adidas Social Media Success: A Behind-the-Scenes Look with Lia Vakoutis, Head of Digital Strategy at adidas America - Rick Mulready

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adidas Social Media Success: A Behind-the-Scenes Look with Lia Vakoutis, Head of Digital Strategy at adidas America

April 11, 2013

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In my daily conversations with small businesses and entrepreneurs, I’m often asked about big brands that are doing cool things in social media.

Which brands are on the cutting edge, really “get” social and are using it in creative ways to grow their business?

I mean, there are many brands that smartly embrace it but one that is consistently top of mind for me is adidas.

Adidas “gets” how to incorporate social media into their overall marketing strategy to sell shoes and apparel and ultimately grow their brand.

In fact, it’s a primary way they get the word out about their products.

Something to think about… are you leveraging the social media channels you have available to you to get the word out about your products or services?

Yes, adidas has 13 million fans on Facebook and adidasUS has 138k followers on Twitter, but social media, as you know from my podcast interviews, is far more about quality than quantity.

Adidas has done the work to figure out where their customers hangout online and they engage with them in those places.

They then use the appropriate social platforms to “give fans access to the brand that they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.”

There’s so much we can learn from what adidas is doing in social.  And as entrepreneurs and small businesses, we can model their success for our own business with little to no budget.

Because of that, I wanted to peel back the curtains of adidas’ efforts and give you inside access to their social media strategy.

Adidas Social Media — Lia Vakoutis, Head of Digital Strategy at adidas America

Lia VakoutisI reached out to Lia Vakoutis who is Head of Digital Strategy at adidas America, for a behind-the-scenes look and she was gracious enough to do an interview with me:

Rick: adidas has such a strong social media presence and does a great job in promoting the brand through these channels.  What can small businesses and entrepreneurs learn from what the big brands, like adidas, are doing on social media?

Lia: The options for how to market have evolved with the emergence of social media and the new “digital everywhere” mentality.  But the fundamentals of marketing remain the same:

  • Establish a clear objective for what you want to accomplish.
  • Understand whom your consumer is and how to reach them.
  • Create a compelling story of value to connect with them where they are online.

There are many different ways that adidas has used social media to engage with fans – from exclusive first-looks of the latest adidas shoes to live chats with adidas’ partner athletes, our goal is to give fans access to the brand that they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

Actionable takeaway: What are the marketing goals of your business and whom are you marketing to?  Do you have a clear understanding of where to reach them?  You don’t have to use every social platform, just enough to engage with and add value to your customers.

Rick: What do you see popular social media platforms, like Facebook or Twitter doing over the next couple years to make themselves more attractive to small businesses?

Lia: Social platforms are making it easier for anyone – big brands, consumers, small businesses – to amplify their presence within social media.  For example, Facebook is making it very easy for big brands and small businesses alike to buy social media ads against their specific target demographic.  This trend is likely to continue.  But it is up to the brand to determine how to use the data social platforms have collected to best reach their target consumer with a message that is valuable to them.

Actionable takeaway: Use social media to listen to your customers and from what you learn, tailor your message to them so as to add value.

Rick: What are the top 3 tips you would give to a small business or entrepreneur just starting out on Facebook?

Lia: Focus on quality of fans versus quantity of fans.  It is important to know who you want to talk to and make sure you are capturing the attention of that audience.  Know what your company or brand can offer your consumer that has value to them and create a social activation plan around that offering.  Keep it simple and compelling.

Actionable takeaway: It’s about the quality of your message and engagement with your customers rather than quantity of fans.  Know what your customers like and offer your product or service to them in that way.

Rick: I realize there can be different measures of success of a social media marketing campaign, but in your mind, what’s one example of a really successful campaign that you’ve seen?  And, why do you think it was successful?

Lia: There are many different ways that adidas has used social media to engage with fans.  From exclusive first-looks of the latest adidas footwear to live chats with adidas’ partner athletes, our goal is to give fans access to the brand in ways they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

A recent example of how adidas has used social media to engage fans is the campaign, “The Return.”  We used social media to connect Derrick Rose and his fans around the world in a highly personal, six-part story that documented his recovery and pending return to the basketball court.

We leveraged YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to create a movement around Derrick Rose and build hype around the launch of his third signature shoe, the Rose 3.0.

Each part of the story was released exclusively through adidas’ and Derrick Rose’s social channels and brought to life through video, photos and a Facebook application that allowed fans to add a red filter to their profile picture to show their support for #thereturn.  Millions of fans participated and showed their support of The Return.

Actionable takeaway: Building off Lia’s previous answer, leverage the social media platforms where your customers are to market and build hype around your products/services.  Lia and her team created an exclusive launch of the shoe using multiple platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) giving them several different ways to personally connect with their customers.

Rick: Small businesses obviously don’t have the kind of marketing and social media budgets that big brands do.  If you could give only one piece of advice to small businesses wanting to market themselves through social media, what would it be?

Lia: We are operating in a world of high-maintenance marketing.  Social media is a medium that needs constant attention.  However, the fundamentals of marketing have not changed.  It is important that you know whom you are talking to, what you want to say and how you will communicate your message in a way that relates to your consumer.  Marketing has become a two-way street where it is more important than ever to listen, respond and learn from your community.

Actionable Takeaway: Notice a theme here?  Use social media to find out where your customers are online, listen to them, and add value with your message that relates to them.

I’d like to extend a HUGE thank you to Lia for taking the time to speak with me. 

As we’ve seen there are several ways to connect with adidas online.  Here are the links if you’d like to do so:

Twitter: @adidasUS




The Inside Social Media Podcast

If you’d like more social media insights, strategies, tips and tricks from the most successful brands in the world, check out my Inside Social Media Podcast.  It’s available on iTunes, Stitcher, Blackberry and Zune Music.

I give you inside access to heads of social media from the most successful brands in the world, as well as the smartest social media influencers around.

We discuss the latest trends in social media marketing, how these big brands use social media to grow their business and most importantly, how you, the entrepreneur or small business owner, can model their success with little to no budget.

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