Right now American Airlines is hosting an exemplary social media campaign which has thousands of AAdvantage users, myself included, obsessively checking their Facebook accounts. The campaign has 30 deals in 30 days and offers free miles to the winners of daily promotions. What makes the campaign so intelligent is that they offer rewards to participants for retweeting their posts, effectively garnering free marketing, and they mix in partner deals (hotels, car rentals) that encourage people to book through their links for mileage bonuses. Shoe retailer onlineshoes.com also recently launched a campaign that gathered free marketing for their site. They offered a winning blogger who blogged about their site a free pair of shoes every month for a year. They also got the Twitter birds buzzing by offering them the chance to win a $50 gift card for tweeting about their site. This newly launched site was able to get the shopper world talking about their business, and also in so doing, increase the site’s ranking. So what can we learn from these campaigns and the use of social media?
- We can take heed that in order to get free marketing for your business, you have to be willing to give something up. Offer up gift cards, free services or products. You may even want to give people a mini bonus just for engaging with you. American Airlines offered a mystery miles prize for everyone who liked them on Facebook: people could win “up to” 100,000 miles - I only won 200 but I still felt pretty good about it all. Consider it an investment in future sales. In many cases, you could even use these initiatives in lieu of traditional advertising.
- We can also deduce that a one-time offering is not enough. Make it ongoing, like American Airline’s 30 day initiative, or year long, like onlineshoes.com’s. Keeping consumers engaged over a lengthy period of time will make your brand stay at the front of their minds. I for one am fully engaged in the AAdvantage program now, and only a few months back my account and involvement were completely dormant.
- Give people a reason to get excited. Offering prizes is good, but make sure they are prizes that your target audience would be enticed by. If done particularly well, even people who ultimately win nothing will have given you lots of free advertising. If you give them incentives for getting friends to sign up - LivingSocial makes your purchase free if you get enough of your friends to sign up for the same deal - you can grow your customer base exponentially in record time.
- Make it multi-channel. Add videos, get people blogging and tweeting, have them like you on Facebook, post pictures on Flickr and have a web page dedicated to the promotion (make sure all of these pages are public so that they can boost you further in the rankings). One of the 30 day deals American Airlines offered rewarded members with 1,000 points for registering for their ecommerce website and watching a short video explaining how it works. If you have the budget for it, you can even incorporate traditional advertising into the mix. If not, try to get on as many platforms as possible with the home site serving as the go to hub where people can get all the updates in one place. This will increase the chances of people hearing your message.
The added benefit of these efforts is increased rankings in the search engines, which will of course lead to even more brand awareness. Google is incorporating more social data in its search rankings. If you’re logged into your Google account and someone in your social network has commented or made a recommendation related to your search query, it will appear in your search results. So stay ahead of the curve and start brainstorming creative ways to incorporate social media into your business.