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4 classic marketing techniques reimagined for social media

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 09 Feb, 2018
Essential Essential topic

While new digital marketing techniques are constantly emerging, the old standbys remain great strategies to attract new customers

People love free stuff, giveaways, and contests. Remember Warren Buffett’s $1 billion March Madness challenge? Even though the odds were abysmal (about 1 in 9.2 quintillion), more than a million people still got excited to compete.

There’s a reason why these types of contests and giveaways work so well: They build excitement and attract potential customers. If the giveaway is newsworthy (even if it’s not $1 billion-newsworthy), it still creates buzz and encourages people to share among friends.

Social Media and Branding

Social media has the power to transform the way we connect with brands and one another. To see the full power of social media in action, look no further than congressional candidate Jon Ossoff. With an eye-catching hashtag and crowdfunded campaigns, Ossoff raised close to $24 million — the majority of which came in the form of small donations from roughly 200,000 people.

The effect social media has on brands is just as powerful, but companies now need to work harder to capture their customers’ attention.

Social media changed the flow of the online conversation from a brand-to-customer dynamic to a customer-to-customer interchange, meaning brands now have to work their way into normal conversations without appearing intrusive. And getting customers to talk about their positive experiences poses a challenge.

The clout of social media stems from its ability to let consumers share their honest experiences with one another. Paid advertising remains effective, but when 81 percent of shoppers consult online reviews and outside research before making a purchase, a natural positive reputation is a critical component of online selling.

Despite the necessity of social media, 96% of people who discuss brands online do not follow those brands on any platform. This makes it difficult for brands to reach out directly to consumers, forcing them to rely on their small user bases to get the word out.

This is especially true of Millennials — A previous study from eMarketer shows that 68% of them are more likely to make a purchase if a friend recommends the product in a post.

Social media recommendations

Getting the Word Out

So how can brands influence consumers and drive earned media without speaking to them directly?

The first option is to pay a PR company. These firms leverage connections with editors and high-traffic publications to post informational articles about the amazing things your company is doing. While it's not always cost-effective, this option usually produces consistent results.

An alternative strategy is to work with individual influencers in your space, get them excited about your product, and allow them to spread the word to their followers.

JP Morgan Chase partnered with Brian Kelly, a.k.a. “The Points Guy,” to promote its newest credit card to great effect. Chase gained millions of new card members, and Kelly walked away with a seven-figure paycheck from referrals.

A third way to drive earned media is also the trickiest: Create a piece of content so engaging that it goes viral. Dollar Shave Club famously crashed onto the scene five years ago with a YouTube video proclaiming, “Our blades are f***ing great.” It was a risky strategy, but it paid off in the form of thousands of new subscribers.

Earned media makes people on social media want to engage with your brand and share the message with their networks. Old tricks like contests and special releases are inherently newsworthy and shareable, providing the entertainment value consumers need while driving the message of the brand.

How to Use Old Tricks on Social Media

Too often, marketers put social media in a silo and treat it as a separate initiative. But the most successful marketers approach social media as a way to visit consumers on their own turf and encourage them to interact with the brand both on and off the platform. And this means extending focus beyond owned social pages — most customers never like the brand pages of the products they purchase, after all.

The following four strategies combine old-school marketing with social media to great effect:

1. Contests and Giveaways

Contests are cost-effective strategies to bolster your email list and spread brand awareness. The bigger the contest, the more newsworthy it becomes. If you want thousands of people to enter your giveaway, don’t just offer a $100 gift card or a coupon. The more newsworthy your prize is, the more entries you’ll see.

Also, design contests that will attract your target demographic. If you want to reach motorcycle enthusiasts, for instance, offer a prize that will appeal to that audience.

Once people enter your contest and give you their contact information, you can add them to your email list or as a custom Facebook audience to continue reaching them with valuable content and deals long after the contest ends.

Finally, provide additional entries into your contest for people who share on social media. Rather than reach a few friends with an email blast of referrals, social shares achieve higher visibility on social networks and bring in more contest entrants — and their contact information.

2. TV Advertising

While many brands treat social media users and TV viewers as if they are two separate audiences, posting television content to YouTube is an excellent way to increase the reach of existing campaigns. Super Bowl commercials like Mountain Dew’s PuppyMonkeyBaby oddity, for example, became viral phenomena by hitting both platforms.

For marketers without a nice pile of cash for TV, sponsored video content in lieu of television can provide even better results (on a CPM and view time basis).

This promotional video for a new VR game received more than 500,000 views despite being what amounts to a 38-minute commercial. (I can't disclose the exact cost of sponsorship, but we're talking four digits.)

If you provide interesting, engaging content, consumers will seek it out and encourage their friends to do the same.

3. Limited-Time Offers and Special Product Releases

Special releases create a sense of urgency and a natural CTA to act quickly. Traditionally, these offers were communicated via celebrity endorsements, existing email lists, and paid advertising. With social media, however, brands can reach niche audiences by tapping influencers in smaller spheres.

Find bloggers, Facebook groups, and popular individuals in your target demographic to approach about building awareness about your limited offering.

YETI, for example, built up great press around its limited edition pink cooler in support of breast cancer awareness month. YETI took a strategy used by professional sports teams and applied it to its cooler products.

Glu Mobile took this approach to the extreme by giving Kim Kardashian her own mobile game in which she and others could promote limited-time virtual items that players could purchase with real dollars. This tactic definitely paid off. Since its launch in 2014, the free-to-start game has racked up over $100 million.

4. Email Marketing

The oldest digital marketing move, emails to existing customers on sales and new services are a necessary component of any strategy.

Supercharge your campaigns by retargeting custom audiences on Facebook and Instagram using the emails of all customers who open those emails. Offer discounts and referral bonuses to people who spread the word on social media.

Brands like Crate and Barrel include offers to give customers discounts for themselves and their friends when they refer new customers on social media. This strategy gives recurring customers more incentives to buy while growing the overall customer pool.

By asking customers to share on social media, it’s a win for everyone — brands, current customers, and new customers.

Grow and Adapt

While implementing these old tricks, continue to test and refine your approach. Define the criteria you want to measure at the outset of your new campaign. Whether the goal is brand awareness or increased sales, set KPIs to follow and measure your success against those numbers.

As you measure your online successes, use URL parameters to track your results. Define different codes for channels, influencers, and ads; then, lay them out on a spreadsheet to see where your money goes the furthest. If you can’t track UTM parameters because you’re driving traffic to another site, use Bitly to track link clicks.

For partner blogs, add a pixel to the content or share access to Google Analytics to see the metrics that matter to you.

Continue to measure the success of your approach against your baseline and adjust as needed. Finding the right social influencer takes time, and if you ever feel lost, it never hurts to reach out to a professional for help. By using these old tricks in a new format, you can acquire new customers naturally by spreading the message of your brand and getting the audience to do the marketing for you.

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By Expert commentator

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