The concept of classifying all media into bought, owned, and earned media is no stranger to online interactive marketers, who were first introduced to the concept by Nokia in 2009. Forrester Research published a research paper back in December 2009 to clearly define each type of media. Unfortunately, with this classification, instead of trying to integrate the three media types to drive efficiency and effectiveness, many advertisers end up playing the game of reducing their advertising spend by shifting their focus on earned media. Without the support of bought media and optimised owned media, a social media campaign is doomed to be a failure.
It is undeniable how effective earned media can be in terms of driving brand awareness and sales; though earned media is also one of the hardest channels to quantify its success. Many marketers out there have been trying to derive a winning formula for a successful social media campaign. While a magic formula to generate highly viral social media has yet to be developed, there are three fundamental steps that marketers should consider when designing their own social media campaign in order to make their content discoverable.
1. Search optimise your social media content
Your social media content needs to be findable through search.
Just like any other traditional owned media including websites, you need to ensure that any digital assets, including your YouTube videos, images, blog posts, and tweets, are all findable by either the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) or vertical search engines (YouTube, Flickr, etc.). With the present of the universal search results (see figure 1 below), you need to fully optimise all the digital assets related to your social media campaign, including videos, images, Facebook pages, and more. Users may have heard of your social media campaign through word-of-mouth and subsequently decide to go online to find out more about it. Good examples will be the social media campaigns for Old Spice and Evianwater. Someone may have heard about the Evian Roller Babies video during conversations with their friends and decide to go online later to check out how funny the video is. If Evian did not optimise its videos, the clips won’t be found in the top positions in the Google or YouTube search results pages. This may subsequently hinder the spread of its social media content, unless every interested user has the exact URL of the video passed on to them by their friends.
Figure 1: Sample of Google Universal Search Results
2. Utilise bought media for initial seeding
Once you have designed your social media campaign, you will need to start looking for ways to propagate your message out to the public. Though it is debatable, many marketers will use paid seeding by employing ‘seeders’ to start posting forum posts, blogs, and feeds on other social networking channels. Another way to help with the seeding is to utilise various bought advertising formats on social media channels such as Facebook social or engagement ads, YouTube promoted videos, and Promoted Tweets. From our experience, it is more effective to utilise bought media in the same channel/platform in which your social media content is hosted, rather than trying to utilise a generic paid search or display ad campaign to drive people to your YouTube video or Facebook page. You should expect to see a much higher conversion rate than if you place a generic search ad or display banner ad to drive people to your YouTube video or alike.
3. Advanced seeding utilising social media tools
Using bought media for initial seeding is ‘quick and dirty’, allowing you to target your message to selected groups of audience based on the targeting methods available by different channels (demographic, geographic, and behaviour). However, a more sophisticated technique is to identify the key connectors in the social network that can help propagate your message. “The Law of the Few”, or, as Malcolm Gladwell famously states in his book “The Tipping Point”, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” The same principle is also widely known by economists as the “80/20 Principle, which, in any situation, roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants.”
A number of social media monitoring and listening tools, as well as a fast-growing class of social CRM tools, are out there to allow you to identify the ‘connectors’ by listening and analysing certain behaviour trails left behind by users on their social media accounts. For example, if you have a social media campaign targeting users who are interested in ‘upcycling’, through utilising various social media tools, you would be able to identify the potential connectors who are into both ‘recycling’ and ‘design’. They are the key influencers who are likely to be passionate about your social media campaign and will proactively share it with their friends.
In short, other than how viral or engaging your social media campaign should be, marketers should not neglect the fact that it is fundamental to have any digital assets related to your social media campaign be easily findable on the Internet. A coherent, integrated social media campaign should consider owned and bought media in conjunction with the earned media, rather than treating each in silos.