Agency influencer Q&A with John Bell: The secrets to principled social design

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

John Bell (@jbell99), the founder and Global Managing Director of Social@Ogilvy, is one of those rare thinkers who not only understands social marketing but can actually break it down into actionable principles.

In the second of our Ogilvy influencer Q&A series, we asked John to elaborate on the “Seven Principles of Social Design” he recently authored for Social@Ogilvy. In particular, we asked him about three of the principles especially well-suited to Twitter: value exchange, creative participation and social proof. (For more on the other four, here’s the Fast Company writeup on his ideas, and his Slideshare deck.)

@TwitterAds: What prompted you to put the Seven Principles together?

@jbell99: We started designing social media programs almost eight years ago. Even then, we defined “social media” as behaviors supported by technology. We created these principles to address how to reliably plan and deliver great programs that drive people to actually share.

@TwitterAds: What are your best tips for marketers and agencies who want to use your principles?

@jbell99: In my experience, if you are not doing five or more of these things, you shouldn’t expect a social program with lots of engagement and advocacy.

@TwitterAds: You believe value exchange is critical to social design. How can brands provide value to customers?

@jbell99: Utility is one way brands can create a value for customers. Brands become useful by understanding what people are trying to get done in a given day and making it simpler, better and faster. Nike (@Nike) has done a great job of putting utility at the heart of their business. Innovations like the Nike+ FuelBand (@NikeFuel) are helping people get something done that is already important to them—staying fit or enhancing their running experience.

@TwitterAds: Creative participation seems like an especially promising notion for brands using Twitter. Why does that so often drive successful campaigns?

@jbell99: People love to be asked to be creative. If they can contribute and get acknowledged for participating, it drives up engagement. Once they’ve contributed an idea, they are invested in the outcome and more prone to promote the campaign across their social graphs.

The province of Chengdu in China did a great tourism campaign based on creative participation. The region has a well known panda sanctuary, so they created a “pambassador” program where people could nominate themselves to go to the panda facility and be an ambassador for a period of time. Nominees were invested in the outcome so they shared the program throughout their social graphs to get friends and families to vote for them.

@TwitterAds: Can you elaborate on the behavioral dynamic of social proof? How can brands leverage this concept using Twitter?

@jbell99: When we see others doing something, we are more likely to make that same choice ourselves. As an open, public and real-time platform, Twitter helps us as consumers take advantage of social proof in the moment. Through things like trending topics and Retweets, we can see what others think is interesting and engage with those topics ourselves.

We’ve used social proof with brands like Caesar’s (@CaesarsPalace) in the past. We’ve given superfans access to content and offers that they can pass along to their own social graph. When people see their friends sharing these offers, they’re more likely to check out the offer themselves.

@TwitterAds: What are some innovations you’re excited to apply these principles to?

@jbell99: I’m really excited by innovations like Twitter Cards because they allow for new creative opportunities. Cards don’t just pull content into a Tweet, but they allow for new behaviors and new interactions by making video, images and articles appear in the Tweet.

@TwitterAds: What are your personal favorite accounts to follow on Twitter?

@jbell99: I get value out of @PSFK and Geoffrey Colon (@djgeoffe) from @Microsoft. I appreciate the way Andy Carvin (@andycarvin) from @NPR uses Twitter to cover news in a provocative way. Scott Monty (@ScottMonty) does a tremendous job not only sharing what he’s thinking about in terms of the discipline but also being a transparent advocate for @Ford.

And of course, I enjoy following our @Ogilvy accounts because they keep me in touch with my own network.


Want more from @jbell99? Read his blog (the Digital Influence Mapping Project) and of course follow him on Twitter.