simple strategic conclusions.