This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for October, called “On Responding.”
Debating the success of Coca-Cola’s corporate website
In the beginning of this year, social media manager Mark Higginson wrote an article for content marketing blog Sparksheet questioning the benefit of content marketing and citing the Coca-Cola Journey corporate website as an example. The corporate website had just completed its first year and was under some scrutiny from marketers trying to determine the success of the initiative.
What’s different about Coca-Cola Journey? It’s more of a digital magazine with multiple posts a day on a broad range of Coca-Cola topics – recipes, #cokestyle, Coca-Cola’s initiatives in the start-up scene, happiness – and some non-Coca-Cola topics like Halloween. A huge leap from the typical corporate website.
Journey is a multi-million dollar investment for Coca-Cola and is supported with a newsroom. This caught Higginson’s attention and inspired him to ask – is it worth it for Coca-Cola? He analyzed 78 random blog posts, determined that number of social shares were in the hundreds and concluded that for a company that sells 1.8 billion beverages a day, the site does not offer a good return on investment.
Response: Founder of the Journey presents a strong case
Ashley Brown, the founder of the website and Director of Digital Communications and Social Media at Coca-Cola at the time, wrote back two days later calling Higginson’s argument flawed. Brown’s point of view: his team was happy with the number of social shares they received, and more interested in “things like time spent on page, unique visitors, referrals, and more than a hundred other inputs” when evaluating the success of their site.
A deep, four month long conversation ensues
Sparksheet readers took advantage of the presence of both Higginson and Brown in the comments section and asked questions on both arguments. Since Sparksheet attracts a niche audience of content marketers, a healthy conversation followed with readers sharing their own view points and even tips for the Coca-Cola team around audience strategy and search performance.
Both Higginson and Brown responded to comments and the overall result was a much deeper picture of the behind-the-scenes evaluation at Coca-Cola and the lack of agreement within the content marketing industry on measuring success. In fact, the latter was a key reason for Brown to be so vocal about his experiences on Journey – it was a new concept for a corporate site and needed to be both explained and justified.
It’s also worth noting that both Brown and the Sparksheet team were committed to having a constructive conversation – they even invited each other to contribute to their respective blogs to continue the debate. Readers appreciated the continued discussion and joined in as many as four months later, proving not only the long-tail of online content but also the value of responding publicly online.