Would you expect a 222 year-old company would be fully engaged in social media? Yes, if it’s Molson; this includes Twitter, blogging, vlogging, Flickr and more.  As this came to me as a surprise, I was eager to find out why a such well-established company would take an active role on the Web. Ferg Devins, VP Government and Public Affairs, Molson Canada, was gracious to speak to me this past Wednesday.
It turns out community engagement has been part of this family-run company (now in its 7th generation) since the beginning. Banking and transportation are but a few of the new technologies pushed by the Molson family since its founding. Why? Beer is a social commodity. Maintaining good relations with the community drives the business.

Several things became clear during the conversation:

  1. Molson’s social media team not only gets social media, it really fires them up. The vibe and excitement was palpable. After I got off the phone, I wanted to jump up and down and fire up my colleagues (but that’s a different story).
  2. Engagement is successful when aligned to corporate goals and culture.
  3. Social engagement isn’t about directly impacting financial returns. It’s about relationships. This ties in to my take on ROI and the applicability of strategy maps to social media.

How has Molson used social media to engage community?

  1. The launch of the new blog included a major fundraising effortthat engaged 1100 Molson employees on a cold February morning. Wake people up at 6am to sell “Toques” in Toronto forRaising the Roof: Sure, why not? It resulted in a $125K being raised for the homeless, including an amazing $90K raised by Molson.
  2. Brew 2.0. Seriously, need I say anything more?

The following are highlights from our conversation.

JK: Social media is a cost-center in most organizations. How do you report value?
Ferg: How does traditional media report value? Social media is a part of the communications mix, and as such, represents one channel to reach out to the public. Thanks to Google Analytics and other tracking measures, activity is easily quantifiable.

JK: How will you scale if social media takes off?
Ferg: Give me that problem!

JK: Who started tweeting at Molson?
Ferg: @toniahammer; she often is out shooting pictures and video for the company.
JK: How do you see brands providing value on Twitter?
Ferg: I’m still feeling out the sense of what people want to see “commercially” on the site. I get tremendous value from the learning that is shared through various links from folks.  When I look at Home Depot updates, I guess it’s useful information and thus I follow…like taking back lights last weekend. The flash updates from Globe and Mail and other news providers is of value to me.
JK: What challenges do you think companies face in using Twitter?
Ferg: The greatest challenge for me and my team will be how we want to integrate our brand communications into Twitter in a relevant and friendly way to beer drinkers.  The best way to do that might just be to start reaching out and asking them.

The Lawyers
JK: I have a lot of experience in the legal industry and was curious: have the lawyers jumped on your case?
Ferg: We’ve guided by a simple edict: use common sense. Not only are you representing yourself, you speak for the company. There are certain things, like politics, that should be avoided.

What’s the take-away from this conversation?
JK: If Twitter were to disappear, how would you engage your community?
Ferg: Evolution is key.

How is Twitter used at Molson?
Tonia Hammer of Molson’s PR Team provided great examples of their Twitter use:

  • Direct traffic to our blog and Web sites: Twitter definitely helps drive traffic to the blog. For example:  In October, twitter was the 4th highest traffic source for the blog (7% traffic).  To put into perspective, we didn’t use twitter to communicate blog posts until March, and then, less than 1% of visits were directed from twitter.  It took communicating, building relationships and generating followers to eventually see the positive outcome of ‘twittering’ with respect to our blog traffic.
  • Events: We use Twitter to live-tweet and monitor events. For our Brew 2.0 events in Toronto and Vancouver, we followed the tweets to get feedback and also to share thanks, photos and video.
  • Soliciting Feedback: We ask questions about new websites, promotions, or what people would like to hear from Molson.
  • Monitoring: The various Molson brands are monitored using tweetbeep.
  • Promotions: We’ve done tweets with offers – discount code for ShopMolson.com, taxiguy discounts for the holidays

Learn more:
For a closer look at Molson’s foray into social media, check out the following:

My thanks go out to the Molson social media team for sharing their experience and time for this post.

Jonathan Kash is Director of Web Services at a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., and writes the blog Fluent Simplicity. He also created theSocial Media Brand Index (originally the Twitter Brand Index). Interests include brand identity, online reputation and strategy.