10 Social Media Marketing Examples You Can Actually Use

Earlier this month, I had the honor of delivering the keynote address to the Outdoor Industry Association’s annual leadership conference. It’s where folks like Patagonia, North Face, Timberland and more gather to talk about the latest trends impacting their business. I had done a panel the year prior on the basics of social media marketing, and the feedback was positive so they asked to me to speak to the whole group this year.

What I think is lacking in so many social media marketing presentations today are actual examples that get you thinking, so I shared 10 with the group. And since the meeting is not all big brands (like any industry they have suppliers, consultants and more), I tried to mix up the budget ranges, B2B and B2C and the range of tactics so that everyone had a better chance of hearing something that would get them thinking. And the “gratuitous toolbox shot” is to remind you that this is not a formula that you rinse and repeat. It’s a set of tools with which you assemble your own unique effort. That’s why it’s hard to do, but also why it’s so powerful.

Jim Tobin at OIA
Photo Credit: Steven McBride

Hopefully it will inspire you with some ideas. I’ve embedded my PowerPoint (without all the builds and streaming video I had on several slides) so you can follow along, and then below that I’ve written a few words on each of the 10 campaigns, which are listed in no particular order. (Note: Some of these examples are well known, so if you’re an expert in this space those will not be new to you, but this was developed for a mainstream audience.)

Disclosure: A few of these are examples of work we’ve done here at Ignite Social Media. I disclose at the beginning of each example if we did it. If not, we did not work on that example.

1) A Powerful Noise

(Disclosure: This is our work.)

A Powerful Noise WeidgetWhat It Is: A Powerful Noise is a documentary about women in developing nations lifting their families out of poverty. Our client, Fathom Events, was airing the documentary in around 450 theaters nationwide, one night only, followed by a live panel discussion on the topic that would be beamed into each theater as well. We had to get the word out and the goal, of course, was to get people to come to the theaters on that specific night.

Campaign Elements: Inspired by the concept of turning social media noise into “A Powerful Noise,” we had two major components to this campaign: a visual petition on which you showed your support for the women by uploading  their picture and the first-ever sponsored Tweet-a-thon, where every time you used the hashtag #apowerfulnoise in a tweet, Fathom donated $1 to Care, the global poverty fighting organization that invented Care Packages in World War II. That is fairly common now, but it had never been done before this campaign.

Why It Worked: Several reasons: 1) The campaign’s altruistic bent matched the film’s altruistic message. 2) We took the visual petition photo upload functionality and made it a widget so people could share. In just 3 weeks, over 500 people did just that. Since each widget also included both the trailer and the link to buy tickets, we now had hundreds of marketers helping us because they believed in it. 3) We did something new, which attracted some attention beyond the film and 4) We jumpstarted it with effective blogger and Twitter outreach.

2) 2011 Ford Explorer Reveal

2011 Ford ExplorerWhat It Is: Ford was ready to unveil the newly remodeled 2011 Explorer and there are pretty clear standard ways to do this in the auto industry and they typically involve an unveil at an auto show. Great expense is put into these events (picture models, rock music and cars driving through huge plates of glass).

Campaign Elements: Ford decided to unveil the Explorer entirely on Facebook. First, they built a Facebook fan page for the Explorer. They promoted fans on that page by teasing the coming unveil and by giving away a single Explorer to a fan who entered a sweepstakes on that page. (Yes, I entered. Still waiting for Scott Monty to hand me the keys.) The unveil day was very, very busy on the page, with about a dozen videos, live streams, photo collections and more. Interestingly, you could “Like” each of those elements, which I hadn’t seen done before on a fan page.

Why It Worked: Ford “broke the rules” and got a lot of attention in doing so. Auto shows are designed to appeal to the gatekeepers (analysts and media), but the gatekeepers had to cover this effort anyway. And, Ford was wise to start a new Explorer page. As the owner of four-consecutive Ford Explorers (I have three kids), I can tell you that I’m much more a fan of the Explorer than I am of Ford generally (I’m not against Ford by any means, but my allegiance is to that SUV, making me more likely to want updates about it.) They now have over 60,000 fans as a result.

3) Nature Made’s Good Mood Gig

(Disclosure: This is our work.)

Good Mood GigWhat It Is: Nature Made has a supplement called SAM-e Complete that keeps your mood in balance naturally. We wanted to build awareness of the product, particularly among women. In a brainstorm, we came up with the thought that America could use a better mood right now. And the reason for that bad mood is in part because of job losses (real and feared), the economy, foreclosures, etc. While we couldn’t fix that for everyone, we could give someone a job for six months as our good mood blogger. We paid $5,000/month for 6 months and provided the winner with a new high-end laptop.

Campaign Elements: We built a branded module for the client’s website where bloggers could enter. From there, they could grab badges to embed on their blog and share their entries via Facebook and Twitter. We reached out to bloggers we thought might have an interest as a way to jumpstart entries and begin to spread the word.

