The underlying drivers of social media success

One of the biggest challenges in social media is keeping up with the next big trend. MySpace and then Facebook, fan pages, Twitter, iPhone, Android, and of course the applications that extend across all of these. It's almost impossible for an advertiser to keep up with each and every platform and understand the best way to execute ad programs across the ever-changing landscape.

But, here's the deal. It's not that complicated. All of these different platforms are way more similar that you think. From an advertising stand point, each has social activity throughout and allows for brands to directly connect with people. So, when evaluating social media, it's more important to understand the value of the medium and use the platform as an enabler to reach your objective.

Let's compare it to smartphones for a second. Previous to the iPhone, Blackberrys were bought because they were Blackberrys. Cool. When the iPhone launched, people needed an iPhone for the same reason. Now you have the Droid and Pre, among others. Once the cool factor wears off (right after you buy it), people's attention returns back to what they really need. What phone best enables my ability to check email, type emails, surf the web, and access apps? The actual usage decisions are made upon the ability to execute their needs, not just the buzz in the marketplace. Hence, you see a lot of work being done on Blackberry while the iPhone is on display.

How does this relate to social media? Just like a smartphone is only as good as its ability to provide you with something like email, social media is only effective if it enables you to reach your target consumer in a meaningful way. So, when formulating your media strategy within social, determine the most important connections your brand wants to make, then seek out the best enablers to accomplish that.

So, let's take a few typical objectives from an RFP and show how the solution lies with the enabler, not necessarily the property.

Drive awareness with the opportunity for earned impressions
We all know how to buy media against an awareness campaign. Roadblocks, take-overs, big reach. But what's becoming more valuable is the opportunity to include earned impressions into these programs. The earned impressions are more valuable than the paid. Top outlets for earned impressions are the Facebook newsfeed, Twitter posts, editorial opportunities, and of course having a share feature. And guess what? None of these enablers have to live on Facebook or Twitter. Among others, they can originate from your website, mobile device, or even in ad units.

Enable: We've done dozens of campaigns on LivingSocial's "Pick Your Five" Facebook application. The object is to get people to pick five based on a topic: "5 favorite movies," "5 scariest things," etc. While the brand exposure within the user experience can be strong, the true benefit is when people share their list with their friends via the Facebook newsfeed. This generates even more valuable impressions and engagements.

Create engagement
Everybody wants to run an "engaging" campaign. The first mistake in designing engagement is to start with your idea and your brand. Additionally, the most social of social networks isn't going to provide you with an engaging campaign unless you start with the people and focus on the enablers. Your engagement effort should recognize what users are doing, what they are asking for, or what represents the ongoing activity. Enablers here are social games where you can engage by offering in-game components or highly social activities, like quizzing applications or offering advice to the communities of people asking for it.

Enable: Within social games, reaching people during game-play through media units is hardly effective. But, engagement in social games is a huge opportunity for brands. For example, in Mafia Wars, a wildly popular social game, we integrated Universal Studios Home Entertainments' Blu-ray and DVD release of "Public Enemies." During "Public Enemies Week" on Mafia Wars, players completed various jobs in order to unlock Public Enemies "loot" -- items such as John Dillinger's wooden gun, prison stripes, and the Public Enemy No. 1 Newspaper, among others. Additionally, special Public Enemies-featured jobs were offered for a limited time. After completing jobs (playing the game), players were able to view clips from the movie. Public Enemies loot and jobs were engaged and completed tens of millions of times, and posted to players' Facebook newsfeeds more than 7.6 million times, delivering nearly a billion viral impressions.

Re-marketing to the consumer base
Within digital media, the customer relationship management (CRM) play has often been to capture email addresses and then periodically remarket via email blasts. This is and will continue to be an enabler. Now, we have SocialCRM, and fan pages have emerged as the leading enabler within this category. With that, if you don't tie fan pages to the above objective and target it to your consumer base, it's really not an enabler at all. The objective I stated is not to get a number of fans. If that is your objective, then the enabler is your media driving clicks to the fan page. See the difference? Hope so. If not, think of it this way: When it comes to creating fans, there are enablers to aggregate them, and there are ones to activate them, and they are separate in execution.

Enable: If you are looking to grow your base of fans (aggregate), you should look at it two ways. First, convert your current consumers; all of your campaigns, your website, and your email blasts should have "Become a Fan" attached. After that, the approach is to buy fans because of this race-to-the-top mentality. In doing so, be sure to buy relevance before volume. Both can be done, but relevance is key -- volume will only get you over the top.

Finally, when activating your fans, think of it as running programs you used to run on your website and would have to drive people back to. For example, for the recent movie "Valentine's Day," we created a friend match-up app on the movie's fan page, which was a relevant game of sorts to the movie. The app scanned a fan's profile of friends, when given permission, and matched those friends to characters in the film. The friend-matching app was engaged with tens of thousands of times. Now, those are fans!

There are many other objectives that we could go through, but hopefully you're picking up what I'm laying down here. Platforms are going to change, and certain enablers will become more or less effective with evolution. But, the objectives are not and should not change as quickly as the platform does.

Oftentimes we all become too enamored with the next shiny toy and make it a goal to advertise on "Facebook," "Twitter," or "the iPhone." Focusing on these platforms versus the actual execution might cause you to miss the entire opportunity of what's in front of us.

Michael Burke is co-founder and president of appssavvy.

On Twitter? Follow Burke at @micburke27. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

 

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