Wednesday, September 15, 2010

5 Social Media Campaigns to Learn From

Companies are starting to broaden what they consider online advertising, and are opting to run some amazing social media campaigns. Rather than slapping a banner ad on a site, social media campaigns take full advantage of the web’s unique properties like interactivity, community-building, and the ability to specialize local offers.
Making a social media campaign work sometimes requires a certain je ne sais quoi. We looked into some successful campaigns from the past year to figure out what they did right and what lessons they can provide.
We know we left out some brilliant social media campaigns, especially for niche and small-scale markets. Add your voice to the comments below, and let us know which social media campaigns you admire and what lessons they offer.

1. Gap


gap image

The Campaign:
Gap teamed up with popular group-buying site Groupon to offer a nation-wide deal: $50 worth of apparel for just $25. By the end of the day, 441,000 groupons were sold bringing in a little more than $11 million.
What Worked:
The sale marked Groupon’s first nation-wide deal with a major brand. For Gap, the deal brought in a ton of cash and, hopefully, new customers. “We’re really trying to reach new customers,” said Chris Gayton, Gap’s Senior Director of Media. “To reach them in ways that are part of their everyday so that it becomes like a conversation.”
Gap’s other social media efforts, including deals for Foursquare users, are about building a community. Gayton said that 70% of people that buy something in a Gap store started browsing on their website. Social media is a way to reach those people and bring them under their brand. Part of that is encapsulated in their 1969 denim stream. Billed as a catch-all resource on denim (not just Gap-sponsored ads, though they are there as well), Gap built it to offer added value and create conversation. Online loyalty will hopefully turn into profit.
What Flopped:
Some people, like digital marketing expert Augustine Fou, commented that the Groupon deal was a bust because Gap doesn’t “need” more word of mouth. He saw it in terms of revenue loss rather than customer gain.

2. Toy Story 3


toy story image

The Campaign:
Pixar and Disney let out a barrage of videos, tie-ins, and ads to promote Toy Story 3. Aside from traditional banner ads and billboards, Disney created viral videos including fake, vintage-style ads featuring the new characters, an iAd featured on the iPhone (iPhone
) 4, and a Facebook Page complete with a built-in ticket-buying app.
What Worked:
The video successfully played on the nostalgia of their entire demographic. Kids could appreciate the fake toy commercials while their parents could reminisce about their own childhood toys; a sentiment entirely in line with the Toy Story brand. The Facebook (Facebook
) app was connected to news streams such that you could share when you bought tickets to the movie.
Word-of-mouth and in-stream recommendations are a powerful tool. “The whole idea is that no friend gets left behind,” a Disney exec told the IFC. It’s both a play on the movie’s tagline (“No Toy Gets Left Behind”) and pressure to join in when your friends buy tickets.
What Flopped:
The social media campaign was pretty solid on most counts. The danger of associating with major brands (like the iAd) is that your product can appear too polished or too corporate. It all comes down to knowing your product and knowing your brand. In this case, Disney-Pixar hit a home run.

3. AOL


aol image

The Campaign:
AOL set out to hire an ambassador for its social aggregation site Lifestream. More than just a mascot, the ambassador position was known as “the best job ever” with bonuses like a cushy apartment and VIP access to concerts and events across the country. The hiring process was a mix of traditional “resume and interview” applications and an extensive social media voting process headed up by the hopeful employees. The eventual ambassador was asked to reach out to their fans with regular updates.
What Worked:
AOL is trying to reboot as a “cool” brand. Rather than spend a fortune on commercials with hip people using the product (cough, BBM, cough), AOL offered a service that its desired demographic would actually want; namely, a sweet job.
Having the position decided by fan vote helped organically spread the word and create a supportive community that was invested in their product. “The attempt was to recruit a person to the position,” said Tessa Petrich, the eventual winner. “… Secondly it was to pump up the position, to get more eyeballs to the product… Thirdly to that, what it did really well was to get people excited about AOL.”
Speaking about the campaign’s organic fan base, Petrich said: “You need to give people the opportunity to get excited about you. Your strongest outreach are your own customers.”
What Flopped:
The campaign just ended so it’s too early too tell its long-term effect. One let down was the inevitable decrease in hype. The buzz around AOL’s new dream job died down once the spot was filled. No amount of celebrity spottings or updates from the winning ambassador could compete with the initial creativity of the campaign. Planned follow-up campaigns are also suffering from this.