Why It Worked: We found a theme that resonated with people based on current events. While the product was very much soft-sold, and while you could easily vote for a friend and just leave the site, huge numbers of people chose to learn more about the product. And while entrants promoted their entry, they were also making friends aware of the opportunity. In fact, it was so successful, it’s the first time we’ve run a campaign a second time without significant changes. If you want to be this year’s Good Mood Blogger, the Good Mood Gig 2 is going on right now.

4) Levi’s Like Store

What It Is: While this one is fairly well known, it’s an important one because of the growth in social network referral traffic. Levi’s launched their Like store as one of the f8 examples and they’re a brilliant partner to Facebook for doing it. All they did (basically) was to put the Like button on each jeans product page, allowing people to Like the type they choose to wear. That also allowed them to show which styles were most popular among different types of jeans.

Campaign Elements: Not much. Just adding the Like button and doing a nice integration where you can compare styles.

Why It Worked: Being first didn’t hurt, but it goes deeper than that. Picking out clothing can be tough and we’re all a little uncertain while we do it. That’s why there are mirrors in dressing rooms. But this provides social proof by showing you how popular the style is and which of your friends likes which style. That’s very helpful. And, every Like button click updates that user’s newsfeed. When their friends click the link, they’re driven back to the Levi’s site and the loop continues. Facebook is now the #1 referral source of traffic to Levis.com.

5) Sephora Claus

sephora clausWhat It Is: We’re very proud of the work we do with The Body Shop, particularly around product launches and their strong values, and as part of that we keep an eye on others in the space. One campaign we liked, Sephora Claus, was a fairly simple holiday program in which you tweeted an @message to Sephora, asking Sephora Claus for a wish–any product the company sells. Sephora Claus would grant some of those wishes.

Campaign Elements: An attractive Flash-based microsite turned tweets into falling gift tags and kept track of both the number of wishes and the number of wishes granted. The use of @messages as a form of entry helped make the campaign visible. I’m not privy to how they jump started it, but it may have included some initial tweets and/or blogger outreach.

Why It Worked: The method of entry was wildly simple. The awarding of wishes was whimsical. And it got people talking about what they wanted from Sephora right around the holiday buying season.

6) Windows Playlist 7

(Disclosure: This is our work.)

What It Is: To promote the launch of Windows 7 to younger people (late high school to just after college), we developed a program with Reverb Nation that allowed people to download free music tracks from hundreds of artists. The user got free music, the artists got paid through Reverb Nation and Windows grew their fan base.

Campaign Elements: We built a site with Reverb that allowed people to download as much free music as they wanted from 7 different genres. There was no obligation, no sign-up form. Each week, 50 new songs were in competition to be included in the library and Windows fans (on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter) could vote by downloading their 7 favorite songs from the 50 before anyone else. Validating that you were a fan, or becoming one, was done with just a single click. Windows ads we created (images only) were embedded in each song and this was clearly disclosed on the site.

Why It Worked: It added value to the target audiences’ lives while bringing Windows 7 into the discussion. The low-key approach and the wide variety of artists available made the buzz on the program highly positive. Windows fans grew dramatically during the program as well, allowing Windows to communicate with their fans in the future.

7) Old Spice’s Social Extension

Old SpiceWhat It Is: A frequently covered, frequently lauded campaign, this effort took the “Old Spice Guy” out of commercials and had him responding via YouTube and other social channels to questions from real life people.

Campaign Elements: 180 videos along with an assortment of other tweets were produced in just three days and the buzz around the Internet was palpable. Social media marketers talked about virutally nothing else and the campaign has now been spoofed by both Will it Blend (see example 10 below) and Sesame Street. Well, Cisco did it, too. It just wasn’t that funny. In a nutshell, people asked questions of the Old Spice guy and got answers in near real-time.

Why It Worked: First of all, you had a very popular TV commercial character (that’s rare in and of itself). But then dimensionalizing him (I think I made that word up) by having him interact with people was brilliant. Having a client with the guts to allow that sort of rapid fire production without extensive approval processes also made it work really well. We all loved the campaign, to say the least. 

8) B2B Blogging and Backlinks

(Disclosure: Clearly, this is our work.)

What It Is: When you start a social media agency, you’re interested in leads from qualified marketers. In our case, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to serve large brands. So we started in 2007 with a blogging and thought-leadership campaign, where we gave away much of what we learned. The theory here is that brands with budget would appreciate our knowledge in the space and ask us to do the work for them. In addition, we’re actively working to generate backlinks to our site and our content so we rank high in Google and Bing for key search terms, such as social media agency.

Campaign Elements: A blog as well as the “Follow Me” WordPress Plugin, which we give away to bloggers to allow them to show their social profiles neatly on their WordPress blogs.

