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Architects of Next: Social media’s currency is engagement / Anthony Leung, Pret

“Mean Write Hook”. Pretty funny, eh? Anthony Leung, social media manager at Pret, appreciates the value of a good pun, right down to his Twitter username.

The focus on wit was much needed in his previous role at JUST EAT, the takeaway aggregator who built their marketing on customer-orientated humour and irreverence. Shifting from promoting a purely online food delivery business to one which is resolutely bricks and mortar, with a long-standing keenly defined brand, could phase some. Leung sees clear continuity in the approach: “Early in my career I returned to college to study marketing further, and the focus on RFM models (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) to categorise and allocate value to customers made a lasting impression on me. Essentially, when applied to social it means you’re looking at when you can next get that customer to engage. That’s the same whether trying to get people to click through to order a takeaway, or to visit their nearest Pret.”

He sees social engagement as core to his role and the practice of social media marketing. “Engagement is the currency of social media. Finding those engagement points, and developing tone of voice and content to optimise for it IS social media.” Pret’s well-defined product values and store experience help in this respect. He sees the appeal, and message, even in a period in which they are being feted for their vegetarian push, as: “It isn’t veggie food or vegan food. It’s just delicious food, as Pret always has been, and always strives to be. That message resonates because of the product.”

Given the absence of any digital sales, the social programme has a heavy in-store integration, with stores featuring reviews. Prompting users to “put their hands up” and recommend product is a key focus. This is evident in the Pret’s Snapchat filter for their Veggie Pret pop up, something Leung acknowledges they haven’t shouted about. “We’ve let people discover it in a very organic way. That people want to brand themselves as in our in-store is shown in the 55k views we’ve already seen, without any real activation.”

When pushed on what a typical day for Pret’s social looks like, he finds it challenging: “JUST EAT was more predictable as to the shape of a typical day. Key to winning at JUST EAT was nailing the relationship between takeaway and what the customer did with it. For example, what are they doing whilst eating it – they’re watching TV, they’re second screening, and what does second screen mean? Twitter. So we’d be live tweeting. Especially things like Eurovision, the World Cup. Those moments were huge for us. At Pret that’s out the window as our story is more important. Pret is more like a charity when it comes to social than a retail brand. Everything that’s done has a purpose. You fall in love with Pret because of the core values and personality.

At the heart of their strategy for social is: “Wit and being meaningful – those are key to face-to-face experiences. Even our visuals of food – they make your day better. Cacao orange pots are a great example, with hilarious but useful on pack copy writing on what sounds like a weird ingredient. My role is to ensure those common points are reflected in social, and also challenge the status quo.”

Anthony started his career in Canada, and has more recently worked at Rackspace as social lead for the UK, as well as JUST EAT as social media manager. Beginning in broader marketing, he’s collected experience in charity digital community management, SEO, and social content. This reflects a broader trend we’re increasingly seeing in social – specialisation or particular strength in area of social media, rather than “everything social”. This reflects a natural evolution of the discipline, as it becomes pervasively the dominant way to engage consumers.

Interestingly, he says he’s stopped looking at other brands, and is instead more interested in how people do their storytelling. For the year ahead he is excited about the potential for immersive visual experiences, from Facebook 360 videos, through to VR. “I know not everyone can come from Glasgow to experience our veggie pop-up store, so I hope to take the experience to them, in an immersive yet accessible way.”

This is the latest in our series “#architectsofnext’ which profiles the people on the frontline of building what comes next, through social media.

If you want to get ahead, read/do:

  1. Top Twitter follow: @AdWeak – it’s good to able to laugh at ourselves sometimes

  2. Top Instagram follow: @TheRock – entertaining, motivational, heartwarming – one of the few celeb accounts worth following

  3. Productive habit: Constantly push yourself to be creative and original in your own personal social media content. It’ll inspire your professional work later

  4. Unproductive habit: I’m sorry I ever discovered Pokemon Go

  5. Favourite brand: Pret. Obviously.

This is our #ArchitectsOfNext series, where we aim to inspire others with firsthand insight into how people shaping innovative digital engagement models think and deliver their work.


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