Views, likes, shares and tweets – If your campaign is going to succeed these near sacred words are going to define it. In a media climate in which everyone competes to carve out a digital presence, ‘going viral’ has become the foundation of many marketing strategies.
The essence of creating a viral campaign is the ability to make something shareable. This necessity for the content to be organically shared from person to person usually means it has to be amusing or shocking in some way.
Although this may sound obvious this simple fact has completely changed the style of mainstream advertising. Traditionally adverts were often based around a sense of aspiration, whether its scantily dressed supermodels parading around or coffee being served in the house of your dreams, products sat upon this glossy pedestal. Although this element of aspiration still underpins the messages of modern campaigns, increasingly adverts are tailored for virality by being controversial, funny and most importantly raw.
A good example to illustrate this change in style is delivered by the evolution of Pepsi adverts:
Here you can see the clear difference the Internet has made. Video hosting platforms, such as Youtube, are at the heart of this change not only in terms of how the advert can be shared but also the aesthetic style of the advert. Very often viral campaigns are centred around a first person or fly on the wall style, tapping into real life experience and ultimately allowing a much more intimate relationship to be made between the brand and the consumer.
As well as Youtube, social media platforms, such as Twitter, act as important catalysts in the modern viral process due to the hash tagging function. This is used to great effect by Pepsi as they deliver their homemade style advert coupled with the hash tag #gordontestdrive. Creating this allows your content to ‘trend’ which essentially means the content becomes popular within twitter, with the activity accumulating under this particular hash tag category. This functionality can be seen below where the ‘Trends’ column shows live updates of the most popular hashtags, whilst the search for #gordontestdrive shows how Twitter users have interacted and shared the content:
Aside from the advantage of having your message and product rapidly shared across the world, viral PR campaigns are comparatively cheap to make whilst being far more engaging.
To summarise, the most important way to make your material viral is to make it engaging. We all share videos with our friends and family, think of the style of content this is usually comprised of; whether it’s a cute dog doing a trick or someone hilariously falling over, the content is usually relatable, shocking or believable. When it comes to creating your own promotional material the most important thing to remember is to be innovative and imaginative, the sheer scale of platforms such as Youtube means that material quickly becomes copied and indistinguishable, how are you going to make your message stand out?
Yesterday I received a very poorly targeted piece of mobile marketing, a text message from a company called H&R (whom I have never heard of…but do feel free to enlighten me if you have) saying ‘now that the kids are back to school it is time to think about YOU. We have plenty of packages for YOU time at H&R, call xxx’ etc. etc. You get the general idea.
So why was this so poorly targeted, I am after all very keen on ME time. What H&R had neglected to notice is that I do not have any children…I may have a requirement for me time, but this has not been as a result of a hectic summer holidays with the kids at home (the closest I get to kids in my household, my boyfriend, has in fact been very well behaved throughout the summer holidays).
Mobile marketing, which is widely credited as beginning in 2000, is not distinct from many other forms of marketing in the fact that it can often fall foul to poorly targeted marketing. But this is somewhere that social media marketing in particular (and arguably mobile marketing as well) must get it right – because it is encroaching on people’s personal domains. Facebook profiles, in particular, are often very personal arenas – they are places where we socialise with our friends, share pictures of nights out, post updates on our day to day activities. They are certainly NOT places where we want to be spammed with inappropriate and irrelevant content.
Perhaps this is where Facebook’s profile targets advertising (e.g. advertising targeted at your interest) comes into its own. Initially people were wary, but would you not rather receive an advert for something that is relevant to you than targeting men with feminine hygiene products, for example.
Companies should also be bearing this in mind when targeting consumers through social networking sites with their own profile pages and news feeds. The golden rules being:
- Make sure information is correctly targeted
- Ensure that information you are supplying is both relevant and interesting to your audience
- Make sure it is accessible (e.g. can users easily identify what you company does and how it might be relevant to them)
Often social media campaigns simply consists of a Twitter feed, blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. And for many companies that is the most appropriate, cost effective and manageable strategy to use. But every now and then a company will introduce a little sprinkle of social media fairy dust to add a magical element to their campaign…below is a look of some of my recent favourites….
Jimmy Choo and Foursquare
Jimmy Choo recently used Foursquare to launch a real-time treasure hunt around London. A pair of Jimmy Choo trainers were placed at fashionable hangouts, marked up on Foursquare, for one lucky winner to claim.
This campaign shows innovative use of one of the lesser used social networking sites in the UK (though Foursquares users is constantly growing…and I wonder if this campaign increased numbers)..but I can’t help but find myself wondering if they might have been better to wait until Facebook’s geo-location networking launches…
Creativity score: 7
Potential impact score: 6
Pringles Outs Social Media Addicts
(Source: Media Week)
The crisp brand heralded as ‘good for sharing’ has launched a website for people to out their over sharing friends. Users are encouraged to name and shame friends who post boring status updates or Tweets – hoping instead to encourage people share things that are ‘really worth sharing, like Pringles’.
