Social media campaigns continued to mature in 2011. It's not all about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Getting a bunch of Facebook "likes" isn't the true measure of success.
The best campaigns of 2011 were different. They did something that hadn't been done before. Or maybe certain aspects had been done before, but they were done differently and in new ways. The true measure of success for some of these is not yet apparent, but time will tell. Here are my top marketing picks in social for the past year.
Every year has one social media campaign that is so out of the box (sorry to use that cliché, but sometimes it just fits -- it really fits) that it deserves the crown as the most creative of the year.
This year, Internships.com hopped on board the crazy train and rode it to success.
Where some saw a Hollywood star's high-profile meltdown, Internships.com saw opportunity. As Charlie Sheen split from "Two and a Half Men" and began his Twitter rants about tiger blood and #winning, the year-old company paid for Sheen to seek out an intern via an Ad.ly tweet.
It remains to be seen whether Internships.com can last for the long haul. Compete.com data show a huge spike in March (Sheen's tweet went out March 7), and bit.ly statistics show more than 481,000 click-throughs to date on the link used in the tweet.
What impresses me most about the campaign is that the company took a risk. No one really knew how the whole Charlie Sheen brouhaha was going to turn out, and attaching your brand to a celebrity in these circumstances isn't always the wisest move. But Sheen persevered, and in the fall, his Comedy Central Roast got that network's highest ratings ever, even up against his old show.
And so Internships.com hitched its wagon to a #winning campaign.
In my mid-year wrap-up of great social media campaigns to date, I discussed the AmEx-Foursquare partnership. But it was young, having just launched in March at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival, and it was still unproven.
In June, the two announced the national expansion of the pilot test, and it's been successful. Discounts at Sports Authority and H&M proved popular, and they've only continued to expand the program. In fact, the expansion is part of what made the partnership keep its spot on the top campaigns of the year.
American Express dubbed the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, as "Small Business Saturday." Besides a $25 credit at any participating small business that accepts the credit card via the Foursquare partnership, AmEx also offered it as a Klout perk and via its Facebook page.
American Express, once known primarily for its traveler's checks, has fully arrived in the digital age. The company is partnered with some of the most entrenched social media brands out there.
Geeks love zombies. True story.
So it's no surprise that AMC's zombie series, "The Walking Dead," is a hit among the nerd set, many of whom are diehard GetGlue users. AMC's been smart and has used various social media platforms to get its fans to promote the show for them.
At the New York Comic Con and in the roll-up to the second season premiere, fans could check in on GetGlue for stickers and post that news on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else they wanted. Then, shortly before the premiere, fans were invited to "choose a side," and change their avatar to a zombie or survivor. Even this jaded geek couldn't resist and appeared as a zombie on Facebook for about a week.
GetGlue recorded its highest-ever single-night check-in total for the Oct. 16 premiere, with 42,930 announcing they were watching. About 20,000 checked in during the first 20 minutes, GetGlue reported.
That's an extremely attractive statistic for a show to share with advertisers: That means many of those viewers were watching in real-time and potentially were not fast-forwarding past commercials on the DVR. Given the fact that air time was three hours later on the West Coast, it's possible that figure was even larger. And some who checked in toward the end of the episode might have simply forgotten to check in earlier.
If "The Walking Dead" can share statistics like these with advertisers, it can make a strong argument for buying ad time during its broadcast -- and commanding good rates.
And who said TV was dead?
A couple years ago, we saw the possibilities of interactive YouTube videos with the great Tipp-Ex bear-hunting video, in which you could change the outcome. But not that much has been done with interactive YouTube videos since then -- or, at least, not much that's gotten a lot of attention.
You can't say a campaign is successful if it doesn't get much attention.
Perrier got plenty of attention this summer with "Le Club Perrier," its interactive video channel where the videos got "sexier" as the number of viewers climbed. You could unlock hotter and sexier videos as you shared the channel with friends.
Perrier's Facebook page got a 2,000-fan boost in just two days, and the channel has gotten 6 million views since launching in June. Le Club was a No. 1 tweeted video worldwide upon its launch.
Ford's orange spokespuppet also was included in my mid-year look, and I wondered if he'd still be around for the year-end wrap-up. He's not, but not because he was a failure. Ford did right by the foul-mouthed puppet and retired him while he was still on top, back in September.
The goal at the outset was to get 10,000 fans for Doug on his Facebook page. He got more than 43,000.
Ford's Scott Monty told brandchannel that, upon Doug's retirement, 77 percent of those who'd watched any of Doug's videos said they regarded the Ford Focus more favorably. He also said some people claimed to have bought the car because of Doug. That's backed up by some of the Facebook fan posts and tweets I saw, in which customers said the foul-mouthed orange puppet was the impetus for their purchase.
The spokespuppet was so successful that Automobile Magazine even did a cross-promotion, filming five spots at the publisher's offices in Florida. Sadly, those videos no longer appear to be posted anywhere online.
Like Doug, they are missing.
This one's kind of risky to include because it has just launched and the effectiveness of it has yet to be determined. But I'm willing to include this holiday microsite from the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls because of its use of video, personalization, and augmented reality.
TJX's "Share a Carol" microsite allows people to send carolers to their friends via video. The background can be a major landmark, such as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Times Square, and Paul Revere's house (yes, that's one of the options), or anywhere visible via Google Street View.
I tested it out on my house, and it looked lovely, bedecked with Christmas lights and in a lightly snowy evening. Then I tried the corporate headquarters of TJX, in Framingham, Mass. I'm not quite sure the camera was pointed in the right direction, and the building might have been too far back from the road to catch it -- but the point is, it was something folks there would likely recognize from their travels to and from work each day.
You have many personalization options. You can select your favorite carol and the decorations to adorn your video -- Christmas lights, snow, frost, a North Pole sign, and a reindeer that wanders through mid-carol.
The thing that's really going to be a kick for most people, though, is the ability to have the carolers at their house. The house can be the background, but the view is meant to look out from the house, so it's as if the person has opened his front door and the carolers are standing there.
We'll have to check back in early next year to see what kind of traction the microsite got and how it all worked out for TJX over the holidays.
One thing is always for certain in doing these roundups -- I'll have missed some campaigns that seemed like shoe-ins for some of you. And you're probably scratching your head over a couple of these.
So, share: What would you have included? What would you have left out?
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