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Decoding a successful social strategy

Decoding a successful social strategy Justin Archer

As creative director of an interactive ad agency, I have a lot of clients come to me requesting a social strategy. After doing a lot of research and planning, I find that the client truly wanted nothing more than a mere presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Often, major brands tend to equate Facebook and Twitter to a comprehensive social strategy. And why wouldn't they? Both Wall Street and the mainstream media are infatuated with the social networking sites. Facebook just recently surpassed the 500 million user mark, and it is safe to bet that this is where a brand's audience is hanging out online. The real challenge is not to decide if one should be on Facebook or Twitter but rather how to find the advocates and engage them properly.

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The sad fact is that many major brands fall short when it comes to engineering a true social media strategy. I have had many conversations with my colleagues and we all can agree that a Facebook strategy is much more than simply offering a weakly branded Facebook application where you pick your five favorite ice cream flavors. It's about creating awareness of one's brand, interaction with one's brand, and then evangelism of one's brand. It's about creating a connection, a bond, and then forging that bond with information and content. It's about sharing, listening, and then sharing some more. It is a dialogue, not a monologue.

Lots of big brands take pride with the numbers of "likes" they have on their Facebook page. Many brands engage advertising or creative agencies for the sole purpose of increasing their fan base on Facebook. The question is, once a brand reaches the desired milestone of ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or even 1 million fans...then what? What are they truly aiming for? Now that a brand has all of these people "liking" them, what are they going to tell them?

This is where a lot of brands fail to deliver. They don't disseminate any information once they have a participant as a "fan." There is no follow up, no dialogue, no participation. It is just an occasional arbitrary update pimping out the latest product or service. This is a fail, which often results in a loss of advocacy.

A lot of the same points above could be said about a big brand's involvement with Twitter as part of their social strategy. Many brands come to Moxie desiring a presence on Twitter merely because everyone else is doing it. We guide our clients with strategic recommendations, but many companies aren't fortunate enough, or do not seek, such guidance. Many brands tweet too much, focusing on quantity as opposed to quality. They also offer nothing more than sales messages instead of giving the participant, or follower, exclusive information that they wouldn't normally find on a website or news wire.

So how do you create a meaningful and lasting social media relationship with your fans?

Keep your fans engaged
A good starter for major brands when creating a social strategy is to formulate a plan. Figure out how you are going to create awareness of your brand. Are you going to create an advertising campaign driving participants to your Facebook fan page as opposed to a website or micro site? Are you going to buy a promoted tweet on Twitter? Are there going to be web banners promoting your product or service? Or perhaps a brand wants to create a banner campaign solely promoting their Facebook page. Either way, a plan is in order. One must decide what the objectives are, what they are trying to promote, and how to first engage users.

Once a participant arrives at your Facebook fan site how do you keep them there? How do you procure them as a repeat visitor? How do you stay in touch and create a dialogue? There are several methods, but perhaps the most popular is "like-gating." Like-gating is the act of offering a participant valued content but then only making it available to them after they "like" your branded Facebook page. After they click the "like" button, the exclusive content is revealed to them and they are free to interact with the page and exclusive content. Moxie Interactive has employed this methodology on several occasions with the management of Cartoon Network's social presence with great success: Simply by "like-gating" and encouraging rabid Cartoon Network fans to "like" the page in order to get to their desired content, we have helped CN reach a staggering 2.2 million fans with another 1.3 million projected as growth for 2011.

The exclusive content given should be entertaining, informative, or useful. Some brands use exclusive video clips to reward their participants while others offer games, applications, or just access to information. Regardless of what a brand is delivering, it must be pertinent and desirable to that participant.

Engage in consistent and meaningful conversation
In order for a brand to keep a participant engaged, they must continue to deliver content to them on a regular basis. It is bad practice to engage a fan and then maintain radio silence. On Twitter, you must respond to engagement. When a person mentions your brand, acknowledge them and continue the conversation. When a person gets no response, they stop engaging. It works the same way in the real world. Your loyal fans will lose interest quickly and move on to find a brand that values what they have to say.

Make distribution of information part of your Facebook social plan. Create a matrix or schedule and keep that participant engaged and informed. Ask the participant questions and let them have a voice. This speaks volumes to a consumer and makes them feel loved.This was precisely the case with Moxie's engagement with 20th Century Fox's release of "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son." Moxie helped Fox come up with a plan of attack that included scheduled posts, pictures, and trailer releases that kept the fans engaged and hungering for more.

Turn participants into evangelists
Finally, brands must learn how to turn participants into evangelists. This is the hardest yet most important challenge of any major brand attempting to execute a social strategy. It can be done in several ways but the best methodology is to just to put your best idea forward.

The philosophy "build it and they will come" comes to mind when speaking about Facebook and Twitter endeavors. Big brands shouldn't try to force something viral. They shouldn't try to encourage shares or a pass-a-long mentality. Brands should work hand-in-hand with their agencies to just come up with the best idea they possibly can. Make it original, make it fun, make it memorable, and make it count. If brands create something truly unique, it will be seen and create a "spread fast" reaction organically that, in turn, will gain recognition and lead to evangelism.

Justin Archer is VP, group creative director, at Moxie Interactive.

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Justin Archer is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of Atlanta College of Art and Design.  He started his career in video post-production at Brickhouse Editorial editing spots for TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and Airwalk Footwear. A few...

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