Before you launch your social media marketing campaign, make sure that you’ve done an inventory of all the other major campaigns going on at the same time that target your customers or are within your industry. The last thing you want is to launch a campaign in which you’re asking your customers to do basically the same thing that they may have just done for a competitor.
In 2017, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) imposed guidelines on how pharmaceutical companies can market using the social web. Those regulations cover the promotion of FDA-regulated products. More information can be found on the FDA website. If you’re a pharmaceutical company or are operating in another regulated industry, be sure to check with your lawyers about what you’re allowed and not allowed to do before launching a social media marketing campaign.
Influencer outreachAmong the most common form of a social media marketing campaign is the influencer outreach program. This campaign typically takes the form of identifying influencers on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and elsewhere who your customers follow. They’re the expert influencers who cover a topic or a passion point and have a following.
The best way to think of them is as media that publish content, accept relationships with brands, and build fan bases. Many accept advertising but typically have day jobs that they’re balancing unless they’ve done extraordinarily well as influencers.
Influencer outreach programs incentivize these influencers to publish about your brand or product. You can give them incentives by inviting them to the R&D labs of your company and treating them with the same deference that the mainstream press gets, to sending them sample products and providing them with prizes with which to run contests through their social media channels. Social media campaigns are sometimes built around these influencers.
It’s important to note that the debate continues to rage online about influencer compensation. Some influencers absolutely refuse to accept compensation, whereas others are comfortable with it. Some companies, such as Aveda, a natural beauty products company, give influencers gift cards or spa treatments but no outright payments.
Influencers typically accept these gifts with the understanding that their review will not be influenced by a gift of any kind. Companies want honest evaluations, and their readers demand it. You must know where your targeted influencer stands on this debate before reaching out to him.
Knowing how to reach these influencers without coming across as heavy-handed, commercial, and ignorant is critical. Before you reach out to them, be sure to follow them in social media so that you know how they cover your brand or category; scan the comments on their channels so that you get a feel for the readers and how they participate; understand their policies with regard to brands engaging with them (some prefer to go through representatives, for example); and, ideally, try to develop a personal relationship based on the content that they publish and the topics that they cover before approaching them with an idea.These are all common-sense ideas that would apply even if you were attempting to engage with traditional reporters who are doing a story for a print publication. But as the saying goes, common sense is often uncommon, and many a company has done exactly the opposite.
UGC contestsContests in all their various forms have always been a big hit in the marketing campaign arena. But now contests structured around user-generated content (UGC) are all the rage. And with good reason: They are invariably extremely popular, engaging, and fun. You structure a contest built on participants who contribute something in return for rewards.
This can be something as simple as crowdsourcing a TV advertisement, as General Motors did in the early days of social media with its Tahoe campaign in 2006, to asking users to contribute video clips of their funniest moment with a product. The best clip (by the predetermined criteria) gets a prize, with all the other participants getting some sort of recognition.
As Wired magazine reported, in the case of the Tahoe campaign, the microsite attracted 629,000 visitors, with each user spending more than nine minutes on the site and a third of them going on to visit the main Chevy.com website. Sales took off from that point, even though environmentalists tried to sabotage the UGC campaign by creating video clips that highlighted their views about on the environmental toll the vehicle takes on the environment.
Another successful contest was run by Applebee’s in the summer of 2014. Applebee’s asked its customers to snap pics of their meals or themselves chowing. The best photos were then published by Applebee’s on its Instagram feed using the hashtag #fantographer and were cross-promoted on Facebook and Twitter with posts and ads.
When the campaign ended in the fall of 2014, engagement had risen 25 percent and tweets tagged with #fantographer appeared in 78 million users’ timelines (users would submit their photos to Applebee’s via Twitter and used the hashtag when doing so).
Brand utilitiesThe basic idea behind brand utilities is that instead of providing the consumer with some advertising, you build their trust (and get their dollars) by giving them a utility application that provides actual value. If the utility serves a purpose, users adopt the application and think more favorably of your brand. Dollars that would have normally gone toward buying media go toward building the application instead.
For example, Estee Lauder launched a Facebook brand utility called “Shine a Light on Breast Cancer.” It lets breast cancer survivors and their families post “messages of hope.” It also lets you know where breast cancer events are being held around the world. This connects people from all corners of the world to support one another in the fight against breast cancer.
An application doesn’t always have to take the form of an application or a widget on a social network. The famous Nike+ solution, which is considered the world’s largest running club is a virtual community that helps users improve their running via real-time coaching over audio, track the distances they’ve run, compare themselves to their peers, and share their running statistics in social media.
