Brands want to engage with customers through social media, but most have trouble figuring out how to begin. Johnson &amp; Johnson turned to Kristi Diaz and Maury Giles of Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange to help them identify how they could enter the social media conversation in a way that people would find genuine and helpful. Diaz and Giles shared how they were able to use a research-based, consumer-centric approach to create an immersive and relevant program for Johnson &amp; Johnson.ARF: Briefly explain how you began the project of building a social media strategy for Johnson and Johnson. Diaz and Giles: Johnson &amp; Johnson needed to map new opportunities to connect with key target audiences through relevant digital connection points. The team knew social media would be a big part of the solution, but Johnson &amp; Johnson wanted the strategy to be built on actionable insights regarding how information about companies, including Johnson &amp; Johnson, spreads through social interaction. The charge for Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange was to establish these foundational insights on which Johnson &amp; Johnson and its digital agency could build a social media strategy to impact corporate brand reputation. Our solution was to study the ecosystem dynamics &#8211; people, places, devices, media and content &#8211; that shape how consumers talk about and think about relevant companies they're exposed to in daily life. This would allow us to define specific brand jobs within this ecosystem that demonstrate opportunities for Johnson &amp; Johnson to be present and relevant in the lives of its target audience(s).We began by meeting with the various stakeholders at Johnson &amp; Johnson and its strategic partners to both align intended applications of the upcoming research and audit existing knowledge related to the focus of the study. In addition to the synthesis of existing research, we used social listening to identify current topics of discussion around Johnson &amp; Johnson. This allowed us to categorize the types of conversations, what triggered the topic, and the context that typically leads someone to share information about a company with someone else. As a result, we were able to move into qualitative and quantitative phases of research with a basic construct for how consumers think about, talk about and interact with companies like Johnson &amp; Johnson in the course of caring for their families.ARF: How did you combine qualitative and quantitative research to derive meaningful insights?Diaz and Giles: Our in-depth qualitative research phase highlighted the importance of an individual's ecosystem of influence in their processing of information about companies and brands. Through story-telling, card-sorting and mapping exercises, we were able to identify the core needs people seek to fulfill and the building blocks of the ecosystem that influences their journey toward fulfilling these needs: the people, places, devices, media and content accessed and shared in daily life. Building on the social listening work, through the interviews we also catalogued a more detailed list of specific examples in which information about a company, including Johnson &amp; Johnson, was exchanged in some way within and across this ecosystem. This provided context and detail around how people shape trust in a company while experiencing their journey through life.The important next step was to seek to quantify the relationships between the influencers and the needs, to investigate differences in how the ecosystem is activated by audience and by topic and to find the opportunities for J&amp;J to be relevant and connect. The survey used to project our findings across a broad audience and prioritize opportunities for Johnson &amp; Johnson to connect with its target audiences was designed to connect the dots between reputation drivers, influencers in the ecosystem, needs in daily life and the specific ways in which companies enter into the dialogue.&#183; Establish the shape of the ecosystem by connecting influences (channels, platforms, people) to the core needs they serve. We began with a set of core needs and then learned from respondents which influences in their lives (both people and channels) served which of those core needs. Applying multivariate statistical techniques (correspondence analysis), we uncovered the underlying structure of the ecosystem, which influencers served similar needs, and which needs are related in terms of the influencers/channels that fulfill them. These relationships were data-driven, not pre-determined; yet, an underlying structure emerged, with one axis being functional-to-emotional and the other being personal-to-cultural. Another structural element that was revealed was tiers of specialization, with some influencers fulfilling multiple needs, and therefore being more central or essential (e.g., family and smartphones), while others are specifically in service of a single need (e.g., iPod for escaping the everyday).&#183; Investigate activation of the ecosystem by topic. Once the structure of the ecosystem was established, we were able to delve into differences in the way topics activate the ecosystem and how that varies by audience group. For example, for certain topics an audience might turn mainly to people and channels that live squarely in the Personal/Emotional regions of the ecosystem, while another topic lights up the Functional regions.&#183; Find connections to relevant Johnson &amp; Johnson topics, the "ways in." We then examined data on how information about Johnson &amp; Johnson and other benchmark brands flowed through their ecosystem: topic of information, source of information (people and channels), whether it was shared further and how (people and channels) and the impact of shares on brand specific perceptions. These data allowed us to establish where Johnson &amp; Johnson currently enters the ecosystem and point the way toward establishing new connection points through the channels people turn to for the topics that most activate their ecosystems. We were also able to identify targets for strengthening Johnson &amp; Johnson's presence in the information flow on topics that are most impactful against the brand perceptions that need to be addressed. These newly defined "ways in" give shape to the company's social media strategy and its broader corporate reputation efforts.ARF: What did you learn about where J&amp;J enters the social media conversation? How can other brands learn from your findings?Diaz and Giles: We believe this approach to understanding ecosystems of influence provides a more actionable, consumer-centric view than existing approaches and establishes a firm foundation for building marketing strategies for social engagement and beyond. It has provided Johnson &amp; Johnson with a new understanding of the people that matter most to their brand by giving more context to the complexity of interactions people have relating to Johnson &amp; Johnson and its products in daily life. The ecosystem construct and visual planning tool provided serves as a framework to define the needs and the relevance of people, channels and resources that deliver established roles within the network. This framework has become a valuable tool across the organization, impacting annual planning within the organization and among their agency partners.Want to hear more? Giles and Diaz will be presenting their case study with Sarah Colamarino, VP, Corporate Equity Program Development, Johnson &amp; Johnson on Tuesday, March 27. Register now!Read all ARF Insights' MediaBizBloggers commentaries at ARF Insights.Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.comFollow our Twitter updates @MediaBizBloggerThe opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.