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Social Isn't Just About Throwing a Party 24/7

  |  May 1, 2012   |  Comments

A three-step recipe for a successful social media campaign across customers and segments.

Social media isn't "one-size-fits all." It just makes sense that different brands and retailers should leverage social media marketing and social commerce in different ways because they have different audiences, products, and business goals.

However, as social marketing practices and technologies evolve, we're starting to see the same ingredients appear in successful social media campaigns across customer and product segments. A three-step recipe, which I'll share with you here, consistently works.

1. Make It Memorable. Captivate Your Audience

Brand marketers and social media consultants often compare social efforts to "hosting a party." It's a useful metaphor for how brands should think about creating shared space for conversation at the "party" and how they should interact with their "guests."

But here's the thing about good parties. They're not always on.

Would Cirque du Soleil be as exciting if it was always in town, running the same show?

Would the Coachella music festival be a cultural event if it happened 365 days a year?

Successful, recurring parties are captivating and memorable. They:

  • Build anticipation, especially among influential people.
  • Create excitement and foster fun.
  • Rely on attendees to spread the word, and bring more people to the next one.

This formula works because the event is both enjoyable and time-bound. It's scarce. It creates an air of exclusivity and status - two powerful factors for social media marketing.

2. What Happens in Vegas…Probably Shouldn't Happen on Your Website

To be fair, there is one place where Cirque du Soleil is always running - Las Vegas. Vegas is the destination for the always-on party (and Motley Crue, apparently).

Sites like Gilt Groupe, Groupon, and Woot are the Las Vegas of social media marketing. Consumers have been trained to visit these sites for the always-on daily deal party, and like Woot, the best of them succeed by managing to make it fun and memorable - every single day.

But that's not the correct social media model for most companies. When brands and retailers leverage social to drive product discovery, share, and purchase most effectively, it's often around a particular event, such as a new product launch, a celebrity collection, or a VIP member sale.

And like good parties, these social marketing events come and go. Some may happen every week for only an hour (think flash sale) and some may happen one week every quarter (e.g., seasonal launch). But they're time-bound, exclusive, and not-to-be-missed. They are special. To be effective, these social marketing events need to be designed, executed, and measured like campaigns.

3. It's About Conversation and Campaigns

When brands were first establishing their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, social media advocates rightfully juxtaposed "establishing authentic brand conversation" with traditional, in-your-face marketing and advertising. This is the right approach, and still serves brands well as they manage their presence across today's many social channels.

However, as the pendulum swung away from direct marketing, "conversation" was placed in direct opposition to "campaigns." Not so. For all the excitement and momentum-building reasons outlined above, these two go hand-in-hand.

Many brands and retailers are figuring this out and are increasingly running time-based social campaigns that combine product and content elements to create excitement; they use social actions to drive momentum and amplification. The most effective campaigns tie product promotions to key brand inflection points such as a new designer collection, the opening of a new store, or an end-of-season sale.

A campaign-based approach has additional advantages, such as the ability to execute social promotions in a more familiar and repeatable way. Marketers already know how to create, manage, and measure campaigns. They just need a few new tools to apply their models to social media channels in an authentic and engaging way.

Because campaigns are typically set up with clear goals and metrics over a defined period of time, it's much easier to gauge their success (ROI) than that of an "always-on" conversation. And it's also much easier to identify your most important and influential "guests." (Who came to the party this week? Had they come before? Did they bring a friend?)

Event-based campaigns and ongoing social conversation have a symbiosis that results in real business value, especially for promotion and purchase. Nike, for example, launched a time-based program designed to engage a specific audience (loyal Nike golfers) for the launch of a new product, the 20XI golf ball. By marrying conversation and campaign to create a sense of exclusivity and status, Nike was able to actively engage its target audience for a measurable business impact of six-times ROI based on actual revenue.

Brands running great social promotions create excitement and exclusivity around their events using ongoing social conversations as the catalyst. And, they do it in a way tailored to meet their audience, product, and business goals.

These brands know that everyone likes to go to a good party...just not every day.

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Kevin Tate

Kevin has been working with brands and retailers to build e-commerce and social media marketing solutions since 1995. As an entrepreneur and business development leader in growth-stage companies, he is most interested in developing new markets at the intersection of consumers, brands, and emerging technologies. Kevin currently leads marketing and product management at ShopIgniter, providers of Enterprise Social Commerce solutions to the F1000.

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