Want to create social media buzz without a million dollar budget? We sat down with three business leaders who have ran successful social media marketing promotions to find out what worked for their companies and got people talking about their brands.
Here are three of their tips.
1. Do something people will remember.
Social media, when done right, can build trust and relationships between brands and fans. Geoff Alexander, president of Wow Bao, an Asian-steamed bun chain based in Chicago, has received national attention for the company's knack for transforming negative reviewers into brand ambassadors, by sharing their most memorable moments.
In 2010, a customer on his way to a business dinner at Wow Bao tweeted, "Can any1 tell me if it's going to suck as much [as] reviews suggest." Almost immediately, @BaoMouth, Wow Bao's Twitter avatar and voice of Wow Bao, responded, offering him a free meal. A reporter with the Associated Press spotted the exchange, wrote a story about it, and Wow Bao gained a brand ambassador and national media attention with a single tweet.
"The little things are the big things when it comes to social media," says Dave Brown, director of digital strategy for New York-based experiential marketing agency MKG, who has created buzzworthy events for Evian and NBC Universal. Brown's clients participate in conversations on social media that are important to their brand, like Evian's commitment to health and fitness, and engage with fans, such as offering an exclusive Q&A Facebook chat with tennis star Maria Sharapova.
Brown says businesses should offer something of value to fans, whether the interaction is in person or online. While your business might not have the budget to pull a celebrity, you can offer meaningful experiences to fans such as hosting a meetup or breakfast for top Twitter followers or Facebook fans to launch a new product or simply engage with fans of your brand.
2. Engage with your followers/fans.
Companies are expanding the traditional role of social media in exciting ways. Some brands use Facebook as a billboard (Wow Bao offers free food to Facebook fans on Wednesdays) and Twitter as a conversation spot (responding to questions and commenting on the latest pop culture events).
At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami last year, Evian commissioned an illustrator to capture images of celebrity chefs and behind-the-scenes moments at the festival and post pictures to Evian's Twitter feed. Brown says "live illustrated tweeting" was a fun and creative way to capture the spirit of the event and match the "live young" message Evian promotes. Brown enjoys playing at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds, and suggests businesses experiment with social media, such as creating real-life meet-ups for brands and businesses to connect with fans.
3. Tap into the cultural zeitgeist.
Another great example of engaging brand fans is Red Mango's launch of the Honey Badger flavor last summer. In 2011, Dan Kim, founder of the top-rated frozen yogurt chain tapped into the popularity of the viral video Crazy Nasty Honey Badger, (language NSFW) which has more than 56 million views on YouTube, when Red Mango created its honey yogurt flavor, named "Honey Badger." Customers who recognized the video took pictures of the yogurt in stores and posted them on Instagram.
Once it gained momentum online, Red Mango created its own Honey Badger spoof video, and shared it on social media. The Honey Badger flavor became a top-seller for the franchise. And the parody cost, nothing. When it comes to marketing, think outside the box. Look at what's popular in social media, and see if you can tweak it to make it your own.