Building a Social Brand from the Ground Up: An Interview with Robert Harles
When Robert Harles came to Bloomberg in 2010, the company had little to no online social presence. In fact, the company’s official position on social media was to ban its use. Today, Harles – global head of social media at Bloomberg – boasts over 30 branded accounts, an enormous following on Twitter and an agile, custom-tailored toolset to watch this social empire (and its influence) steadily grow.
“[When I came to Bloomberg], we didn’t have an idea about what we wanted to do,” Harles said. “It took about 1-2 months to come up with a working plan.”
Though the company has an official social media policy across each of its platforms and departments governing the use of these online tools, Harles admits he’s done his fair share of experimentation and trial-and-error to come up with a stance that works. “Our toe-dipping has paid off,” Harles said. “It’s given us the ability to test and learn.”
The first principles Harles and his team discussed when creating a strategy were identifying how social media could be used to further Bloomberg’s business ambitions, how social media could increase the level of engagement of an already-engaged audience and how it could get more people to interact with the Bloomberg brand.
“There are so many new things happening in this space today, it’s O.K. to experiment,” -- Robert Harles
Echoing the sentiments of many others in similar positions to Harles looking to leverage social media engagement to increase sales and find some tangible ROI, he suggests there is a “shadowy arena” to determine what kind of capital a Facebook ‘like’ truly represents.
As any community manager would attest, the first stages of a community-building project -- coming up with a unique plan that is feasible, provides value, drives traffic and engages – are among the toughest. You can’t bring a cookie-cutter approach to community-building, and it takes a keen sense of user patterns and engagement to create a successful plan, particularly since the social space, by its very nature, is in a constant state of flux. This is something Harles considers daily as a part of his job.
After implementing a strategy and concept for a social identity, Bloomberg had to orient its staff with the new policies, as well as increase the overall company-wide level of social literacy. To do this, Harles prefers a combination of platform-specific training as well as internal teaching tools, such as “Bloomberg University” for staff and a brand-specific score card system to facilitate staff literacy and to determine the value of content put out on social media.
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According to Harles, Bloomberg has seen its most profound growth on Twitter, specifically in the news space with nearly 500,000 followers on its main account, @bloombergnews. Harles doesn’t get hung up focusing on the overall size of an online community as much as he does audience engagement, as he’s noticed the smaller online communities under the company umbrella have the most engaged and devoted readership.
With an online brand presence as large and profound as that of Bloomberg, Harles understands the importance of measurement and analysis and takes an open-minded approach to interpreting social data.
“There isn’t just one tool for analysis,” Harles said, mentioning only a handful of the wide array of tools and services Bloomberg uses to keep tabs on goals and the company’s overall social capital and clout. “We use services such as Radian6, Hootsuite, Comscore and Klout among others,” Harles said, explaining “any bit of information is valuable.”
“Our need for measurement and analysis needs to recognize unique goals,” said Harles, indicating that he’s always on the lookout for new ways to measure community-building efforts. “[Our tools for measurement] must help us account for what value we’re driving day-to-day.”
You can find Robert Harles at Benchmark, May 9 in NYC. Click here to Register.