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Q&A with Ben Blakesley, Senior Manager of Global Social Media @Reebok

Reebok_blogOur Marketing Manager Kelly Mayeda recently returned from Social Media World Forum 2014 in NYC aglow with great content ideas and state-of-the-industry news.

One of her favorite speakers at the conference was Ben Blakesley, Senior Manager of Global Social Media at Reebok and formerly a Marketing Manager for Vanguard.

Ben was a highly engaged participant at the conference, with a talk (5 Steps To Better Customer Interactions On Social Media), a panel (Engagement In The Increasingly ‘Pay to Play’ Social Media Environment), and a breakout session (Metrics That Matter: Using Competitive Intelligence To Drive Your Social Media Efforts).

Kelly asked Ben if he would answer some questions about Reebok’s social media strategy. What follows below is pure social media inspiration, with Ben talking about everything from how good data analysis breeds good strategy to what he wants Reebok’s social media presence to look like.

How do you define “success” on social media? 

That’s easy. Success on social media means that we’ve achieved the business objectives we set out to achieve. Every business I’ve ever worked with defined it differently, but a lot of the metrics and KPIs were the same, despite having slightly different goals.

There are about 13 different ways you can approach social media marketing, but my favorite, and generally the one that I think can have the greatest long term impact for a company, is relationship-building. And measuring how effective your social program is at relationship-building can’t be done with “normal” metrics. It has to be proved out one story at a time.

In line with this question, you’ve grown your Instagram followers by 387.8% in the past two years. Follower growth really took flight from September 2013 on. Can you explain how and why this happened? 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.16.59 AMIt’s fairly simple. That’s when we decided to put effort, focus, and intent behind our presence on the platform. The best way (not the fastest, but the best way) to grow a social channel is by activating your current customer base, creating good content, and most importantly, be social on the platform. Talk to people, engage with them, interact with them. Do the things that real people do.

What are three qualities you want people to associate with Reebok’s social media presence?

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but what I want people to think of when they think of Reebok on social media is: community, authenticity, and personality.

Can you explain how and why you’re moving away from celebrity-oriented content to real athlete-focused social marketing?

The shift from our associations with famous athletes to a focus on everyday athletes is more than just our social media stance. It’s how our brand is positioning itself for the future.

Our mission is to celebrate and support the three components of fitness: social, mental, physical. There is no better way to do that then through our partnerships with amazing communities like CrossFit, Spartan Race, and Les Mills. We work with them to create products that uniquely meet the needs of these passionate athletes.

The only thing that stands between the general public and these aspirational everyday athletes is the will and desire to make a commitment to a fitness lifestyle that makes them better in all aspects of their lives. 

How does your background at Vanguard, where social media output was heavily regulated, impact your current strategy and way of thinking at Reebok?  

I loved working for Vanguard and am so proud of what we built there. It definitely gave me perspective and the experience to approach social content and interactions a little differently.

When you literally cannot talk about the product you sell, you have to get creative with how you start conversations and make connections. That creativity and perspective helps me to look at the content we create without those regulatory restrictions from a different angle.

What role do analysis and measurement play in your social media strategy? 

All the theories and strategies in the world don’t matter if you don’t have a way to measure the effectiveness of your execution. It’s easy to formulate ideas about what should work on social media for your business, but if you want your social program to have real impact, you’ve got to set up a process to analyze the data and use that analysis to make data-based decisions.

A very small, tactical example of using data to make better decisions is how, at Vanguard, we approached live-tweeting events. Using our analytics tools, we tested different methods and found the absolute optimal number of tweets per hour, and the best format for the text of those tweets to maximize engagement. Data analysis can make a big impact both in these small decisions, and also in the big ones.

Can you give me some insight into #livewithfire and your upcoming campaigns? 

#LiveWithFire is a rallying cry for everyday athletes to not only bring intensity to their workout, but to infuse passion into all aspects of their lives. We’ll be taking this concept even further in the coming months to celebrate and encourage athletes of all abilities to dig in, come together, and achieve more.

Learnings, please!

How do you feel about the way Ben is thinking through, structuring, and refocusing Reebok’s social strategy?

Which of his lessons/ideas can you apply to your own brand?

How does #gooddata help you make #gooddecisions?

Give a holler in the comments below!

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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