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'It's not us versus them' - Innocent's head of digital and communities on why social and traditional need to get along

The old belief that social media is “just a place to over-indulge your biggest fans” is dying out, according to innocent’s head of digital and communities Joe McEwan, who claims those who dismiss social entirely perhaps don’t know how to get the best from it or are suspicious of it.

Speaking to The Drum, McEwan, who is a judge at this year’s Social Buzz Awards, said the early days of social media led to a “misguided belief” that all you needed to do was launch a Facebook page and “hey presto – you'd have a more meaningful and profitable relationship with your consumers”.

“I try not to think of social and traditional in terms of one or the other, or us versus them,” he added, highlighting social media’s potential more as “another way of reaching people.”

“Sometimes [social media] will be the most effective way – if your target audience for a particular campaign don’t watch TV, for instance, but are highly active on Twitter, and you’ve got a great Twitter campaign up your sleeve, using [the social network] will generate more impact and awareness than TV,” he explained.

“It really depends who you’re trying to reach and how well suited your campaign is to the different channels available. Brands often settle on the channels they want to use before they’ve developed any content – which means someone bolts on a pointless social activation to a TV-led campaign, or great standalone social ideas don’t get the investment they deserve because the entire marketing budget’s gone on TV.”

Famed for its conversational and irreverent approach to social media, Innocent doesn’t try too hard to sell the product, instead opting to produce content “you might actually want to share with your mates”.

Most recently the brand got involved with the London tube strike, (Thursday 9 July) sharing how its offices had been affected and the pros and cons of some very alternative modes of transport.

In May, it also launched the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations on Election Day which, for the benefit of the brand's chief executive who might be reading this, McEwan revealed, did lead to a direct sales uplift, “a really big one too - at least 27 per cent,” he added.

When it comes to choosing a channel for the inherently social brand – “we were social before social media” – McEwan said it comes down to the brand's confidence in three things: “The people we want to reach are using it; that we can add value to those people and that we have the resources needed to build and maintain a great presence."

He went on to add that brands should have"a presence where it makes sense to have a presence".

“If your target audience spend most of their time on Pinterest, and you’re confident you know how to capitalise on that, then launch on Pinterest. If you’re a plumber, and you generally get your business from word of mouth, you probably don’t need a hashtag campaign on Instagram.

“Brands are getting smarter [when it comes to social media] – content is improving, how social is used in conjunction with traditional marketing is improving, targeting options are evolving - it’s an exciting time to be involved in social," he said.

On what he’s looking for as a judge at Social Buzz, McEwan said “awards entry 101 stuff.”

“I’m looking for entries that clearly and concisely demonstrate that a great idea let to brilliant business results," he revealed. "Cost effectiveness is a big thing – which isn’t to be confused with success on a shoe string. I have as much respect for big budget success as I do the little guy wins,” he said.

“I’m also big on work that lives on beyond the initial campaign period,” but warned “don’t write too much. If it was a successful campaign, you should be able to demonstrate that success concisely.”

The Deadline for entries to the Social Buzz Awards is Friday 14 August with an awards ceremony set for Wednesday 25 November at the Marriott Grosvenor Square in London.

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