The Hershey Company: Developing a social media presence for a 122-year-old company — Live from Member Meeting 39

Coverage of this session by Cale Johnson of Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

3:50 —'s Erin McDaniel introduces The Hershey Company's Corporate Reputation & Social Media Manager, Sarah Dull.

3:51 — Sarah says she's going to walk through how they're building out a social media presence for a 122-year-old company. Sarah says she started about two and a half years ago in the COE, where she was working with their agency and brand teams — working as that internal liaison. Since then, she's moved full-time to managing this program.

3:51 — Sarah says there's so much more to the brand than that iconic chocolate bar, and she shares a slide explaining how much they're focused on helping children in need, and how it all started with their founder. Also, they're a house of 80 brands — from Hershey's to Jolly Rancher to Twizzlers, to new brands, like Krave and Brookside. And all but a handful have established, long-standing social presences with defined strategies — so it's hard to get them to shift for a corporate message (and understandably so).

3:53 — Sarah says that they needed a way to break through. She says that in her time, there's only been one campaign she's seen get through, and it was a program helping people in Ghana to do truly important work. They had Hershey's and Reece's participate, and managed to get five social posts — and it was all about a CTA to donate to the cause.

3:56 — Sarah talks about establishing The Hershey Company brand. It had always been there, of course, but this was about coming up with a whole new visual identity and to separate from their brands — not in a negative way, but to establish them as their own and bring visibility to their corporate initiatives.

3:56 — Sarah says they saw the website as the arm to lead everything in to. They had a ton of visuals to go with it, and it was a big change. The site was a long and lengthy process, and it included a move to a new platform and a lot of content creation that came with it. It just launched last week.

3:58 — Sarah shows a slide of all of their social accounts to demonstrate how they went with a consistent naming convention, and went with “HersheyCompany” for all channels (they determined “The” wasn't needed for the account handles). The channels they focused on were Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

3:59 — They sat down and created a plan. Launch was in July of 2015. It started with “Simple Ingredients” — the first point in time for them, and three months before they were set to launch their channels. The company wanted to announce their transition to simple ingredients across their portfolio, and it meant a change to two of their core products — and they really wanted a two-way dialog with consumers to explain this transition. They had about a week to do it, and decided to create a microsite to help solve the issue of not having a place to find it — they thought it was great, and then, senior leadership said they wanted a Twitter account to support the launch.

4:02 — Sarah: It took a lot of meetings and convincing, but they did not advance the launch of their social channels — instead, they launched a customer service channel at @AskHershey. The whole goal was, “You can ask us,” and this made it possible. They didn't have a huge number of inquiries, but it did help them build out their FAQ as they got some really insightful questions.

4:03 — Sarah: Now, in November, they prepared to launch their corporate social responsibility program, Nourishing Minds. Again, it was a program focused on Ghana, and it was a peanut-based nutritional bar, and it came out of a request from the government of Ghana to help with kids who needed it. Their team took GoPros and cameras and brought back all this great content — and now they have the tools to share how they're giving help — a nutritional bar — to 50,000 kids in Ghana every day.

4:06 — Sarah: Now, today, they've come full circle — and all channels are working together well. Now they're working on how to prioritize and what their year-two plan is. They've decided to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. LinkedIn because they're starting an employee advocacy program. Sarah says she's also working to help senior leaders get engaged socially.

4:07 — Sarah: Now, I want to come back to @AskHershey, and it's something we continue to use and don't want to lose it. Sarah says their feed was being bombarded with requests coming in, and they started separating what they were going to answer on their corporate account and what they were going to address on @AskHershey. They're working on what they want to answer directly, versus what they want to answer to the larger audience. It's just another thing they continue to tweak as they go.


Q: How do you plan to keep @AskHershey relevant moving forward?

A: We had that conversation when we started to create that line down the middle on what they were going to answer from which account. I started putting content out a few weeks ago on the handle, knowing it's not going to a huge following, but things on the “transparency” side seem to make sense there.

Q: On your stakeholder list, from consumers all the way to investors, are you seeing certain types of content be relevant to some versus others?

A: Something that surprised me, I thought Facebook was going to be our consumer channel — and that's where I was putting product stuff as well as corporate social responsibility, but they just reported back to me that workplace content works better there. I would like the investment audience and content to be on Twitter, but we're testing to make sure.

Q: Can you tell me about the H-Pulse Social Lab?

A: I don't actually sit there, but we do have analysts and others that are in there and are really looking at what consumers are talking about. I'm able to go to them and ask how things are playing in the social space. It's still evolutionary, it's only six months old — but they have real-time screens and we can see things as they happen.

Q: We have a similar challenge in that part of our core brand shares the name with a product. Do you think it helps? Or would you rather be called, “Big Candy Co.”?

A: It's a blessing and a curse, I'll say that. I'll say, our organic following comes from sharing that Hershey brand name. But it's also that negative side where they think it's a 100% one-stop shop to get everything answered.