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Learn from social media success stories

There’s no cookie-cutter answer to a successful social media strategy. The idea is to engage your customers and followers, and how you do that could be a subject of several books. But a look at some successful social media campaigns could provide some interesting ideas.

One of the top campaigns, if not the best of all times, was launched by Old Spice with its memorable “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” video/commercial. Trying to revive its brand, the company hired an Oregon agency that decided to target women as the primary buyers of their men’s body wash. Instead of stopping with the unique and quirky commercial/YouTube video, the agency decided to engage people via social media, creating 186 short YouTube responses to celebrities’ and others’ tweets about the video.

The Old Spice video spread like wildfire, as did the YouTube responses. It was copycatted, parodied, mentioned by Oprah — you get the idea. The result was 20 million YouTube views by the third day of the campaign, a 2,700 percent increase in the number of Old Spice’s Twitter followers and a 360 percent increase in its website traffic. The bottom line, of course, was an increase in sales: nearly 30 percent in the first six months and growing after that.

Not everyone can mount such an extensive outreach and let’s face it, there’ only one Man Your Man Could Smell Like. Nonetheless, there’s a valuable lesson in the Old Spice success: Dare to be different. To create engagement, you need to give your audience something engaging to begin with. No one is going to react to a post about the latest Old Spice fragrance, no matter how clever — so give them something to talk about.

Ford took a different approach when it was getting ready for the U.S. launch of its newest car, the Fiesta. The company wanted to appeal to the younger drivers and work past stereotypes its brand has created among the millennial generation. To do that, it launched a nationwide contest in search for 100 “agents” for its Fiesta Movement. The “agents” got to drive the car for six months (with free gas/insurance) and completed different “missions” every month, sharing them online. Essentially, Ford gave the control of its message — to some extent — to the masses and allowed for an authentic conversation.

The campaign reportedly resulted in 6.5 million YouTube views and 50,000 requests for information before the car was even available, and a sale of 10,000 units in the first six days the Fiesta came on the U.S. market.

The company also reportedly said the cost was lower than a traditional nationwide television campaign.

You’re not likely to have the advertising market or the army of creatives like the Fiesta Movement had, but you can still take a page from Ford’s book. Social marketing is about being authentic. By giving its agents the freedom to be creative, and by not controlling what they said or how they approached their missions, Ford had to relinquish some of the controls inherent with traditional advertising — not an easy concept for many companies. Ford also capitalized on the idea that in the new digital world, consumers are going to talk about your brand with their friends and friends of friends, whether you like to or not — so give them an experience or a product worth talking about. But make sure to follow up too.

Creating an active following does not take a big budget. Take the example of a company called Bacon Salt. It gained a bit of notoriety after two technology executives decided to create a new product, and with no marketing budget worked their way into getting all sorts of online and traditional media coverage, including a coveted spot on Oprah.

It all started with their social media strategy. The two geeks looked around on several social media sites for people who loved bacon, then connected with them and spread the word about their product. Soon, a small group of those followers told their friends, who told their friends — the result was nearly 38,000 fans on Facebook. All it took was a good product, a couple of very enthusiastic entrepreneurs, and a small percent of followers who loved Bacon Salt enough to help it go viral, the golden egg of any social media campaign.

One approach that is inexpensive and effective is cross-promoting: pointing all the social media platforms to each other. That’s one of the strategies used by Bainbridge Island-based Popcorn Chef, which grew its worldwide Facebook fan following to more than 22,000 since last April, doubling the number of followers in about six months.

Owner Doña Keating (whose primary company is a business, technology and information consulting firm called Professional Options) said that in addition to promoting the page through other channels such as email blasts, they created engagement through contests that came with prizes — such as helping name a new product or flavor. Some contests had nothing to do with gourmet popcorn, however. They were fun interactions like posting an odd photo and asking for captions, with offsite judges selecting the winners.

And while the growth in numbers has been excellent, Keating said they don’t look at those numbers the way the average business does. “We have a really strong customer base and a steady stream of orders. This is a fun business for us and it happened to turn extremely lucrative. We’re not looking at the numbers from the perspective of how many we convert to customers,” she said.

Keating, who consults on social media through her other business, said one thing that’s important for entrepreneurs or executives to decide is whether their business is conducive to social media in the first place. Another decision is about making sure you have the resources to either keep up the engagement yourself or hire someone — it’s one thing to schedule some tweets but without a sustainable strategy, you will not succeed.

“The biggest thing is to make sure you do it on your own terms,” she said. “You should never be at a point where you feel guilted into it or making it stressful.”

Rodika Tollefson's picture
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