DSL Marketing Myrlte Beach

Friday, January 22, 2010

6 Elements Shared by Social Media Winners

Brought to you by Julia Hix

If your social media campaign is not driving users to your website, generating sales, or introducing new customers to your brand, then it is time to get your campaign back on task. With so many marketing options available in social media, from video contests to custom applications, it is easy for brand messages to get lost in the creative shuffle.

Some companies, however, are using social media in unique ways that promote their marketing objectives while keeping consumers engaged with their brand. One way that companies have been successful in activating consumers is by challenging them to complete tasks that help introduce or further define their brand.

Clearly define your marketing objective
To avoid brand disconnect, it is important to tie social media efforts back into specific marketing objectives. Defining the marketing objective is the most important element of creating a social media initiative. For instance, if your goal is to introduce new customers to your brand, consider tasks that require a user to share their brand experience with their network.

Acacia Africa, an African adventure tour company, is doing just that with a campaign that encourages Twitter users to retweet the hashtag #GoWildOnline with Acacia Africa (and a link to its YouTube video) to enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to Africa. While it can be argued that some Twitter users view "retweet to win" campaigns as spam, it can be an effective way to reach new consumers.

Another unique way to gain brand awareness using Twitter is to challenge users to use your brand name in a unique way. Website builder Moonfruit launched a hashtag-based Twitter campaign in the summer of 2009 in an effort to bring exposure to its products. The company tasked users with the challenge of using the Moonfruit name in a tweet to be entered to win Apple products. According to Moonfruit, the campaign was a huge success with over 500,000 tweets, 3,000 images, and 500 songs sent.

With a little creative thinking, Twitter can be used to drive ROI as well. When Party City launched its ecommerce website only weeks before Halloween, its biggest sales season, the goal was to increase website visits. The Zimmerman Agency created a unique contest that required users to search PartyCity.com for costumes in a version of 21 questions, called Trick-or-Tweet.

Each day over the course of two weeks, the company's @PartyCity Twitter account would answer "yes" or "no" questions, such as "is it a scary costume?" while followers used the clues to scour the site in search of the correct costume. By creating an engaging game, Party City was able to introduce users to its new online store, while interacting with consumers in an entertaining way.

Keep it simple
There are three key things that need to happen for a user to be able to complete a task successfully: understand the task, follow directions, and easily submit results. As a general rule, you should be able to explain the task in less than 30 seconds. The task should be clearly defined and include only one call to action.

By limiting the number of steps it takes to participate, you will increase the likelihood of a user completing the task. It may be necessary to visually outline directions with images or video, especially if the concept is new to your audience. Make it as simple as possible for users to submit results and that it is clearly defined in the instructions.

In SeaWorld's most recent Facebook initiative, users are introduced to an entirely new type of game, called "Photo Adventure," that challenges them to find mistakes in images. The application targets parents of young children by providing a task that they can complete with their child. Upon entering the application, users are introduced to the game's objectives with easy step-by-step instructions and images.

In contrast, SeaWorld's "iPod from myPod" Twitter contest has complex instructions that do not include images. Using the @Shamu Twitter profile, SeaWorld issue tasks related to brand imagery found on Google Street View. Participants then had to take a screenshot of the image and fill out a form on the contest landing page to enter. This contest requires users to visit three websites in order to complete a task, which may be confusing for some audiences and therefore limits participation.

Know your audience
The task that you create should align with the social media habits of your target audience. This will help eliminate confusion on how to participate and will make it easier for consumers to explain the task to their network. Most importantly, understanding your audience will allow you to create campaigns that are exciting and relevant to the user.

Forsman and Bodenfors had audience in mind when it promoted a new IKEA store by asking users to tag themselves in showroom images found on Facebook. Forsman and Bodenfors built a profile page for Gordon Gustavsson, the manager for the new IKA location in Malmo, Sweden, to host the photos, and when a consumer tagged an item with their name, they won that item.

IKEA knew that its young, tech-savvy audience would understand the tagging feature, and would find the concept creative and worth sharing with their network.

Align the task with the platform
When deciding on a social media platform, take into consideration your marketing objective and the task that you are challenging users to complete. If your goal is to drive definition and you have a lot of content to share, Facebook would be the best solution because of the sharing options it offers.

If your goal is to drive brand awareness with little content, and you have the ability to actively interact with consumers, Twitter would be the best platform to use.

Also, be sure to consider the task that you are asking users to perform. Each social networking platform has content elements that users are familiar using in comparison to other platforms. For instance, when Bing asked users to submit photos to its "Home Sweet Homepage Photo Contest," Facebook was a natural choice because users were already accustomed to sharing photos on the platform.

Keep in mind that the platform you choose should make sense for your target audience. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace are more effective for different audiences based on age, gender, education, and social status.

Make incentive relevant to the brand
The first question most users ask themselves before deciding to participate in a brand's campaign is "what's in it for me?" Not every social media initiative needs to be tied to a contest, however, there needs to be a clearly defined incentive for the user to complete the task. The incentive should be relevant to the brand and should support the marketing objective.

In the case of Bing's contest, users were asked to submit photos demonstrating something unique about their hometown. The winner's photo became the background for Bing's homepage for a day. This incentive gave users the chance to participate in creating Bing's homepage, and simultaneously drove them to the new Bing search engine to view the winners. The most effective campaigns include creative incentives that drive users to not only engage with the brand, but to share the campaign with their network.

Engagement is key
In all of your social media endeavors, keep user engagement top of mind. Unlike traditional media, social media only works if consumers are actively participating in campaign initiatives. Be sure that you are designing tasks around your audience's interests and strengths in order to increase interactions.

Social media campaigns that allow users to redefine themselves through brands are met with the most success. Social media is in its purest form is about communicating online, and most social network users utilize the media to communicate information about themselves.

Retail chain Target recently created the "Bullseye Gives" campaign that reinforced the brand's focus on building community by letting its Facebook fans decide which charity they should donate to. Target gave $3 million in donations to 10 charities, chosen by Facebook users, including St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, American Red Cross, and The Salvation Army. By participating, consumers were able to communicate which charities were important to them and were motivated to share the campaign with their network.

Julia Hix is social media manager for The Zimmerman Agency.

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