6 experimental social media campaigns

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For as long as it has been around, Target has donated 5 percent of its sales to charity. Each week, this factors out to be about $3 million dollars given away to fund a variety of grants, hospitals, and educational programs. For two weeks last year, Target decided to let its fans determine how that 5 percent should be spent.

Using Facebook as the platform, Target chose 10 charities and let fans of its page vote once per day to decide how much money should go where. Participants then shared their votes on news feeds and through e-cards, encouraging friends to vote as well. Since Target was giving away a fixed amount of money, every vote had a measureable impact on the outcome -- something fans immediately recognized and appreciated. In all, 291,399 votes were tallied from 167,000 different Facebook fans. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital received the most votes and upwards of a million dollars.

Daily views on the Facebook page increased by 4,800 percent during the two-week period, with the wall gathering upwards of 3,000 personal stories shared by fans. Such tremendous interaction shows that fans will go the extra step for a good cause, in turn promoting Target for its efforts. The campaign gathered an additional 97,091 fans in just two weeks and helped bring new attention to Target's long-standing charitable endeavors. 

The opportunities created by social media and the size of the online audience are increasing every day. Brands that have acknowledged this are immediately realizing the customer engagement benefits that a social campaign delivers. They are reaching out directly to the consumer and asking them exactly what they want. They are forgoing traditional websites and banner ads in favor of fan pages and exclusive content. They are using social media to improve their marketing, PR, market research, and customer service efforts simultaneously. In the ongoing battle for attention, social media gives any brand the tools to stand out.

Larry Weintraub is CEO and co-founder of Fanscape.

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