4. Starbucks


starbucks image

The Campaign:
Starbucks has been busy with a bunch of successful social media campaigns across a range of networks. The coffee giant offered mayorship deals on Foursquare, free goodies for Tax Day via Twitter (Twitter
)’s then-new promoted tweets, and a free pastry day promoted through Twitter and Facebook.
What Worked:
If you’re going to offer discounts, make sure they’re on products you want to feature. Rather than setting up blanket deals, Starbucks focused on areas where they wanted to improve sales. Free pastry day got publicity for their non-coffee offerings, the mayor deals often provide discounts on new products, tax day’s free coffee promoted recycling — part of the brand’s greener image.
Jumping on Twitter’s promoted tweets early also garnered Starbucks a lot of publicity in the tech and social media worlds — a demographic that generally has money to spend on premium coffee. Essentially, if a news organization wanted to cover promoted tweets as they launched, Starbucks was a major go-to example.
What Flopped:
Starbucks is good at promoting things — its social media campaigns seem less concerned, however, with building a vibrant community. Starbucks already has near-religious levels of customer loyalty, so this may be a smart resource allocation rather than oversight.

5. Mountain Dew


starbucks image

The Campaign:
When Mountain Dew wanted to create a new flavor, they did it the social media way. DEWmocracy was a multi-part, long-term project aimed at creating a new soda flavor through fan voting. The campaign started by narrowing down a series of fan-made flavors with home-tasting packs. The three were chosen through a country-wide tour complete with voting and video booths. Mountain Dew then created “Flavor Nations” composed of fans, experts, and professional ad agencies. Each flavor nation was responsible for the packaging, graphics, and social marketing of their flavor including viral videos, promotion on Twitter, and professional commercials. The winner was chosen by mass vote.
What Worked:
Like AOL, Mountain Dew gained a ton of exposure and loyalty by mobilizing its customers to help grow the brand. The largely grassroots movement built natural buzz around the new flavors with a huge net of social media exposure.
Mountain Dew was also able to keep the projects on-brand. Despite having disparate communities working on the flavor nations, the ad agencies and experts helped guide the discussion and create a polished finished product while allowing fans to have a real say on the company’s marketing direction.
What Flopped:
The nature of the campaign means that two of the flavors won’t get made. Assuming the voting was close, this means Mountain Dew could alienate a relatively large portion of its fans who worked on the losing, discontinued flavors. This also assumes that Mountain Dew’s fans took the campaign to heart and would be more frustrated at losing the competition rather than excited to be shaping their brand’s future.

Speed Round


arcade fire image

We’ve gone through five campaigns in relative depth, but there were a slew of recent great ones. Below, we run through some honorable mentions of interesting, unique, or just plain polished social media campaigns.
  • Old Spice: The mother lode of all social media campaigns, the Old Spice guy commercials and Twitter responses generated a huge response for the brand and created an Internet (Internet) meme in the process. We’ve already covered the campaign extensively (which is why it was left off this list) but be sure to check out some of our favorite video responses here.
  • Google Chrome (Google Chrome): Everybody’s seen the commercials showing how fast Chrome (Chrome
    ) can be. Most people may not realize that the innovative web music video for Arcade Fire’s new song is itself a promotion for Chrome. Built with some help from the folks at Google (Google
    ), the video has so many interactive windows and moving parts that they recommend you watch in Chrome just to avoid any slow-down. Sneaky, but smart.
  • Film Companies: Hey, that girl on Chatroulette looks sort of cute maybe… oh my goodness she’s possessed. The Last Exorcism used a fake video on the chat site to drum up some scares and some interest in the upcoming film. Tron too has had a complex and multi-faceted social media campaign complete with fake phones, geo-location bonuses for checkins at Tron previews, and a staged, in-character rally.
  • Car Companies: Ford jumped on Facebook to unveil its 2011 Explorer. The campaign marked the first time a major car company had forgone the auto show for a web unveiling, as the car was only later rolled out in traditional outlets. Honda has followed suit but with social gaming on Facebook. They promoted their new CR-Z in the Facebook game Car Town with built-in ads and an in-game car with special, persistent features.
Series supported by Awareness



Awareness builds social marketing software for marketers leveraging multiple social channels to engage with customers, build their brand, and increase revenues. Built upon Awareness’ expertise deploying more than 200 communities and social media projects for the world’s biggest brands including Sony, JetBlue, Kodak, ASOS.com and AIRMiles, The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is a leading enterprise-grade application for marketers struggling with the social media chaos of managing multiple social channels. With the Awareness Social Marketing Hub, marketers are now able to publish, manage and measure across all their social channels from one central location using advanced built-in permissioning, workflow and audit controls.

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