Getting Started With a Solid Framework
Creating a successful social media campaign is like constructing a skyscraper. You need a strong foundation, quality materials and a reliable crew to ensure your structure doesn’t collapse. However, for many marketer, the idea of ROI and traffic takes priority over the finer details that go into designing a winning campaign. Although returns are a measurable and important aspect of social media marketing, the end result largely depends on the basic framework. Also, people are spending more time on social networks, and that means brands are even more pressurized to capture their attention and convert them into consumers. According to the Trends in Social Advertising survey conducted by Pivot:
- 60% of the respondents anticipate that social advertising will be very valuable to them.
- 54% are satisfied or very satisfied with their social advertising.
- While 37% agree with the statement that social advertising is gaining momentum, 54% strongly agree with the same.
- 38% marketers always have a social advertising competent as part of their campaign(s).
- 85% were currently experimenting with social advertising or planned to do so within the next 12 months.
While the above statistics appear encouraging, there were some respondents (45%) who said they were not as satisfied with their social marketing efforts. There could be several reasons for this. The success of a social media campaign depends on some elements which are very apparent, such as content, videos, pictures etc. However, there are certain less obvious, but equally crucial, components that need to be included while designing online promotional material. These are sometimes overlooked, leading to dissatisfaction among both marketers and consumers. In our opinion, these make up for the building blocks of digital marketing messages.
The Crucial Building Blocks
It is every social media marketer’s dream to create the next Old Spice or Ford campaign. There are some things that the creators of these highly successful promotions did right; setting up a solid foundation before building creative content, and following it up with offline marketing and post-launch activities. Ford’s decision to reveal the redesigned 2011 Explorer via Facebook instead of an auto show was a bold move, which paid off. Although the online launch coincided with the offline unveiling across the US, what worked among other things for the Detroit Company was a) creation of the pre-launch online buzz through teasers b) allowing fans to converse with company executives about the new revamped model, giving them a feeling of being involved and c) uploading a pre-reveal video featuring celebrity spokesperson Mike Row and CEO Alan Mulally. Irrespective of whether a brand is in the same league as P&G or Ford, we believe there are certain elements that function as the building blocks for a holistic digital campaign.
One of the biggest attractions for brands incorporating social media into their marketing strategies is the low-investment, high returns benefit. While large businesses need not always worry about the ‘how much’ part, resource management is nevertheless the first rung in the social advertising ladder for enterprises as well as SMBs. Securing budgets was said to be the second most difficult task for online marketers, with 34% reporting this to be a periodic challenge. This makes it all the more necessary to judiciously manage online marketing budgets.
- Where is the Money Going? Social advertising is a relatively inexpensive proposition, provided you know what the marketing dollars are being used for. As an online marketer, you do not always have to overspend to create a memorable social media campaign. Knowing the purpose of your promotion will help allocate a budget, besides answering the ‘where is the money going’ question. For instance, if acquiring new customers, monitoring the impact of a campaign or growing the business further etc are among the goals, then these are probably the areas where your marketing dollars are being invested. As long as the accounts tally, we say there is no reason to worry.
- It’s an Investment, not an Expense: Brands that look at digital advertising as an expense rather than an investment are usually not as satisfied with the returns. This incorrect perception can also result in marketers trying to reduce these ‘expenses’, thereby compromising on their online marketing efforts. Changing the outlook and looking at ad spend as money wisely invested will ensure you are happy with the outcome of your social media marketing campaign.
- Working Backwards: Going in the reverse direction is a good way of drawing up a blue print for a social campaign. This will help understand exactly how much you need to invest, what are the areas that need additional dollars, and what kind of returns you can expect. If achieving ‘X’ number of sales per month is the end result, then you should slowly work backwards, so that you know where to start.
Speaking of smart resource management, the example that comes to mind is Coca-Cola. Having understood the importance of social advertising, the beverage giant increased focus on Facebook and YouTube promotions, despite cutting its overall ad spend by 6.6% in 2010, according to a Grocer report. Coca-Cola’s budget management can be a yardstick for other consumer brands that are now faced with increasing marketing expenses. Instead of allocating a major part of their advertising budget to traditional marketing, while keeping aside a meager share for social media, perhaps brands should try and achieve an agreeable balance.
The Pre-Launch Phase
Now that the budget is planned, it’s time to advance to what we call the pre-launch phase. Creating a checklist of what needs to be done before a promotion goes viral is essential for designing that perfect campaign.
- Background research: Although most marketers use social media monitoring services to measure the impact of their marketing messages post-launch, we believe it is just as vital to use monitoring tools like Brand Monitor before unveiling a campaign. Doing your homework is essential because a) you know where your target market is hanging out (geographically as well as with respect to social media platforms) b) by listening to conversations about your competitors, you can analyze what you can and cannot include in your advertisements and c) this enables you to determine the demographics you should be focusing on.