Why It Worked: In part because clients like that we eat our own dog food. We don’t advertise or do press releases. We do social media marketing and if it doesn’t work, we don’t exist. In addition, the content has to be good and relatively frequent. And the WordPress plugin helps the community while driving backlinks to us by which others can grab the plugin. As of this writing, we have over 800,000 backlinks, according to Yahoo Site Explorer, which is more than many household brands have. We’re also currently the first social media agency listed in both Google and Bing.

9) Pepsi Refresh

What It Is: A yearlong campaign where charitable causes are nominated for a share of $20m in financial support. Each month, site visitors vote for their favorites and money is subsequently awarded in specific categories (like health care) and for specific dollar amounts ranging from $5k to $250k.

Campaign Elements: A Pepsi Refresh website that includes the ability to apply for funding, promote a cause and vote for a cause. In addition, Pepsi has devoted significant amounts of other marketing support to the campaign, including television and event promotion. In fact, it’s the centerpiece of their 2010 marketing.

Why It Worked: By September, Pepsi Refresh had more votes than the last U.S. presidential election and it’s still growing strong. It works because of the financial resources, but also because it’s not an add-on social campaign. Pepsi is really supporting this and making it easy to participate. In addition, the fact that it reloads each month keeps it fresh.

10) Will it Blend Video Series

What It Is: BlendTec makes high-end blenders ($399 to $999) and wanted to demonstrate to the world that their blenders cost more because they are significantly more powerful. So they created a series of videos showing their CEO in a lab coat trying to blend various objects, including an iPhone, a crowbar (didn’t blend), a Hannah Montana doll, a Coke can, golf balls and more. Of note, Blendtec is largely a B2B brand, selling most of their blenders to places like Starbucks.

Campaign Elements: Originally it was a single video made on a $50 budget. With success they now have WillItBlend.com and their own YouTube channel and the budget has increased enough to let them do this great Old Spice parody video.

Why It Worked: This is the rarest of the rare: A branded viral video that supports the main brand proposition. Replicating it would be like catching lightning in a bottle. But their sales increased 500% after web traffic increased 650%. While you probably will not achieve those results, the lesson here is that behind the scenes, authentic content can often do good things for your brand, even without 1m views.

Take Home Messages

What I hope you see from this wide array of examples is that social media marketing can be done a number of different ways. Your job as a marketer in this space is to figure out what you have to say that people will voluntarily want to hear.

The opportunities are limitless, even when your budget is not. The best example on here started with a $50 budget, so the new limit is your creativity.

Finally, remember that creativity is not a business objective and don’t confuse buzz with success. Focus on your business objective and get the right buzz to drive your business results. That might be 1m fans or it might be 100 video views. It depends. Hope this post helps you with your next big idea.

Have a favorite campaign that you’d like to share? Do so in the comments.

LIKE THIS POST? You might also like our 26 Social Media Marketing Examples in Detail series.


Related Posts

  • janetkennedy
    Posted at 13:15h, 19 October

    “Don’t Twitter the day away without a plan.” – Wiser words were never spoken. Thanks for the practical examples, Jim

  • Guy R Cook
    Posted at 12:09h, 20 October

    Very nice information, will share with other like minded folks I know. Having a plan is key, using good tools even better.

  • Lauren Ashley Miller
    Posted at 17:05h, 20 October

    Thanks for the great post; I think case studies are what my small business clients would like to hear from me.

  • Terell Kissendal
    Posted at 20:43h, 20 October

    Very informative, Showing examples like this sets a prominent picture in people’s mind to understand the value of social media marketing. This is exactly what I do when I dealing with clients and that power-point is a great example! -Terell Kissendal

  • Jim Tobin
    Posted at 12:27h, 21 October

    Thanks much. Glad you liked it!

  • Mirna
    Posted at 14:27h, 23 October

    Thanks for sharing! This is a real approach of what social media brings to our lives. I just learned new things here. Thanks again. Keep posting more about social media.

  • Jamie Favreau
    Posted at 15:27h, 26 October

    Really great information. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reginald Jackson
    Posted at 07:16h, 02 November

    Great examples showing to what extent social media can be used. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Aviation T-Shirt Art
    Posted at 00:08h, 09 November

    A fantastic list of comprehensive “jet-fuel-filled” ideas which should launch hungry businesses into the atmosphere!

  • Michael Mao
    Posted at 03:15h, 27 November

    These are all great points by the author. Examples are the most useful way to learn in my opinion. I created a quick slide deck about things I thought would work for a social media campaign let me know what you think. Check it out here. http://www.slideshare.net/michaelnmao/social-media-campaign-for-startup

  • Michael Mao
    Posted at 03:15h, 27 November

    These are all great points by the author. Examples are the most useful way to learn in my opinion. I created a quick slide deck about things I thought would work for a social media campaign let me know what you think. Check it out here. http://www.slideshare.net/michaelnmao/social-media-campaign-for-startup

Post A Comment