The advertising industry moves between trends very quickly, and it seems that brand utilities are already out of the limelight. What’s gaining favor now are apps that use crowdsourcing. For example, Lays potato chips used this type of application to solicit ideas from consumers for different chips flavors.
In the program’s first year, consumers submitted four million flavor ideas. Called “Do us a flavor,” Lays designed the promotion so that an expert jury narrowed down the choices to four, which were put on the market. The winner was then chosen based on fan votes (through the application again) and made a permanent fixture on store shelves.
PodcastingA podcast is a digital audio file that is made available via web syndication technologies such as RSS. Although it’s not, strictly speaking, social media, it’s often classified as such because it allows anybody to easily syndicate her own audio content. You can use podcasts as a way to share information with your audiences.
Often, podcasts take the shape of celebrity interviews or discussions about your product or brand. A successful example of a podcast is the Butterball Turkey Talk podcast. It’s a seasonal podcast including stories from Turkey Talk hotline workers. You can subscribe to it via iTunes and other online podcast directories.
Podcasts typically don’t form a whole social media marketing campaign in and of themselves but work well with other parts of a campaign.
Sponsored conversationsSometimes the most effective social media marketing campaigns are the simplest ones. These campaigns engage with consumers in a straightforward, authentic fashion on a social platform while also aggregating other conversations, pointing to new ones, and stoking the community.
An early pioneering example was when Disney partnered with Savvy Auntie, an online community focused on aunts without kids, for one such effort, which you see below. Melanie Notkin, who runs SavvyAuntie.com, tweeted about Disney’s Pinocchio movie in March 2008 to coincide with its Disney anniversary release. She tweeted about themes in the movie, often in question form, encouraging others to respond.
Her 8,000 followers on Twitter at the time (today, she has more than 24,000) knew that she was doing this for Disney (every tweet about Pinocchio had a special tag), but because the tweets were appropriate for the audience, entertaining, and authentic, the campaign was a success. Since that pioneering example, there have been many more scenarios in which brands have partnered with influencers around sponsored conversations.
A very different example comes from Casper, the direct-to-consumer mattress company, that used video to provide value to its consumers in thoughtful ways. While this example technically isn’t a sponsored conversation, they treat it as such.
In 2019, Casper launched a sleep channel on Spotify, YouTube, and IGTV that helps people quite literally fall asleep. With soothing sounds and educational video clips, Casper launches new episodes on these channels each week and promotes them more widely on their other social media platform.
Here Casper isn’t promoting a specific mattress and nor are they asking their customers to advocate on their behalf. However, by promoting sleep they’re helping their customers as a branded utility would do. And in setting up a sleep channel, they’re acting like an influencer themselves. Needless to say, Casper occasionally promotes its own mattresses and when it does so, its acting as if it is sponsoring a conversation elsewhere!
Recognizing what makes a good social media marketing campaignA social media marketing campaign is one that specifically allows for social influence to take place digitally. A few years ago, marketing through social media was a niche activity, and the notion of targeting influencers was an obscure one. The closest comparison was word-of-mouth campaigns conducted in the offline world to build brand awareness for a product by incentivizing people to talk about it among themselves.
Digital campaigns, for the most part, were about display advertising (those banner ads that appear at the top and side of a website) across large magazine and newspaper websites, complemented with paid search campaigns and maybe email campaigns. These campaigns were used to drive prospects to a microsite (a site devoted to that particular campaign) or a website, where they were encouraged to make purchases or engage with the brand.
With a social media marketing campaign, you mustn’t drag people away from the social platform on which they’re communicating and interacting with each other. They don’t want to be distracted, and you’ll probably only waste precious marketing dollars trying to lure them to your website. Instead, it’s more important to execute the campaign on those very platforms where your potential customers are in conversation.You have to engage your customers where they want to participate, not where you want them to be. And unlike in a digital marketing campaign of yesteryear, the customers of a social media marketing campaign ignore you unless your social media marketing campaign is aligned with their objectives and behavior patterns on those social platforms.
A good example of a failed “build it and they will come” attempt was Bud.TV by Budweiser. They tried to create an entertainment destination bypassing YouTube. The effort failed miserably because Budweiser had to spend valuable advertising dollars to encourage consumers to do something that they had no interest in doing — moving away from YouTube, where they had the most entertaining content (and all their friends), to a corporate-sponsored website.
What’s more, the fact that users couldn’t embed the video clips elsewhere (including YouTube) hurt the effort. Bud.TV launched in January 2007 and was shut down early in 2009. Fast forward to 2019, and you’ll notice that very few advertisers launch social media marketing campaigns where they try to pull customers to their websites to engage with them (granted pulling customers to your website to purchase is different and appropriate if done with sensitivity).