Is there a secret formula for success in social media engagement? That is the question many major brands are asking as part of their social media marketing campaigns these days. Instead of worrying about audience counts, they are using a culture of testing to find out what content resonates with their brand and what consumers will respond to, and it is bringing them big results. Not only are people engaging with their content, but they are helping them spread the messages of their brand.
Quiksilver is a family of youth lifestyle brands related to boardriding. Its highly recognized brands include Quiksilver and DC Shoes. How much engagement do they get in their social media marketing campaigns?
George Weetman, the director of internet marketing, says their initial efforts focused more on creating a large follower or fan base, not on engagement. They saw "social media as a checkbox" item. They also initially believed that viral success was "largely about luck."
Over time, this philosophy evolved into a culture of reaching out to people, testing ideas, and learning what resonates. This caused their chances for viral success to increase significantly. One great example is Gymkhana, which is a YouTube sensation, featuring a series of videos that have accumulated more than 100 million views to date.
Ultimately, according to Weetman, "it is about understanding your customer and understanding trends relevant to that lifestyle." To succeed, you need "internal brand advocates that engage with external advocates, as it helps you process the hundreds of opportunities that come across your desk." This not only gives you a strong understanding of what social campaigns might work, but also provides invaluable input into your product plan.
RetailMeNot (RMN) is the largest coupon site on the web. Its Facebook brand page has more than 2 million "likes" and almost 200,000 people "talking about this."
Brett Billick, senior director CRM, says their audience is the 25- to 45-year-old mom. He also says that appealing to this audience requires that you "marry content and savings." One without the other does not really cut it. Transactions are nice, but their primary focus is on engagement. Success in engagement leads to a lot of sharing, which creates exposure to people who are connected to your direct audience.
The RMN social team is constantly experimenting to see what gets the audience to engage. They may share content from the editorial team or try a fantastic offer. The key is to balance editorial/informational content with coupons. According to Billick, "Facebook is all about testing to learn the audience," and it is a great platform for that because you "can tell the fruit of your efforts really quickly."
Consider the recent success of its offer for "30% Off + Free Shipping at PetSmart."
The campaign obtained very strong results, which was enhanced by the picture that accompanied the offer itself.
The third example is Major League Soccer (MLS), which is active on many social media networks, including Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and YouTube. The engagement level in all these networks is high.
Amanda Vandervort, director of social media for MLS, says the goal of these efforts is to grow the fan base, which means getting more people to watch games on TV, go to games, and wear team gear.
She views this as a multi-network campaign, and MLS also has campaigns in place on Instagram, Pinterest, and the new Myspace as well. MLS is "always trying to connect with current and future fans." One way to determine if a network is worth investing in is to see what communities are already sending traffic to the MLS website (even before MLS actively engages) and what info from the website are people sharing.
Major League Soccer was also tapped to launch one of the original content channels on YouTube. In addition to the main MLS YouTube channel, the league also operates KickTV, with more than 138,000 subscribers and 25 million views since its launch in March.
These major brands are succeeding because they have aligned their strategies with the desires of their potential customers, and they focus on engagement. Learn from Major League Soccer, and see if your content is already being shared on a network before you invest a lot of time and energy into it.
By implementing a culture of testing and iteration, the payoff is far more than a large audience; it is a large audience sharing their message with others. In other words, they're moving beyond "friends with benefits" into a more serious relationship.
Eric Enge is the CEO of Stone Temple Consulting.
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"Digital poster on a social media theme" image via Shutterstock.
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