Ben Blakesley has been with Reebok since February of this year. We were fortunate to catch up with him at the Social Media World Forum in New York earlier this summer, where he spoke about his experience in social media in general and specifically at Reebok. I also spoke with him a few weeks after the conference and learned more about some of the initiatives he’s led since joining Reebok. What follows is an edited summary of our discussion.
“A Communication Revolution”
Blakesley’s enthusiasm about social media is infectious. We asked him what he loves about social and the challenges faced by corporate brands such as Reebok. “What makes social media a communication revolution,” Blakesley explained, “is that you can build relationships across miles and have scale. Sales happen because of the relationships. It’s not just to push out marketing messages. What’s great is that we can scale these 1:1 interactions.”
“No One Has It Figured Out”
What about the future of social media? “Even though social media marketing is maturing,” he said, “no one has it figured out. It is going to constantly shift. It will look very different in five years. It would be foolhardy to think anyone has it figured it out and you can copy their model. Marketers will continue to shift their tactics.”
Engaging with Instagram
We asked Blakesley about Reebok’s strategy on Instagram. He explained that Reebok is starting to put a higher priority on the platform. So they put together a pilot program with just four employees. Each week Reebok turns its Instagram account over to a different employee who, working with just a few simple guidelines, is free to post what he or she will. The first four were hand-picked, choosing a group with varied backgrounds and interests. The point was to showcase the interests of Reebok people. The program has generated a lot of engagement. “It creates content and transparency to consumers. It shows that we at Reebok practice what we preach,” Blakesley said.
He elaborated. Reebok’s brand “is all about community,” he said, noting that the company differentiates itself from competitors as “a community of active people who want to get out together to participate in diverse fitness activities. They don’t have to struggle to find time to get out or build their schedule around fitness activities. Being active is their way of life.”
A key difference between Reebok and many corporate brands is that they don’t pick a message and then search for an image to support it. At Reebok, they share images that represent them and their audience well.
The bottom line is that to be successful on social media, brands need to be authentic. Reebok’s initiative on Instagram shows their audience that Reebok’s employees are authentic brand enthusiasts who are living an active lifestyle and that Reebok’s corporate environment is truly a community.
Ben Blaskely is the Senior Manager of Global Social Media, Reebok. He is the author of “Get Social: A Practical Guide to Using Social Media For Business.” Follow him on Twitter @benunh and check him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/benblakesley