I‘ve never been to Berlin, at least not yet. Therefore, since I don’t have any personal recollections, the first things that come to my mind when someone mentions this city, are JFK’s  “Ich bin ein Berliner”, the movie “Wings of Desire” and, rather predictably for those who are well acquainted with my musical tastes, “the album “Achtung Baby” by U2. What do all these have to do with this blog and, especially, with Online Marketing?  Allow me to explain…

by Dannos Tsakalos, Marketing Manager of the Thinkdigital Group

A few months ago, Thinkdigital organized its annual “AllThingsFacebook” conference in Athens, with Christoph Bornschein as one of the keynote speakers. Yes, you guessed it right. He is ein Berliner. And, most importantly, despite the casual style and the youthful look, he is the CEO of TLGG, Germany’s most successful Social Media agency!

Interesting, huh? What if I also told you that TLGG succeeded in generating a 300% growth of a client’s already massive fan base? Or that the solution to the problem of “how to produce engaging content” is, according to Christoph, as simple as a 2-word answer?

Are you curious enough to start reading what this guy has to say? Gooooood! Let’s push the “play” button, listen to the opening chords of distorted-guitar virtuosity and heed the advices of this passionate, energetic and overachieving businessman.

In 2008 you co-founded TLGG as Germany’s first social media agency.  Almost half a decade later, what has been, in your opinion, the most unexpected or fascinating shift in this industry?

Christoph Bornschein: I guess what has been most impressive to me, even though it had to come this way, was the speed and pace the media-shift and its consequences took in the last few years. At least in Germany, I can say that Social Media has become an integral part of Marketing and this is something which happened really fast!

As you mentioned during your keynote, “what once was progressive Marketing, now it’s just business as usual”. Given the fact that users are oversaturated with brand messages and are not easily impressed, what’s the first step that brands should take in order to win over their fans?

Christoph: The answer is “by moving away from brand messages”! I truly believe that brands should understand what their relevance in people’s life is all about and what they really like and need. A progressive Social Media approach is not about searching new channels and ways for putting out the same old messages; it’s about offering added value, as well as products and services that people really want to have and make them actively interact with brands they like.

Producing engaging content is something which can differentiate a brand from its competition. However, according to a recent research, 49% of marketers are having difficulties in producing content that engages fans. What’s your advice?

Christoph: Two simple words: “Try harder”!

Ok, clear enough! Tell me something else. You managed to boost Lufthansa’s fan base by 300% within just one year. How did you achieve this exponential growth?

Christoph: Getting there was basically determined by two factors: the first thing was an investment in producing good inspirational travel-content that people really like and that inspires them about destinations and flying itself - In those phases we got more visual and tested a lot what gets people interested. The second thing was to run campaigns which make people interact and invite their friends.

And now that you have established a huge fan base?

Christoph: Now that we’ve got a fan base of about 1.2 million fans, we’re still investing in constant growth. However, what we mainly do is looking at opportunities to identify real clients and flyers within the fan base. In other words, it’s about a) understanding the potential to please people that fly Lufthansa a lot with a service-offering that brings support to the social channels and b) finding people that love travelling and convince them that Lufthansa is an option they should consider.

One of your suggestions was “to move away from understanding Facebook as merely a community and start using it as infrastructure and platform that hosts the identity of their customers”. Do you really believe that this is something that every brand -even those with low budgets- should aim at?

Christoph: I guess this won’t be the “road” for every brand, as this approach is only feasible if you are able to integrate Facebook into your business model, something that is only possible for brands with a really progressive approach and high focus on Social Media. That said, I believe that in the long-term a lot of brands will move into that direction.

Let’s go a step backwards. Yes, Social Media have now become a vital ingredient of the marketing mix. There are still skeptics though. What would you reply, for instance, to someone who would say that “there’s no need to invest on Facebook Marketing, as 60% of Germany’s online population still don’t have a profile on it”?

Christoph: It’s about a shift in the media mix. With print magazines and newspapers going down –for instance, 81% percent of the german population aged between 14 and 21 does not read any of them- in my opinion, it’s just not possible not to be on Facebook. Additionally, I would emphasize that, at least in Germany, the average user spends about an hour a day on Facebook, which is 12 times more than the time spent on any other website. Therefore, if you are not on Facebook, you could stop your online spending as well.

One last thing. Which was the insight that caught your attention the most during AllThingsFacebook ’12?

Christoph: The one best thing for me was being able to have a glimpse on the status of the southern European markets and their development. It was interesting to see that people in Greece are even more “digital” than in Germany, but, still, marketers seem to be more skeptic about investing there. This is a “gap” that I wasn’t aware of.

Vielen danke Christoph!

So, how much do you agree with Christoph’s belief that brands should put Social Media in the core of their digital strategy? Share your thoughts with us & don’t forget to check out the 48+2 slides you should remember from AllThingsFacebook ‘12, which includes insights by Christoph and 5 other keynote speakers.