The Skinny on How Weight Watchers Uses Social Media

Did you know that the first social media platform Weight Watchers used was MySpace in 2008? It then launched Facebook and Twitter in 2009. Today the company has both an internal team and an agency that provides social media support. SocialTimes recently caught up with Lee Hurley, vice president of social media at Weight Watchers to discuss the company’s social media goals, strategies, the platforms it uses, and the analytics program it’s thinking about building. Here are excerpts of the conversation:

How important is social media in terms of the mission of Weight Watchers?

It is actually a crucial part of it. We were pretty much a born social brand, a community from the start. So, the ultimate goal of the company is to really help people to adopt and sustain a healthy way of living for life…. So, [before] that largely happened offline when you saw somebody when you were offline and you were like, hey, you look amazing, what did you do? That’s where the Weight Watchers discussion started, and now with people posting photos and sharing their success, a large portion of that actually happens online. Moving to digital is a really important part of the mix.

What are Weight Watchers’ social media goals and strategies?

One big one is extending our service strategy to social. So, that’s timely brand-to-consumer engagement, which is providing ongoing support and motivation. Through Twitter, Facebook, even on our website, we get questions every day. The other one is really continuing to innovate on increasing social sharing by allowing people to share what they’re learning, doing and loving on the program. We create pretty much exclusive content in social, whether it’s tips, quotes, success stories, recipes.

On our Facebook page, even though we put out a ton of content – we post usually three times a day. There are thousands of people posting all the time, connecting with each other, answering each other’s questions.

Have there been any specific social media campaigns or types of content that are more popular that you’ve seen more engagement from?

For the “I’m Only Human and I Did it Project,” which we only launched in December, we’re getting a lot of positive responses for that. This is real people sharing their stories of struggles before Weight Watchers and what their life was like, and then the success they have found at Weight Watchers, on YouTube. We have had over 2 million views of those videos.

We had a social media campaign called Lose-A-Palooza, which had gotten tons of engagement and very large reach.

We have a program called Lose for Good, and we have done that for the past five years in the fall. As members and subscribers lose weight, Weight Watchers donates up to $1 million to Action Against Hunger and Share Our Strength. Lose-A-Palooza was a one-day social media event to help bring awareness and engagement with that program. For that day, every single engagement we were donating $1. That was widely successful, and I think largely because it was tapping into things that people ordinarily do. We have done live chats with [fitness and health expert] Jennifer Cohen. We were streaming exercises on our Facebook page, and then we did a live chat with her after, which got a lot of engagement.

What tools do you use to measure social media campaigns?

For monitoring and publishing, we have NetBase and Spredfast. We track a lot of our links through Atlas. We look at a lot of tracking that way because that goes all the way to conversion. We are constantly looking at tools to help with efficiency and effectiveness in terms of publishing and hooking into develop a true social CRM model.

I think ultimately we are looking to build an analytics program that would actually tell us, our people who engage with us on social, are they losing more weight, are they more successful? Everything that we’re doing on Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook – even with all the tools that we currently have today – aren’t going to give us that pass-along and word-of-mouth amplification. So, we are looking at different ways of helping us get to the true answers of ROI broadly.

You mentioned Pinterest – Weight Watchers is also on Pinterest, right?

Yes. We have a presence on Pinterest. Recipes I think are the No. 1 thing. Food is very important. We also have inspiration boards and such, but recipes are the most popular.

Is Weight Watchers looking at any other social media platforms?

We have a presence on Tumblr. Last year, we had a contest – 365 Reasons to Believe – and they are all archived on Tumblr. For us, it’s not just about what are the new platforms, but, how do we have a meaningful presence? With Instagram, it’s how might we do a campaign leveraging ambassadors and influencers there versus just having a Weight Watchers Instagram page, because that may not make the most sense.

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