The March mega-event SXSW 2014 has crystallized the current state of social media marketing: It's noisy for consumers and brands alike.
In a sea of social conversation, standing out during high-volume, time-sensitive events is a challenge for brands. But for those that successfully navigate the waters, the opportunity to reach an enormous, highly engaged audience is often well worth the effort.
We've seen multiple creative social campaigns during mega-events over the past few months. Take JCPenney's Super Bowl campaign for example. During the last hour of the game, the retailer took to Twitter and published multiple tweets that appeared as if someone was tweeting intoxicated—catching the attention of many. In reality, the typos were a ploy to showcase the brand's Go USA mittens for 2014 Olympic Games.
The #TweetingWithMittens campaign was an on-brand way to insert the company in the oh-so-cluttered Super Bowl social conversation. Not only did the campaign drive media coverage and generate buzz, JCPenney's director of social and mobile, Sean Ryan, also said that, "Our Tweets got more RTs than anything we have ever done on Twitter. Our week-over-week mittens sales also doubled."
Not every campaign brands run will result in the same volume of buzz as JCPenney's, but if your brand is contemplating how it can stand out during the next big event of the season, consider these four proven social strategies that can help you break through the noise.
1. Find and participate in existing targeted threads
Big events are broadcast in nature, but they also introduce threads nestled within the larger conversation. These focused discussions offer a location where messages are more likely to be seen or heard.
Sub-threads, such as specific Twitter event hashtags or LinkedIn Discussion Groups, are channels that enable narrowcast engagement for large-scale occasions. Creating these threads have become commonplace for big brands running multichannel campaigns. (Think CarMax's #slowclap or Budweiser's #BestBuds during the Super Bowl). Moreover, discovering existing topics offers the chance to resonate with a group of consumers with relevant interests. Talking about content related to marketing in a #SuperBowl conversation may as well equate to talking to yourself. But adding #BrandBowl marketing commentary provides focused content to a relevant conversation thread.
2. Personalize content for deeper engagement
A leading reason social content doesn't get seen or responded to in peak engagement periods is because it's simply too generic to stand out on its own.
Personalizing public experiences or responses ensures both individual users are reached and that larger audiences are introduced to targeted messaging. These types of creative efforts also often result in shareworthy experiences that build word of mouth. Chobani took the idea of real-time marketing to a new level this year by personalizing video responses to individual users who mentioned its name or hashtag surrounding the Super Bowl. Quick, witty responses tying back to its core message were sent as responses to users like media outlet Us Weekly and other individuals with relevant interests. The brand broke through the clutter, created personal interactions, and expanded its reach, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of views.
3. Provide incentive for the ongoing event follow
Value is in the eye of the consumer. Staying tuned on social media through a big event can often be attained through custom incentives—tangible or otherwise. At a social-saturated event like SXSW, that might mean providing coverage or inside information that provides value throughout a time period worth tuning in for.
For example, the location-based social application Foursquare teamed with Pepsi to give users the incentive to unlock a Golden Ticket badge by just checking in at any location at SXSW. People who unlocked the special prize won tickets to an exclusive Big Boi concert. Similarly, custom retailer Bonobos extended its #BonobosNation campaign to SXSW. Savvy followers of the hashtag could locate and meet up with the brand for giveaways and gift certificates throughout town during the mega-conference.
4. Amplify your presence with paid and promoted media
Let's face it... Even when your brand builds creative, personalized, and shareworthy experiences, breaking through the clutter can still be a challenge. Just as with any other marketing campaign or activity, unifying a strong engagement strategy with a paid media component adds assurance of higher reach and visibility.
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Organically becoming the top trending brand during a huge event, such as the Sundance Festival, might seem like a near-impossible feat, but it is possible. Smart promotion of tweets, Facebook content, or even Instagram ads is a strategy every company should consider in 2014.