Q&A: Take a Page From Mars' Social Media Playbook

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How Mars is Leveraging Social Media to Keep Quarantined Consumers Engaged

From art challenges to science experiments, Mars’ candy brands have been busy bees on social media, engaging quarantined consumers with creative contests and at-home activities. Indeed, social media is rife with opportunities to engage an idle audience that has been starved for interaction. To find out what it takes to connect with consumers the right way, we caught up with Mike Italia, head of social media at Mars. Here’s what he had to say.


digital_ideas_social-distancing_tbs_teaserMore on Engaging Consumer Audiences:

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Mike Italia, head of social media, Mars

Event Marketer: Have you ramped up your social media engagement since COVID-19 hit?

Mike Italia: Skittles is always listening and responding to its fans on social, so our level of engagement has not changed significantly since COVID-19. However, the conversations we are having with our fans have shifted. Skittles, as a brand, looks to add humor to everyday life and this holds true more than ever in our current environment. Recently, fans have been sharing examples of how brands like Skittles and M&M’s have been used to help pass the time at home with family, doing things like baking, arts and crafts and science experiments. Skittles has been encouraging this behavior and featuring fans that share them with us.

 

EM: What kinds of calls-to-action are you creating for consumers?

MI: We want our calls-to-action to be authentic and leverage existing consumer behaviors. As time at home is very prevalent, we’ve seen arts and crafts, and baking, become more prominent conversations amongst our fans. Our in-house content creation team is able to quickly develop content around the areas that consumers are gravitating towards, like recipe ideas, art challenges with M&M’s, and science experiments with dissolving Skittles in water. We’ve also seen consumers take on their own fun challenges on the ever-popular TikTok app, where our Extra gum brand started a gum wrapper challenge.

 

EM: How do you get consumers to interact with you on social as opposed to passively ‘liking’ your posts?

MI: Engaging back with fans is key. The more we engage with our fans, the more interaction they give back to us, both publicly within comments, and in Twitter threads, as well as private DMs. Over time, as fans see that Skittles responds, they enthusiastically begin participating in more conversations with us and start sharing those conversations amongst their networks.

 

EM: Which social platforms have you seen the most engagement on?

MI: Twitter is our go-to platform for engagement as it allows for the most real-time organic conversation. While platforms like Instagram and Facebook have been historically key for driving visual content and engagement, we have put an increased focus on Twitter in the current environment. Even hosting live evening or late-night weekend Twitter Q&As (ask us anything) has been very successful as our fans are stuck at home and looking for things to do during times they would normally be out and about.

 

 

EM: Any other tips for marketers on social media strategy right now?

MI: We’ve increased the cadence of real-time tweeting to keep audiences engaged and shifted our content strategy to focus on more at-home and family together-time activities. We listen closely to what our fans are asking of us during this time and try to deliver. For example, we’ve received several requests for interesting virtual backgrounds, like for M&M’s character backgrounds for video calls, which we’ll be sharing with our fans soon. Other interesting requests inspired by past posts or popular cultural moments included a Skittles ‘Exotic ‘Wild Berry’ Joe’ background and ‘SNICKLES,’ a Snickers stuffed inside a pickle, ha!

Featured photo courtesy: iStock/PCH-Vector

This story appeared in the June 2020 issue
Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music and doting on her fur baby.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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