By adaptive - June 5th, 2012

[M]any companies are jumping onto social media as an additional way of marketing their products. But many are finding there’s a world of difference between setting up a Facebook page and getting ...

Many companies are jumping onto social media as an additional way of marketing their products. But many are finding there’s a world of difference between setting up a Facebook page and getting people to ‘like’ it and getting active engagement with the campaign. So what’s the best way for someone to integrate social media into their marketing campaign and what have been some of the best examples?

Computer chip giant Intel has been working with social media for over eight years, so it should know. The company started with blogs, podcasts and wikis – the social media of preference of IT managers – but as platforms such as MySpace and Facebook have arrived, it has adapted to target consumers.

Ekaterina Walter, the company’s social media strategist and a member of the board of directors of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, says that social media is best considered in the long-term, rather than simply for individual campaigns. “Social media is P2P (person-to-person)  not B2B or B2C. It’s about connecting with people, not just working with them for six weeks then parting ways.”

The company has pioneered some successful individual campaigns that have included social media, including the Museum of Me and the Intel Innovators Facebook application, which allowed inventors to pitch ideas for new products that people could vote upon in a ‘Pitch Room’. In both the cases, the idea has been to give people something they might like and interact with them, rather than to simply feed them a marketing message.

Social campaigns

Phil Borge, Marketing Director, 1000headsThis collaborative approach is part of ‘word of mouth’ marketing agency 1000heads’ attitude to using social media in campaigns, too. “You can’t just look at social media as another channel to push advertising. It’s about how you connect to the audience, about creating a response you can tap into,” says Phil Borge, the company’s marketing director.

The company has been nominated for an NMA social media award for its ‘Say it with Skype’ campaign intended to promote Skype’s premium group video calling service. As one of the main parts of the campaign, the company created a Facebook app to enable people to send messages with the help of musicians and the user’s own video performance, all using a mock-up of the Skype group call interface.

In addition, it also got unsigned bands to submit auditions and organised a live gig that was streamed on Skype. The campaign generated 86 million social impressions and 1.8m visits to Skype’s site, as well as coverage in USA Today, Mashable and Entrepreneur Magazine. Equally importantly, it also enabled people to try out the Skype group-calling interface without having to sign up for the service, something impossible to do with conventional channels.

“As a rule of thumb, go where people are,” says Borge. “Tap into what they’re interested in. Listen to what they’re saying and align yourself with that. It’s a lot easier to do that than to try to change their behaviour altogether.”

Consumer focus

Christer Holloman, author of The Social Media MBA Christer Holloman, the author of The Social Media MBA and one of the team behind The Times and The Sunday Times’ social media campaigns, agrees, highlighting companies that have asked customers through social media what they want and thrived as a result. Dell’s Idea Storm crowdsources ideas from customers for new products that can help them. Barclaycard’s Ring credit card allows customers to choose the card’s features, trading off interest rates and fees in exchange for choices over where call centres are located and more.

Mobile phone company giffgaff saves large amounts of money on customer service by using social media to get its 400,000 customers answering questions on its behalf in exchange for recognition and ‘payback points’, which can be redeemed for cash or airtime. All of these aspects serve as big marketing campaigns in themselves, and customers use social media themselves to promote the services.

But not being in control of the message is something that companies need to get used to when using social media to market, says Euen Semple, author of Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do, and currently an advisor to BP and other companies on their social media strategies. “I’m working with BP who were paying Ogilvy last year to tick that box and we all know how that ended. What went wrong with them is that they weren’t letting people speak for themselves. Social media’s about building relationships between individuals: I can’t trust or befriend an organisation. That isn’t so easy if you have to have a perfect shiny brand.”

Clare Carney, social media specialist at Auto Trader Clare Carney, social media specialist at Auto Trader, agrees that companies need to be “down to earth” when using social media. “Social media is the only real opportunity to humanise a company, and do that you have to be more honest.” She adds that social media is now involved in “every single campaign we do”. The online marketplace uses social media for marketing because of the nature of car purchases: it can be between three and five years before someone buys another car, and social media allows Auto Trader to stay in touch between those purchase points.

Nevertheless, it also uses social media for one-off campaigns as well. For the relaunch of its website two years ago, which it promoted in other media as well, the magazine added a ‘treasure hunt’ across the site to engage users and show them how to navigate it.

The hunt was able to generate 1.5 million searches on the site and get numerous uploads of new advertisements, generating revenues. Mixing one-off campaigns with a wider and more long-term and structured approach to social media marketing is clearly the future of this sector.

Carney says the reason Facebook in particular worked so well to generate hits during the hunt is that it enabled people to collaborate. “We tried to make the treasure hunt as ‘Google-proof’ as possible, so people had to work together to solve the clues. It created a real community.” The treasure hunt proved a successful enough strategy that the company reused it for a ‘Christmas cracker’ hunt as well.

The key to benefitting from social media as a marketing tool, it seems – whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or a home-grown platform – is not to regard it as a marketing tool at all, but as a new way to interact with people and for them to interact with each other, not just in the short-term but in the long-term as well. You can learn from them and, as a result, they can learn about you.

To find out more about how large companies integrate social media into a broader marketing strategy, check out our flagship conference, The Corporate Social Media Summit. Featuring over 30 senior marketing and social media executives from companies like Dell, Citi, Mercedes, KLM, McDonald’s and many more, this is the learning and networking opportunity of 2012 for those working in social media for big brands. Find out more

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