As social media budgets increase, marketers are left with the question of how to drive social interaction through creative branded content. When campaigns incorporate a social element, the all too common expectation is to add a Twitter hashtag or URL at the end of TV spots. Yet, today marketers are finding more innovative ways to encourage consumer engagement with their branded content. Whether social elements of a campaign serve as a component of a wider media mix or are the campaign’s primary channel, there are a few questions marketers should think hard about before launching intricate, creative social campaigns.
There is no formula, but looking at a few examples from across the globe, it’s apparent that asking a few simple questions is important when developing socially driven campaigns.
In 2010, Jeep created a campaign in Spain that utilized Twitter as a gaming platform. By following a set of Twitter profiles in the proper order, fans could solve a picture puzzle in the user’s “Following” pane and win Jeep prizes. In order to compete, a campaign-specific Twitter handle instructed fans to go to YouTube, watch a tutorial video, and then return to Twitter. Fans were then supposed to follow the 12 unique profiles already followed by the main campaign profile. Each one of those 12 profiles was following an additional 36 profiles that were the “pieces” of the puzzle. Follow those 36 profiles in the right order and fans created a tiled picture of some outdoor scene fit for a Jeep. Finally, fans had to send a message to Jeep and wait two months before a winner was picked. Sounds simple, right?
Creativity and innovation in social media are fantastic drivers of consumer interaction, but layers of complexity in the mechanics can quickly inhibit such reciprocity. Jeep’s social campaign didn’t breach 1000 followers and participation waned as contestants stopped following the campaign before winners were even announced.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Volkswagen ran a social contest to build awareness of its Fox model as the premiere sponsor of Brazil’s largest annual music festival. Ticket-seeking fans could secure the last remaining tickets through a branded, interactive scavenger hunt. Only by tweeting a campaign specific hashtag did the pinpoint location become revealed on the campaign’s microsite map. The more fan tweets with the hashtag, the closer the map zoomed in on the tickets’ locations. Once revealed, fans bolted across the city to find the tickets first. This happened ten times over four days. The campaign hashtag was the most trending topic in Brazil throughout the contest’s length.
While the campaign seemed simple enough for interacting fans, was too much effort required of consumers? Looking at costs versus benefits, the time demanded of fans appears disproportionate to the reward. We fear that such unrewarded engagement ultimately risks damaging the brand’s reputation for everyone except the 10 lucky winners.
For the launch of their new A-Class model in the UK, Mercedes started with traditional media to foster social engagement in a choose-your-own-adventure series of TV spots. Airing during the highly anticipated live episodes of the X-Factor, viewers chose how the adventure’s plot would unfold by tweeting one of two Twitter hashtags. Teaser spots, posters and online displays drove awareness before the live event.
Mercedes leveraged TV’s large audience to provide entertaining, branded content and an invitation to participate. Little was asked of engaging viewers who were rewarded with the simple power of choice and a perceived impact on the creative execution. Those engaged viewers could also recreate the story on a dedicated YouTube page which allowed access to contests, product brochures and test-drive information. In the development of such an innovative campaign, a key outset decision on media mix laid the groundwork for a creative and engaging consumer experience.
Social campaigns centered on consumer interaction must carefully balance the costs and benefits consumers might weigh before interacting. Is this innovative social campaign too complicated to even initiate engagement? What are we really asking consumers to do and how are we rewarding that effort? Can we leverage traditional media to drive engagement? With the seemingly endless opportunities for creative innovation in social media, wrestle with such key questions and expose that “sweet spot” where branded content and social interaction meet.