There is one thing that is for sure that there is a tiny grey area when we talk about social marketing. In nearly every case, it’s either good or bad.
Excellent social marketing seems a balance among five goals:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Building loyalty and advocacy
- Driving sales
- Improving site traffic
- Soliciting feedback
With $33 billion in ad revenue on the line, it’s evident that social marketing is more than just a buzzword and lip service. Businesses are taking it seriously, and their clients are too.
In this article, we’ll highlight some of the best campaigns and methods, providing you with some insight into what operates and why.
- WENDY’S WEAPONIZES THE CLAP-BACK
There’s a brand idea, and then there’s Wendy’s. Wendy’s has gained awards and acknowledgement from consumers and media alike for eliminating the filter that we usually see.
When a brand chooses to stop talking like a brand, there’s a narrow line to be walked between “genuine” and “trying too hard.” Wendy’s has succeeded to toe it perfectly. A quick Google search will provide you with thousands of articles written about the company, and it just announced its 17th straight sales increase.
- NAT GEO TAPS FACEBOOK FOR PHOTOS
My Nat Geo Cover Shot was a Facebook-powered competition, used to improve the CoverShot television program. It touched the network of over 10 million people who had Liked the National Geographic page, enabling them to make their cover via photos uploaded through the app.
National Geographic connected with its audience by linking photography buffs and nature. The contest provided users to share their created covers, and in doing so, it enrolled them into a contest to have their photo starred in the magazine and a paid vacation.
- OREO DUNKS IN THE DARK
Some of the great marketing moments are produced by providing a team to have autonomy. Oreo saw that success in 2013 by taking immediate benefit of an awkward power failure during the Super Bowl. The company’s spur of the time, the genius ad was retweeted more than 10,000 times in a particular hour, and still gets engagement today.
More brands are getting the second screen to be a welcoming home, but sadly, that also means that we see a lot of followers trying to make lightning strike twice. The true spontaneity of Oreo’s tweet was the magic that made it a hit.
- THE ALS ASSOCIATION GETS HOT IN THE COLD
Remember a few years ago when your friends were pouring buckets of ice-cold water over their heads? The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge hit a chord that drove to viral success, and over $115 million contributed to getting a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.
It was an excellent example of using social marketing for brand awareness.
- THE WHITE HOUSE HAS YOU COVERED
President Barack Obama joined the White House with a commitment to make healthcare more affordable for all Americans. The Healthcare.gov website launch was defaced by downtime, and the ACA itself had enough competitors that any campaign is surrounding it was risky. So by inviting people to share their story with the #GetCovered hashtag, the White House was facing its giants.
- BUT FIRST, LET NASA TAKE A SELFIE
NASA is a bit of a favourite in the social media world. Between its NASA Socials program and the agency’s readiness to engage over different platforms, it has observed advocacy far outside of the United States.
For Earth Day 2014, NASA took an exciting approach and capitalized on an existing base of proactive users. NASA invited people to send photos of themselves from around the globe.
- FANDANGO MASTERS UGC
Fandango strikes a fun balance with its Facebook-based caption contests. The company posts a photo from a popular movie and urges fans to caption it. The chosen winner gets a pair of tickets to see the film of their choice. The company understands that, for their fans, the reward is less about the cards and more about the dopamine hit that they’ll get from seeing Likes pile up on their suggestions.
- THE LEGEND OF HARLEY-DAVIDSON
Harley-Davidson may still be the best motorcycle seller in the United States, but even as the worldwide market continues to rise, the lumbering giant sees sales fall. A significant part of this is due to Harley’s aging consumer base. The company comprehends that it has to make a big push into messaging that resonates with younger buyers.
The moto maker made out the Live Your Legend campaign in early 2016 and has found some great success. It currently has above 81,000 posts across Instagram and over 100,000 more on Facebook. When you’re trying to raise your brand awareness to a younger market, there’s hardly anywhere better.
- WALT DISNEY SHARES EARS, AND DOLLARS
Walt Disney’s liberal usage of social media has led to some fantastic campaigns over the years. The #ShareYourEars campaign encouraged Disney enthusiasts to share their photos with the hashtag, and for every photo shared, Disney would contribute $5 to the Make A Wish Foundation, up to $1,000,000.
Disney used an old rule of interaction – don’t make the user modify their behaviour. The campaign exceeded even Disney’s expectations, eventually earning over 200,000 shares, which Disney echoed by upping its donation to $2 million.
- WESTJET MAKES 12,000 DREAMS COME TRUE
How do you have national media for a whole day, while including every person in your organization? If you’re WestJet, you make 12,000 small “miracles” in 24 hours.
WestJet pulled on heartstrings through the video and relied on the common desire to do welfare through the holidays.
- BUZZFEED MAKES TASTY VIDEOS
Tasty, a food-focused division of the BuzzFeed domain, supports the methodology that the brand uses elsewhere. List posts, tips, and reaction videos are the standard, but it’s the 1-minute recipes that are the star of the show. These videos garner tens of millions of views across the site, Facebook and Instagram, helping to raise awareness for the BuzzFeed brand of content.