- It’s All About Timing: For a social media campaign to have the desired effect, it needs to make a splash at the right time. A company looking to promote school stationary, for instance, will have better chances at success if they unveiled their ads across various networking channels during the ‘back-to-school’ season. Also, research by Buddy Media shows that user engagement on Facebook is 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays; as for Twitter, according to the company’s Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain, users are more engaged with tweets on Fridays. In our opinion, a social advert will have the maximum impact provided brands find their sweet spot.
- Teasers: Unveiling teasers ahead of the actual launch is a good way to create buzz. It not only piques the audiences’ interest, but also gives a fair idea if the promotional material needs to be tweaked further. Motorola‘s decision to roll-out a teaser video before the actual launch not just created excitement among consumers, but also generated instant demand for the product following the unveiling of the complete ad.
Featuring Celebrities a Good Idea?
The answer to whether you should or shouldn’t feature celebrities in your online ads depends on what you’re selling. Unilever’s Dove brand celebrates natural beauty, therefore features ordinary women with their imperfections. On the other hand, the company’s Lux brand stands for the promise of beauty and glamour and includes famous personalities in its online as well as offline ads. However, if you do have the resources, it wouldn’t harm to rope in someone famous to endorse your brand.
- It’s a celebrity obsessed culture: A recent study of social media campaigns by Brand Affinity Technologies analyzed 200 Facebook and Twitter endorsements, besides similar Facebook ads that did not feature celebrities. Findings show that for the same spend – endorsed messages delivered enormous performance lifts – over 50% greater on the low end.
- Roping in the Local Talent: Not all companies have the budget to rope in the big names in sports and entertainment. A small or mid-size organization can consider local celebrities in order to provide the ‘local lift’ to their brand.
- Lifting up Business: Marketers looking to revive their business should consider including celebrities in their social media promotions. This tried, tested and successful formula is sure to boost a brand’s reputation, besides driving sales. When Fab.com got Demi Moore to endorse them via Twitter, the designed goods company saw its business lift from an unstable start-up to a very profitable business.
The Flip-side; the power of celebrities to prop up an online campaign is undoubtedly immense. Yet, there is a flip-side to this. A negative tweet or post by a popular figure can risk a brand’s reputation. Nevertheless, the benefits overshadow the risks, prompting both big and small companies to approach iconic personalities to promote their brands.
Getting Consumers to Contribute
Sometimes it’s a good idea to give the creative team a break and give consumers a stake in the marketing strategy. Unlike traditional media, where the onus to brainstorm and design a creative campaign solely rested on the marketing team, the interactive nature of social networking can ease this responsibility by considering consumers’ suggestions. Here’s why we think marketers should make use of customer inputs during the creation/designing phase:
- Reduced Risk of PR crisis: There’s more to brand-customer relationship than just engagement and post-launch conversations. Asking customers for ideas, gauging their response, etc can go a long way in reducing the risk of a PR crisis in later stages. How? As a marketer, your engagement with users during the creation period gives you a glimpse into their mindset, thereby ensuring your promotional material appeals to them. Happy Customers=Reduced Risk of PR crisis.
- Driving Valuable Traffic: Sometimes designing an online campaign can seem daunting. Such instances call for customer assistance. In 2009, Vitamin Water turned to social networks for soliciting ideas from users regarding the name and packaging for the new flavor. This approach not only grew the company’s Facebook fan base, but also spurred a massive increase in sales after the campaign and the product were launched. The customers couldn’t wait to try ‘Connect’, the new flavor they had helped create.
- Increase Brand Loyalty: Giving people a sense of ownership will increase their faith in your brand. In addition to obvious benefits like increasing traffic and sales and diminishing the possibility of a social media crisis, allowing customers to participate will increase brand loyalty. Long term benefits include strengthening of brand image as well as better customer retention rates.
Google has predicted that, by 2015, 75% of online ads will have a social component. This, along with an expected investment of nearly $28.5 billion in online ads in 2011, means there is immense potential for social advertising. Unlike a few years back, when brands considered Facebook or Twitter campaigns as fancy add-ons, today’s marketers perceive social media advertising to be a crucial part of their marketing arsenal. Companies now have exclusive social media experts, monitoring tools and separate budgets dedicated to promoting their brands online. In our opinion, successful social advertising requires a well-though out and detailed plan. A strong foundation, which is the result of comprehensive preparation, will help brands find out how their campaigns will fare once they are launched.
When marketers draft their strategies, they place great emphasis on content; and rightly so. Though we agree that content is the backbone of a well-rounded social media campaign, there are certain other factors that are just as important. As discussed above, for an online advert to make a solid impact and get the sales charts soaring, the pre-launch phase and budget planning function as key building blocks. This, along with the right amount of customer involvement and creativity, is the recipe for a winning social media campaign.