Why Coke’s corporate blog is for real

Renowned for its closely guarded trademark drink recipe, The Coca-Cola Company is now testing out a formula for company blogs. A Q&A with the instigator of Coca-Cola Conversations.

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Outside the IT sector, corporate blogs are thin on the ground. So, it is intriguing to see that The Coca-Cola Company has started a blog by its in-house archivist, Phil Mooney. A godlike being to serious collectors of Coca-Cola ephemera, Mr Mooney is also thoroughly interesting – and enlightening – on the topic of blogging in a business context.
In an interview recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, the centre of the Coke universe, the most important point to emerge is that Coca-Cola regards this as a toe in the blogging water. If it works, it will see what else it can do to get ‘the conversation’ going – it is no coincidence that this blog is called Coca-Cola Conversations.
Another striking insight is the sheer amount of time given to the blog: if you’re going to do it, you have to do it properly.
Bowen Craggs Why did you decide to start this blog?
Phil Mooney The reason we decided to start the blog was we’ve always had a lot of people that were interested in the history of Coca-Cola.
They’re interested in how this brand intersects with pop culture in so many different ways. So we thought, rather than use a traditional web site, the blog gave us an opportunity to have an interaction with all of those Coca-Cola fans that we knew were out there.
Why did you decide to do it on a separate website rather than the main Coca-Cola website?
The primary reason was we thought that the format of the conversation was very different from anything else that we had on the corporate site and we wanted to signal to people that this was a different kind of experience. So the blog was set up to facilitate that social interaction between people in a less formal way than a traditional corporate website.
How long has the blog site been going and what are the main lessons learned so far?
We launched it in January 2008 so its still virgin territory in many many ways. But I think what we’ve learned is that there are an awful lot of topics that we can cover under the umbrella of heritage and pop culture. That we can relate those comments to things that are happening in our business today, so there’s a relevance to the contemporary scene. And people seem to react to a wide variety of topics in ways we hadn’t really anticipated.
For instance, people will see a story that we have posted and decide to share a story where Coke intersected with their lives. And this is part of the fun of the blog: it’s created a venue for those things to happen where they wouldn’t happen so naturally on a corporate site.
Who were you expecting the audience to be?

We’d hoped that the blog would have a broader appeal than just to those folks who are Coke collectors, fans that we knew already existed. We really felt that the die-hard Coke collectors were the tip of the iceberg. And we were hoping to find who else was out there who might be interested in a conversation like this. What we’ve found is that relatively few ‘hard core collectors’ are actually using the site. We’re getting to the average person who has two or three or four Coke items that they’ve always been interested in learning something about. And we’re also finding that the blog has attracted attention from people who write about social media, people who write about marketing who see this as a very interesting way to get an understanding of the culture of one corporation.
How many comments are you getting
It’s quite interactive. We are probably getting an average of three to four comments every day on the site, which is good for us right now, we think. We really didn’t know what we were going to find. So, every morning when I come in, there are three or four, five, new comments posted that we try to respond to either that same day or within 24 hours one way or the other. If it’s a topic that’s going to take us a little more time to research, we’ll tell the person we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We’re trying to be very time sensitive in our responses so people get the feeling that, if they post something to our blog, there’s actually someone there reading it, and responding to it.
How long do you spend each day servicing the blog?
On average, I probably spend an hour to an hour and a half working on some aspect of the blog and then I’ve got one of my associates, Helen Nash, who works with me on this. She probably spends another two to three hours on the blog every day, either generating new content to post or responding to comments that we’ve received.
Is it a good use of time?

We do think that it’s a good use of time. It’s a new social media for the company to interact with and so we’re learning an awful lot about what’s expected of those of us who enter into this arena. In many ways, what I will learn from doing a blog on heritage and pop culture will certainly influence how the next person who blogs will set up their site. And it may be the same or it may be different. So it’s very much of a learning process for us and I think we see it growing over time. For instance, up until this time we’ve done very standard postings using regular photography. We have just started to do our own in-house videos of a couple of different topics and we see that as an expanding part of the blog moving forward now.
So, for instance, we could go down to the World of Coca-Cola and do some small blogs on some of the exhibits that we have there. Not everybody will be able to come to Atlanta to see our museum, so we’ll take a little bit of the museum and take it to people who have an interest in Coke.
There may be other events that happen in Atlanta over the course of the year that we feel are blog-worthy and so we’ll be looking at different media to use on the blog and see how folks react to that.
Does the company see this as a test of social media for the broader company?
I don’t think there’s any question that the Coca-Cola Conversations blog is a test of the medium for our company. We wanted to see how it works. We wanted to see how people react to it. We wanted to get a real understanding of the time commitment that was going to be active in a blogging atmosphere. So everything that I do, everything that my team does, helps to build that base of knowledge that hopefully will enable us to be better at blogging or creating new social media as we move forward.

First published 23 July, 2008
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