The rise of social and mobile is rewriting the marketing playbook for even the most established companies. While many brands are still casting a wary eye at social media for business, Pepsi has embraced the technology, carving out an ambitious social strategy aimed at building relationships with the Millennial generation, soon to be the largest consumer group in US history.

A recent article by David Hatch of US News and World Report does a great job of breaking down Pepsi’s social strategy, the centerpiece of which is its “Live For Now” marketing campaign. The campaign, targeting 18-35 year olds, is a great example of an established brand effectively utilizing five critical aspects of social media marketing: consumer engagement, user-generated content, data aggregation, geo-local, and inbound marketing.

DYNAMIC CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT

Pepsi’s new digital dashboard is the most recent iteration of an online strategy that included last year’s debut of Pepsi Pulse and Sound Off, online destinations that encouraged visitors to comment on The X-Factor, a Fox network reality television show whose sponsors include Pepsi.

To further engage its online community, the song selection and encores for a Pepsi concert series this summer featuring major artists will be chosen in part by tweets from the live audience and people watching online.¹

“Pepsi is learning that if you want to remain relevant with this new type of consumer, you have to be where they are, you have to talk their language,” and you have to connect with them in a way that “keeps them feeling like they want to be part of your brand,” says Brian Solis, a principal analyst at the Altimeter Group. Connected consumers, he adds, are “getting groomed and conditioned to expect the world to come to them.”¹

USER-GENERATED CONTENT

Social media marketing is becoming increasingly dependent on user-generated content, meaning reviews, comment, or any other input from customers. Peer influence has a measurable impact on consumer purchase decision, especially among Millennials.

Understanding this, Pepsi has created a new digital dashboard on their Pepsi.com place page to support the Live For Now campaign, highlighted by user-generated messages from Facebook and Twitter that include the #LiveForNow hashtag. ¹

Moreover, with the help of SocialFlow, a tool that ranks the popularity of editorial content within audience segments, Pepsi is paying attention to what their target audience is interested in. “It’s all about that movement [online], and where people’s time is being spent,” says George Smith, senior manager, social strategy and execution, for Pepsi Beverages.

Actually listening to consumers in order to understand their wants and needs builds user loyalty, creating brand evangelists who will spread the word and act as online defenders of the company brand.

Moreover, by monitoring what people say online about its products, Pepsi is able to manage user complaints in real time, before they take on a life of their own.

DATA AGGREGATION

Unlike traditional, harder-to-track advertising methods such as TV and print, social media provides a wealth of statistics about the age, gender, demographics, interests, and reactions of consumers. As Smith notes, “With digital, you end up with a lot of extra data, and you end up with a lot more understanding of who your consumer is.”

This consumer data helps Pepsi refine its consumer engagement model, the effect of which is to attract new fans, and thus more data.

GEO-LOCAL REACH

Pepsi is hopping on the newest trend in social: SoLoMo, or Social, Local, Mobile. Thanks to the massive consumer adaptation of smart phones, companies like Pepsi can integrate social media with location-based mobile marketing.

Why do so? Because Pepsi can be more surgical about reaching populations in specific geographic areas. “We’re seeing good results from that,” Smith says, explaining that the company can target local audiences with specially tailored advertising messages fueled by location information provided in Facebook profiles. ¹

This kind of micro-targeting allows brands to hunt consumers with a high-precision rifle instead of a shotgun.

INBOUND MARKETING

Out with the push, in with the pull.

Pepsi has recognized that the tech-enabled power shift to the consumer has effectively neutralized many traditional forms of outbound, or push, marketing. Today’s savvy consumer wants to be listened to and courted by marketers. They want direct channels of communication to brands. In short, consumers expect brands to employ inbound marketing best practices as an engagement model.

When done properly, this approach is a win-win for brands and consumers. Pepsi’s social strategist George Smith recognizes the mutual benefit of direct consumer interaction: “It’s nice to be able to have that direct conversation with them, and not have to rely on a specific media channel to push this, or buy TV constantly to push that message,” he says.¹

By last count, Pepsi’s 8,181,075 Facebook fans agree.

Is your brand using these five aspects of social media? If so, how? If not, why?

¹ US News & WOrld Report, “Pepsi Measures Online Pulse with Social Media Strategy

Read more: Convert More Customers by Educating and Activating Your Employees Around Your Social and Mobile Strategy