Q&A with John Eaton of the Mondelez Engagement Lab (Oreo, Trident, Wheat Thins, Nilla)

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Wondering how major brands such as Wheat Thins, Nilla Wafers, Oreo and Sour Patch Kids are finding success on Facebook? It’s all about smart, flexible, responsive marketing. These brands are all managed under the umbrella of Mondelez International, which also has Chips Ahoy, Ritz, Nabisco, Trident, Toblerone, Cadbury and many other delicious products in its family.

For these brands, Facebook marketing goals are two-fold: appease current fans and brand advocates, while trying to convince others to give the products a try.

How do they do it? Inside Facebook recently sat down at the Expion Social Business Summit with John Eaton, a contractor for the Mondelez Engagement Lab, which develops real-time marketing efforts for the aforementioned brands.

Inside Facebook: What are some unique ways that the companies use Facebook or Instagram to really connect with their fans and customers?

John Eaton: One of the things that every company gets is the importance of understanding the target audience and resonating with the target audience. From Oreo, with their beautiful content that gets published everyday, to Trident and the show with Fuse (Trending 10), a really groundbreaking show, where they get the trending topics from Twitter in the morning, and write the show around those trending topics. It’s super cool.

Or Nilla Wafers, which is having enormous success on Facebook. I would venture to say that Nilla Wafers may be the highest-performing brand in our space … in terms of the percentage of the Facebook audience that’s active, in terms of Facebook engagement.

IF: What does Nilla Wafers do?

JE: Well, their content strategy is iterative and agile. Their content strategy involves daily test and learn, and when they find something that really works  they double down behind that.

It’s finding what really resonates with the audience. The days of “I’ve got the big creative idea and I’m gonna take 6 months to develop it and then we’re going to put out this beautiful TV commercial,” are not really what’s in the future for social. Instead of spending $500,000 on one creative idea, they’ll do 10 ideas at $50,000 a pop. This spend, of course, not related to any real numbers at our company. That allows you to understand what’s really working with your audience and then get behind that with any sort of support that you want.

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IF: Especially now. With brands, you can’t really plan ahead as much. I know Oreo does a lot of reactive stuff. They were big with the Super Bowl. What is the strategy taken when something happens and they need to post to Facebook? How does it get from A to B?

JE:  In terms of real-time marketing or a publishing strategy, the crucial thing is to find a cost-effective newsroom solution. You have to find a cost-effective way to have a newsroom. That’s the bottom line. You have to have a way to do that and have a process. This is something that we’re working on, and I think a lot of brands are trying to figure out how to do this.

You can’t just hire a staff and have an editorial staff like a magazine. But can you draw out a process for the existing staff? Community managers, marketers … can you get a process whereby they can discover and respond to you — with an approval step in the middle there — within a matter of hours?

IF: What has been the biggest challenge that one of these brands has faced, and how did you overcome it?

JE: I’ll go back to Nilla. Nilla started with their social presence sort of on auto-pilot, and they made a commitment to turn that around. They upped their game in their content strategy, they did iterative listening and testing. The other important thing that they did is they identified who their key community members are, identified influencers and advocates, then really addressed key members of the community with relevant content.