The key to Tasty’s success is in having quick, bite-sized content that is also topical. You’ll see recipes for Super Bowl parties, Mother’s Day, Christmas parties, and all points in between.
- DOVE FINDS BEAUTY IN EVERYONE
It’s been over 17 years since the genesis of this campaign, but its longevity is a testament to how well it resonates with Dove’s audience. The personal care brand has done “behind the scenes” videos showing what goes into a billboard, they’ve made people cry tears of joy by having others describe them, and they’ve struck a chord that has turned buyers into brand advocates.
Though there have been some missteps along the way, the Real Beauty campaign shows no signs of slowing. The magic to this campaign comes from finding a message that resonates. In the case of its first ad, it showed the transformation of a “normal” person into a billboard supermodel, and what it takes to get there.
- HAVE A COKE AND A SMILE
If you’re seeking to make a personal connection, using someone’s name is a smart way to do it. In the case of Coca-Cola, the brand gave up worthy space on its label, encouraging buyers to “Share a Coke with _ _ __ _.” it led to a buying spree and the infamous Coke logo being posted by users who found their names, or amusing combinations of others.
When customers purchase your product, then give their purchase to everyone they know, that’s the essence of marketing dreams.
- LOWE’S FIXES IN A FLASH
With every new platform, the race is how best to use it. Vine’s six-second limit on video made users and brands alike to think creatively about their approach. Home improvement warehouse Lowe’s took things a step further by creating a whole series called “Fix in Six,” based on the six-second Vine platform.
The videos shared a variety of tips, from eliminating scratches in wood floors to chalk-painting a cutting board to give a kitchen staple a new lease on life. The campaign was a hit because it spoke directly to Vine’s users. Everyone’s in a race to see who can be the most creative in six seconds; this time, it just happened to be a brand.
- WARBY PARKER BRINGS IT HOME
Hipster-friendly eyeglasses from Warby Parker were a quick story of achievement on their own, but the company’s home try-on program supported it to reach the next level. Consumers go to the Warby Parker site, choose frames that they like. The frames are then packed into a box and sent to the customer to try before they purchase.
Warby wanted to get the word out about its brand, and the home try-on program let them step straight into the homes of their consumers. The #The WarbyHomeTryOn hashtag ran rampant on Twitter and Instagram, with potential buyers flaunting their frames and soliciting feedback from their friends. Customers get social validation, and Warby receives free publicity.
- LAY’S RECRUITS FLAVOR SAVERS
If you’ve noticed Lay’s flavours like Southern Biscuits & Gravy or New York Reuben, then you’ve already witnessed the result of this annual “Do Us a Flavor” drive from Frito-Lay. The snack food brand carries an online contest, letting people submit their flavour ideas. The winner takes home a cool million bucks, and the fame of having their design moved into production.
It’s a yearly activity in brand awareness, and the notorious Internet trolling has grown almost as much of a contest as the contest itself.
- OLD SPICE, NEW TRICKS
Old Spice required to spice up an old brand. A series of quirky videos with Isaiah Mustafa raised things in the right direction. But having him record video replies to Twitter inquiries, Yahoo Answers questions, and.just about anything else gained them a place in the social marketing hall of fame.
The team spent the better part of a day instantly recording and uploading video replies with funny quips thrown in. Better yet, they didn’t hold their focus on celebrities but also took the time to reply to “regular people” as well.
- ARBY’S PLAYS WITH ITS FOOD
Sometimes a brand’s complete presence on a platform is a campaign unto itself. Arby’s on Twitter fits this bill perfectly. The restaurant blends pop culture references with creative food art to create a product that is more than the sum of its parts.
The purpose here is just to get people talking about Arby’s, and it’s working. Every couple of days, the restaurant puts out a new piece, which immediately retweeted, shared, and responded to en masse.
- KRAFT GETS CRAFTY
One of the mysteries to a good campaign is the right timing. In honour of Mother’s Day 2017, Kraft withdrew its filter for a hilarious video that confers a mom just trying to do her best. Published early in May, the video is rocketing its way to nearly 3 million views before the holiday arrives.
What’s especially striking about the campaign is Kraft’s choice to “see itself real” at the end of the video. Companies can fall into the trap of not seeing themselves the way that their clients do. The self-deprecating jab at the end of the video lets consumers know that Kraft realizes why people buy it, and it’s worth 2 minutes of your time.
- DENNY’S GETS HUMAN
Late-night stalwart Denny’s is another example of using Twitter as a campaign. But it’s not a campaign at all. It’s more like Denny’s handed the login information to a random (but admittedly funny) person and let them go nuts. There’s only specific capitalization, the tweets are meme-heavy, and one-liners are the forte.
The advantage of this type of language is that it resonates with the rest of us because it is the rest of us. Whoever runs the Denny’s Twitter account has forsaken every golden rule and replaced them with another: Talk like a human. By having a “real” voice, Denny finds its content getting shared, and its name into the timelines of people who might otherwise never see it.
