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Executive Education

Mastering Social Media To Promote Your Brand

Based on a discussion with KRISTINE DE VALCK, Associate Professor of Marketing at HEC PARIS.

The majority of marketing and communication departments are still struggling to leverage the potential of social media. HEC Paris Professor of Marketing, Kristine de Valck, explains that effective strategies for promoting brands on social media start with social media literacy, or a basic understanding of the landscape.



Social media literacy is about understanding that people communicate differently on different platforms and familiarizing yourself with those different norms. In brief, if you do not understand the norms of a channel, you cannot leverage it very successfully. Broadly speaking, what distinguishes the social media landscape from former marketing and communication mediums is the switch from top-down, unidirectional company-led engagement to multi-directional exchanges in which consumers expect to play a role in the value creation process.



In the social media landscape, we learn by doing - in other words, you start to understand the platforms by using them. At the same time, this should not take away from the need for careful, informed strategy. Here are three sequential steps to achieving an effective brand promotion strategy on social media:


  • Articulate your objectives: For example, do you want to create brand awareness, build excitement, or build intimacy between the customer and your brand?
  • Choose the channels on which you want to focus. Figuring out which channels are best suited to achieving your objectives may require some research.
  • Integrate a learning mindset for your chosen channel(s). At this point, your goal in doing is primarily to learn; in other words, you have a learning mindset as you engage on the channel with the aim of deepening your understanding of the platform and its norms. This stage is all about tracking. You post content, observe the response, tweak your content accordingly, and, again, observe the response, and on and on.


A final key insight is that social media is much a wider landscape than you probably are used to operating within and thus demands a wider range of skills than is typically found in any single marketing or communication team. In fact, social media success stories usually result from comprehensive business strategies – as opposed to more narrow marketing and / or communication strategies – executed by a mix of people who now connect instead of working in silos.



In 2005, Dell was projected brutally into the social media landscape when prominent media and news blogger, Jeff Jarvis, complained about the abysmal quality of the Dell customer service that he was receiving after the purchase of a poorly performing computer. His blog posted was titled, “Dell lies. Dell sucks ” and it went viral, unleashing the online fury of dissatisfied Dell customers.

Today, however, the “Dell Hell” incident is known more for the way it served as a catalyst for Dell to transform itself into one of the world’s savviest social media companies, rather than for the customer-relation nightmare itself. Dell was driven to invest heavily in developing its understanding of the social media landscape. They started out by tracking the number of conversations taking place on social media around their brand (4,000-5,000 per day), and quickly realized (ahead of the curve) that listening to and engaging with customers in those conversations would create a wealth of opportunities not only to promote and manage their brand but also to improve their product and service offerings. 50,000 Dell employees worldwide have now been trained in how to engage with customers on social media, and the company is opening up a new business in social media consultancy to capitalize even further on their hard-earned expertise.