Jones Soda Company, the once popular Seattle beverage brand has fallen on hard times. However, you probably wouldn’t know that based on recent activity on its social media channels. It has a focused and active online marketing strategy, befitting its image as the beverage of choice among the young and hip. The strategy puts the customer front and center on its website rather than relying just solely on connecting through conventional channels, e.g.: Twitter, Facebook, Google+. If you evaluated its strategy only on the measure of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook you would conclude it was a mediocre effort of an uninspired campaign. No doubt, having over 1 million likes on Facebook is nothing short of amazing for a company that only did 17 million in revenue last year, but even Sunkist has over 3 million.
First, some context. Jones Soda Co. is not doing well financially. The company has been through a rough couple of years with revenue dropping from around $40 million in 2007 to under $17 million in 2012, taking an almost $3 million loss. It finished last year with a devastating “delisting” on the Nasdaq with its stock hovering around 40 cents from a high of over $30 in 2007.
What Jones Soda is Doing Well with Social Media
The company is active on Facebook and Twitter and promotes its various brands, new product launches and event campaigns through these channels, actively engaging customers on a daily basis.
It has developed a customized social media strategy on its website that encourages fans to post photos of their favorite moments with Jones Soda. It’s looks like an impressive effort that has a lot of potential, but hard to tell how active fans are and if there is any dialogue between fans and company.
What Jones Soda is Not Doing So Well with Social Media
Some of the content is dated. In fact, a huge disappoint occurred earlier today when I visited the blog page. The last entry was from 2012 promoting the movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The entry before that one was from September 2011. Having old content is sometimes worse than not having it at all, especially for a brand trying to seem trendy, young, fresh and in the moment. Fellow TMMBA colleague, Pranav Nambiar’s blog article on which social media strategy works best, cites a study that concluded “blog content posting” as the most important tactic to use for effective B2C campaigns. If this is true, Jones is making a big mistake by not updating its blog content. I even went so far as to tweet the company with the following exchange occurring:
While I can forgive the obvious error in grammar (it’s Twitter!), I don’t think the tone was the best way to answer a customer. Granted, I was kind of being a jerk by pointing out the old blog, but the answer back should have been more playful and should have not taken 5 hours to respond.
Social media IS marketing and when cuts happen, marketing budgets are often the first to go and the case with Jones is no exception. Jennifer Cue, Jones Soda’s current CEO, stated in their 2012 Q4 earnings call that, “During the latter part of 2012, we needed to align our operating expenses to the company’s capital resources and the size of its current business. We eliminated top-heavy corporate overhead along with marketing expenditures that did not fit our brand image.” This all happened around the time the blog entry stopped, which is probably not a coincidence.
Can social media save a company? Probably not. Can it add value to a cohesive and structured marketing campaign? Absolutely.
You wouldn’t think I’m a fan based on my most recent post (yes, shameless plug) trashing the soda industry on GeekHealth! But, I truly hope Jones Soda Co. is able to weather the storm and make it, as I AM a fan (who DOESN’T like Tofurkey & Gravy Soda?!) and occasionally enjoy their products—especially on an Alaska Airlines flight! If you are a fan as well, help them out by following them on Twitter and like them on Facebook!