- ALWAYS HITS LIKE A GIRL
It’s exciting when we see brands take a stand. The original ad, which aired in 2014, raised some eyebrows. And 63 million views. A pared-down, 60-second version came back in 2016 during the testosterone-fueled Super Bowl.
Within minutes, the #LikeAGirl hashtag was trending on Twitter, with stories of strength from women around the world. The campaign was timely, topical, and capitalized on user-generated content to further spread its message.
- NEWCASTLE SPLITS THE CHECK
With an average ad cost of $4.5 million, Super Bowl airtime is far out of reach for most brands. Newcastle has long been unrepentant about its quirky sense of humour — one of their neon bar signs says that it will look great in a basement someday, so it relied on just that to get Super Bowl attention. They had over 400 brands respond and pared down the list to 37 to make it into the commercial. By refusing to take itself thoughtfully, the hectic, 60-second spot gathered lots of attention and some awards along the way.
- TOM BUYS SOME SHOES
TOMS has always been a brand of a different sort. The company started its mission to change lives by giving a pair of shoes to someone in need every time a customer bought a pair. It produced the #WithoutShoes campaign, where customers and brand advocates around the world joined TOMS to give back to those in need with a one-day flood across social media.
As the years have passed, TOMS has extended its efforts to provide clean water, vision screenings, safe birth, and bullying prevention. The #WithoutShoes campaign has grown as well, encouraging followers to pick a colour and a cause each year in May. It works for three reasons: a low barrier to entry, a feeling of doing good, and being part of a community.
- WWF HUGS ITS MOTHER
Ten years ago, the World Wildlife Federation joined up with a Sydney-based advertising agency to create Earth Hour. It is a symbolic display, where everyone around the world turns off non-essential lights for one hour in a show of solidarity for devotion to the planet.
As one of the most extended, constantly-running social marketing campaigns, Earth Hour has been wildly effective in raising the awareness for the WWF. Cause-related campaigns create a perfect opportunity to help while showing others how you’re making an impact.
- NIKE MAKES IT COUNT
To market the launch of its FuelBand fitness tracker, Nike tapped filmmaker Casey Neistat. He had only one piece of direction: Create a movie centred around the idea of “make it count.” Neistat took the budget, grabbed a friend, and brought his signature style to a video documenting his trip around the world in 10 days.
Nike found victory by letting go and seeing how other people would understand their message. Neistat’s stunning visuals and “just do it” mentality were a perfect combination for the campaign.
- L’ORÉAL PARIS SPEAKS VOLUMES
We’ve seen several campaigns that are endeavoured at sparking social awareness, and the #WorthSaying effort from L’Oréal Paris still manages to stand out among the crowd. The campaign ran in conjunction with the Golden Globe Awards, where actresses are typically asked more about their clothing than any other subject.
The empowerment behind the message worked, sparking a trending topic on Twitter that aligned L’Oréal Paris with like-minded consumers. Celebrity spokespersons may have started the conversation, but the messaging resonated with a much wider audience who soon joined in to tell their own stories.
- BALVENIE EXPLORES PARTS UNKNOWN
There is an absolute brilliance to what Balvenie is doing to (not) advertise its scotch whiskey. The company tapped celebrity chef and Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain to create a YouTube series focused on the lost arts of bespoke craftsmanship. Raw Craft has visited guitar makers, cobblers, and even a printing press to show how the ages-old traditions are still alive.
The narrative ties in perfectly with Balvenie’s product, but the whiskey only makes a brief appearance in any video. The videos are engaging, short enough to enjoy on a work break, and never make the viewer feel like they’re being sold to Brilliant.
- WORLDWIDE BREAST CANCER MAKES LEMONADE
Talking about medical conditions is never easy. Getting people to talk about them is even harder. The foundation of Worldwide Breast Cancer hopes to lighten the mood a bit with the #KnowYourLemons campaign.
The tongue-in-cheek approach to a sensitive subject is an excellent method for raising awareness. WBC is plastering the hashtag and messaging across social networks and is already gathering quite the discussion. Organic coverage from The BBC, Mashable, Glamour, and others certainly haven’t hurt their chances of success.
- REI GETS FORCEFUL
Following in the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, REI is focusing on women’s empowerment for 2017. The #ForceOfNature campaign celebrates women by telling their stories, designing more female-inspired outdoor gear, and holding 1,000 classes across the United States where women can learn together.
The company’s blog holds most of the content, and REI has spared no expense to make it great. Latching on to a sensitive topic is not always advisable. But if you’re going to do it, follow REI’s lead and make your efforts authentic.
- BUDWEISER RELIVES HISTORY
2017 has been a tough year in some regards. Discussions around immigration and what it means to be an American have gotten far more than heat on several occasions. But Budweiser wasn’t afraid to take a stand with its ad during the 2017 Super Bowl.
Featuring the story of a young immigrant coming to America to find his dream, Budweiser knew that it was stepping into the hotly-debated territory. At 28 million views and counting, they did something very right.