The campaign demonstrates integrated messaging and clever tie-in with the ‘sharing’ theme. It is also wonderfully satirises one of the common complaints about social networking, promoting over-sharing by sharing the banal comments more widely – brilliant!
Integration across different social media channels is also very effective, with a bespoke website dedicated to the campaign, ‘oversharers’ tweets retweeted on a Twitter feed and an ‘overshare’ button on Facebook.
Creativity score: 8
Potential impact score: 8
Such Tweet Sorrow
The Royal Shakespeare company used the power of Twitter to try and make Shakespeare accessible to the digital generation. What followed was a re-enactment of Romeo and Juliet, through the medium of Twitter (Juliet had over 5,000 followers). The campaign brilliantly updated a classic and kept many gripped for the duration of the month long storytelling.
The real-time nature of Twitter meant that it was sometimes hard to keep up, but a bespoke website provided a timeline of events for those that missed out.
Overall an effective use of social networking to (hopefully) bring Shakespeare to a new audience…
Creativity Score: 8
Potential Impact Score: 6
T-Mobile – Life is For Sharing Flash Mob
An oldie but a goodie…and not a pure 100% social media campaign, but the Liverpool Street life is for sharing advert perfectly married two phenomonons of the digital generation – flashmobs and social media.
The advert was posted onto YouTube as soon as it was premiered on Channel 4, and has now received 2,693,903 views with the video quickly going viral online.
This showed good integration of the marketing disciplines, which is exactly what is needed for an effective social media campaign, but I would suggest that perhaps more people were interested in the entertainment factor…than who the campaign was actually by.
Creativity Score: 9
Potential impact Score: 8
Do feel free to share any other examples of creative social media campaigns you have seen below!
P.s. some of the above campaigns were kindly pointed out by my colleague Nicky Smith, who also blogs over at ‘Research in the News’ – go check it out for some interesting insight into the use of research in PR….
I read with interest Mark Ritson’s article in Marketing Week, rebuking his client for big budget spend on social media and pointing out that Facebook, Twitter and the like only reach a small percentage of a companies stakeholders (largely of course depending on who those stakeholders were). It was wonderfully refreshing to see a Marketing professional that doesn’t blindly jump on the social media bandwagon, but instead recognises that its merits need to be weighed up against a companies individual marketing requirements.
Refreshing though it might have been, I do feel that Ritson also missed the point – social media should not be about mass marketing and reaching out to millions of consumers in the way that advertising or direct marketing might. Rather, it is about a targeted approach, providing useful and interesting content to the digital generation on platforms that they already actively engage with. It allows the opportunity for engagement and collaboration with companies and brands, but it does not enforce this.
If companies ignore this opportunities they neglect to even open the door to engagement and collaboration.
Ritson is also right that it does not need to command a major chunk of marketing budget, but the investment with social media is largely time and that does need to be realistically accounted for.
Social media should be integrated into the wider marketing mix, not necessarily as a predominant element (though again that is dependent on the company) but as another string to the bow, and this in itself emphasises the need for strategy.
This does not have to include an arduous process of months of consultation and a 100 page report before social media strategies can be implemented (by which point things will have moved on anyway) but it should include a thorough analysis of what a company hopes to gain from social media, how this can best be achieved and a realistic exploration of the platforms available to implement this.
So..the social media election that we were promised turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. There weren’t any particularly awe inspiring tweets from party leaders, no furious tapping away on blackberries and despite strong online support for the Lib Dems (Nick Clegg ‘won’ each television debate according to Facebook voters) this did not materialise into votes.
Don’t get me wrong, social media campaigns were launched by the parties, but it seems to me they were mainly half-hearted attempts:
The Conservatives, launched an iPhone application at the beginning of March offering news from the Conservative campaign, a guide to all the party’s key policies, and a mechanism to make party donations. Hardly a vote winner for the undecided. They made a slightly better stab at the social media jungle on voting day by placing an advertisement outlining their “contract” with voters on YouTube. A quick way to reach up to 10 million people – but was it too little too late?
Labour, meanwhile, made their digital media foray through mobile and social networking – sending a mass text message to supporter urging them to encourage others to vote Labour and releasing an application for Twitter and Facebook allowing users to change their avatars (or profile pictures) to ‘I’m Voting Labour on May 6’. But was it successful – I did see few of these cropping up on my Twitter feed (and actually found it quite irritating), but none on Facebook. And is preaching to the converted really the way to sway voters…
The Lib Dems were hailed as Kings of Digital with the most ‘user friendly website’ and commanded social media attention with Twitter #iagreewithnick hashtags and YouTube responses on the same theme and Facebook flash mobs in Trafalgar Square – but these were produced by users rather than initiated by the party itself. User generated campaigns should arguably be more influential, but as I have already noted, this support did not convert into votes.
But where social campaigns were lacking, there is no denying that there was a lot of talk about the general election, particularly surrounding the television debates and the run-up to election day. Perhaps it is enforcing the message that we do not want to be preached to on social media, we want to debate and share our views with like-minded peers. It was the people that made the social media election – not the politicians.