Blackmores shares social network, CMS deployment success story

Creates Australian membership base of 340,000

Creating a unique user experience in its branded social network has been vital to Blackmores’ online success, strategic business communications manager, Simon Marks, has said.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia, Marks said the health care giant’s creation of its social network, that includes Sitecore’s online marketing suite and content management system (CMS), has been one of the digital team's biggest projects, and has created a membership base of 340,000 people across Australia.

“It’s being driven by commercial requirements and people in the organisation,” Marks said. "More and more people are coming to us and saying they want a collaboration tool, we want to have e-learning and payroll and HR put online, so it’s [being developed because of] organic demand.”

Beginning the project last year, Marks looked at a variety of options when it came to selecting a vendor for the branded social network.

“The site core online marketing suite technology actually only got rolled out late in the project,” Marks said. “…in September last year [we asked ourselves] do we go with a global player like site core or do we do it ourselves?”

Having a social networking site based around personalisation of information was “complex”, according to Marks, who said Blackmores’ unique member base posed an interesting challenge for the healthcare company.

“The site is orientated around health based communities that roughly reflect our product segmentation but not literally,” he said. “We wanted the relevance to be about the consumer, not the product.”

With a role that stretches across a number of different business functions, Marks said finding a balance between the technology and community of the Blackmores’ social network has been vital to its success.

“We’ve got a meeting of customer experience and the user experience with the back office supply chain and customer service,” he said. “It seems to me as if these areas are coming together.”

The social network, developed for both Blackmores’ employees and customers, builds a personalised site for its users.

“The strategy was to get the personalisation of content for engagement…the technology we were confident with but we weren’t sure what it would look like,” Marks said. “Collaboration in the digital space is really important.”

Despite Tim Berners-Lee last week criticising Facebook and other social media sites, Blackmores’ said Facebook was key to its social networking strategy, with the company currently being ‘liked’ by some 10,000 Facebook users.

Despite playing host to a growing community, Marks said his next challenge is to ensure that the site continues to be seen as engaging to its audience.

“We’ve accumulated a large user base and now we’re focusing on engagement and making sure that we have a very active serge strategy,” he said.

Blackmores’ insights into branded social networks come as Diaspora, a widely anticipated social network site built on open-source code, last week opened its doors for business.

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