There was a time when all companies had to do to garner our attention on social was run a low budget competition or post a picture of someone’s puppy. Now we expect better.
We want timely and helpful responses to our product related queries, authentic and honest messaging and more frequent puppy pics. (If it ain’t broke…) The standard with which we measure brands on social has been raised and some have relished the challenge. Lidl Ireland is one company who have used humour and transparency to develop a distinctive and successful tone of voice, even in the face of a potential PR crisis this year.
We spoke to Tom Mughal, Social Media Manager at Lidl Ireland to find out how he got his role and how he sees social media evolving in the next few years.
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Describe your role.
As Social Media Manager, I’m responsible for Lidl’s presence across Ireland and Northern Ireland. I work to define our social media strategy, I am responsible for the content we produce and manage the community of Lidl followers across Facebook, Twitter and our other channels. And there are a few puns thrown in for good measure.
How did you get to be Social Media Manager at Lidl?
My background for over 5 years has been digital marketing with a focus on social media, working both client-side and agency-side. The role was available after my predecessor transferred to Lidl US to create their social media presence from the ground up. Knowing that there is scope to move internationally is great and Lidl has a reputation of being a fast-paced, challenging employer which is something that I am always looking for in my career.
So I interviewed with Aoife Clarke, Lidl Ireland’s Head of Communications, and J.P. Scally, the Managing Director, where I presented a full evaluation of Lidl’s social media presence at the time. That was back in December 2016 and now here I am!
What’s the best part of your job at Lidl?
I actually have the most fun job. I know most people must say that but most people are wrong. I get to be creative and see these ideas come to life.
The style of work fits me perfectly too. I’m trusted to work independently and given a huge amount of autonomy, which allows me to be creative and take responsibility for the work I do. I get to interact with colleagues across the business at every level and to top it all off we have a really great office to work in too.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Social media is pretty much the voice of the business, so there’s always pressure there with it being so public. There’s so many examples of brands getting it very wrong, or failing in a crisis – luckily we haven’t made any massive public gaffes (yet!) and have had great engagement from our audiences.
So err… anyone do anything nice over the weekend?
— Lidl Ireland (@lidl_ireland) March 5, 2018
How do you remain positive in the wake of negative comments online? Do you have strict guidelines when dealing with aggression or trolling on social?
I’m generally a sickeningly positive person which I think helps a lot – social media definitely suits a specific type of personality.
What really helps us is working so closely with other departments across the business because it allows us be as informed as possible. When we have this information it means we’re not scared of publicly correcting people who are wrong.
For example, during a 1-day promotion of Tayto boxes a customer (without even going into store) was commenting tell everyone that Lidl never have stock for promotions and there won’t be any Tayto boxes so not to bother. Our Supply Chain department let us know we actually had 65,000 Tayto boxes sold in our 14 hours of opening.…that’s 1.3m bags of Taytos.
So we went back to the customer and let them know how much stock we had, helping to protect our reputation and alleviate any worries other customers might have.
— Lidl Ireland (@lidl_ireland) June 21, 2018
How do you balance staying on brand and being original?
The team who work on social media here is small, that ensures we keep the tone uniform in all communications. We all sound things off each other, to make sure things are in line with how we want to be portrayed.
Originality is key for us – even within our own business. We try not to just duplicate our adverts that you’d see on TV, outdoor advertising, print, but instead adding value outside of those channels. For example, at Christmas we were highlighting our chocolate tartlets on TV, radio, print, outdoor and more – so on social media we complemented this by creating a recipe video of brandy cream that goes perfect with chocolate tartlets! This gives people a reason to follow us.
What’s the most rewarding campaign you’ve worked on?
I’ve loved being able to work on the Autism Awareness Evenings; a weekly in-store event across all stores in Ireland and Northern Ireland where we make substantial changes to make the shopping experience more suitable for autistic people.
We filmed a video featuring a young man named Nathan and his assistance dog Walt, who were both absolute stars. The end product was brilliant and really highlighted why this initiative is so important. It’s probably my favourite video that we’ve ever created – (close second is the one where we sent a guy into space on a water slide) – that’s promoting a valuable resource for parents of autistic children.
Our Ladies Gaelic Football sponsorship is a pleasure to work on too. You can clearly see the results of the investment that Lidl have made in Ladies Football. Just take attendance levels at the Championship Finals – from 31,000 in 2015 to 46,000 in 2017, making it the most watched women’s sporting event in Europe. On social media we get to shout about this, drive people to matches and highlight the people playing the game.
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How do you see social media evolving in the next few years?
From a general view, we seem to be heading into a more widely-regulated social media world. It’ll be good to see where that takes us from a consumer perspective and also as an advertiser; GDPR implementation has been interesting enough.
From a brand perspective I’m excited to see what can be done with long form vertical video content. As a user it feels so much more personal to me and perfectly mirrors any videos I’ve taken myself on my iPhone. It requires a different type of creative thinking and I think brands/agencies that can nail that will be ahead of the curve.
Facebook also have some great new creative formats coming out – they’re constantly finding ways to increase the amount of time users spend on their platform to keep us on our toes as advertisers.
What advice would you give people looking to work in social media?
Companies that understand how social media fits into their wider business are the most successful ones. You can tell the brands that have an integrated social media team and the ones who don’t. I think people who have the best understanding outside of social media, and how it fits into other departments, will be the most valuable.
Also in my opinion, blogs beat books when it comes to keeping up to date with social media. People like Jon Loomer or blogs like AdEspresso are great for up-to-date information – the latter has a monthly “What You Need To Know” of Facebook and Instagram updates which is a brilliant overview of any changes made.
What’s one thing people wouldn’t know about your role?
One thing that you might not know about working at the Lidl Ireland Head Office is that everyone has to do training in store as a Customer Assistant. When I started, I spent 2 weeks annoying the brilliant team at Lidl Stillorgan with constant questions which gave me a great insight into our products, our processes, our customers and the business as a whole. Shout out to Stillorgan 166!
This initiative is then carried on every year for all Head Office employees – every Christmas we spend a day in store giving a hand during our busiest week. I spent time last December in Lidl Moore St – the second busiest Lidl store in the world!