Expert Insight: 'Horses For Courses, That’s Our Approach To Social Media'

We sat down with Ram Kapoor, CMO at UC Berkeley


Ram Kapoor has a mix of skills that are highly unusual and extremely valuable to a wide range of businesses. He is a creative thinker with two decades of experience in the advertising arts. He is one of Asia’s first digital practitioners. And he is an accomplished business manager from one of Asia’s hottest economies.

Currently, Ram is serving as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Universtiy of California, Berkeley, a role he has been in since 2011. Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit this May 24-25 in San Francisco, we sat down with Ram to talk all things marketing, from social media to brand loyalty. 

Marketing leaders have had to adapt time and time again in recent years, for you, what has been the biggest change?

Our challenge has been to maintain high-quality conversations on an increasing number of channels. Given our limited resources, we had to prioritize channels based on our core audiences. For example, of late, we have been increasing our focus on Snapchat since that is the channel of choice for our prospective and current students. However, we still need to maintain a strong presence on Facebook since that is the channel of deep engagement with students, alumni, and our global well-wishers.

What approach have you taken to social media and how are you measuring your success? (brand awareness, clicks, shares etc.)

'Horses for courses', that’s our approach to social media. Since we generate a wide variety of stories for a range of audiences, we look at the subject matter and the audience to determine whether the story will lead to greater engagement on Twitter, Facebook or another channel. Depending on the channel, we look at typical social metrics such as shares and clicks, but we also look at exposure amongst non-fans.

How are you successfully managing (and optimizing) a multichannel brand presence?

In the case of a university, each unit has its own channels. So, this is a very complex issue. The way we handle it is to educate all units about the central brand strategy and then help them carve out their own niche. When we have a university-wide campaign, a key component is facilitating the creation of unit-specific creative assets. At the overall communications level, we share talking points on major issues with communicators in the different units. We also try and minimize external media outreach by independent units.

New technology adoption and transforming staff practices can be a tricky process - what tips do you have to make this a success?

Constant engagement is the answer. Not just at launch but much earlier. We wanted to transform the everyday design and messaging behavior of communications staff across the university. So, we took them along on our journey from brand exploration to brand launch, and have continued to provide training and templates to help them apply these guidelines in their work. My key insight is to look at the task from their point of view – what’s in it for them? Often, the answer is greater impact for their unit messages and a significant reduction in effort.

How do you maintain brand loyalty and meaningful engagement in the over-crowded digital space?

You have to find your brand champions and continually give them reasons to believe in you. We have over 450,000 living alumni, a large majority of whom would speak well of the defining experience of their youth. However, you need to give your brand champions easy access to key talking points. Our new brand campaign is a case in point: we took existing research and created a compelling future narrative about its potential impact. Our brand champions were enthused by this and amplified it without being asked to. The key to meaningful engagement is that it should be meaningful to your audience, not just to you.

What do you foresee to be the biggest area of growth in marketing through 2017?

Big brand ideas. As more channels are born every other week, we will see that better engagement requires not just an understanding of dynamics on the new channel, but also a thoughtful way of presenting your brand in the new setting. This, to me, is where the big brand idea comes in. 

You can hear more from Ram, along with many other industry leading marketing executives, at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit this May 24-25 in San Francisco. To see the full schedule, click here.

Hate small

Read next:

Don't Be A Hater Of Your Data