I participated on a panel in a blog post by Geoff Cudd on 8 Sneaky Social Media Tricks: Are They Worth Your Time? The views intrigued me, so I decided to do a follow-up and ask the same people (and a few more) the following two questions:
1. What is the most amazing social media coup you ever did, or have ever seen done?
2. What is the dumbest social media fail you have ever done, or have ever seen done?
Some of them responded, but not everybody has had either a major disaster or a smash success with social media. Like so many other things, social media is a great communications tool that yields results over time based on hundreds and thousands of interactions, one at a time and incrementally over time. But there were a few coups to report and there were a few lessons to be learned, so here are what they shared with us.
COUP: I’ve never been a big Twitter fan and had always seen it as the equivalent of walking around a park with a megaphone telling random strangers about how wonderful you are. But a year ago, I changed my opinion when I stumbled upon a new business partner by exchanging tweets. In under 140 characters we managed to identify that we had complimentary services and setup a time to discuss partnering. We hit it off and developed a very beneficial partnership.
Lesson: Don’t ignore innocuous tweets. They could result in long term partners!
BOMB: In one of my ventures I actually had a product development team working for an entire year creating a toolbar application that would allow you to share web-based sticky notes through social media (similar to Evernote). The concept was great, but we spent all our energy focusing on the product and not the social media relationships that would be required to give it that initial boost of traffic to spread adoption. Before you know it, we had very few users and we ran out of time and capital. We had to give up and turn our efforts towards other guaranteed-revenue related activities.
Lesson: For a social media product, you’ve got to plan out your marketing strategy early in the product lifecycle and get user input as soon as possible. I won’t share any numbers, but I’m willing to guess that I have the title for one of the more expensive mistakes on this panel!
COUP: One of the best I’ve done so far was an infographic for an ink cartridges company. As you can imagine, ink cartridges is a bland product that very few people, if anyone is actively interested in. This meant that I had to do something out of the ordinary in order to have a hope of getting some traction. So I came up with the idea of printing out the internet, and how much ink and paper it would take to do so. I am an avid documentary geek, with a particular interest in programs like Discovery’s Extreme Engineering where they often use animated graphics to visualise the scale of a project, e.g. this building is equivalent to the height of 10 Statue of Liberty’s, or there’s enough cable in this aircraft to wrap around the world twice. In the end we came up with a really cool looking infographic packed full of factoids about printing the internet.
Shortly after it launched, it went viral. Really viral. Thousands of people tweeted it. It was picked up by lots of the top blogs and hundreds of smaller publishers. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed that infographic. And to the best of my knowledge, it’s still getting links today.
BOMB: I haven’t had a campaign backfire, but like any social marketer I’ve had my fair share of flops. That’s the thing with marketing content – you never really know if it will work. Back at the time when getting promoted on Digg actually mattered, I used to spend a lot of time on there promoting my work. When Digg was at it’s prime, it was probably one of the most exciting times to be a social marketer. You could launch a linkbait, watch it hit the front page, hope your servers will stay up and just wait for the links to roll in. The problem was that you could push something for 24 hours, only for it to be buried at the very last minute just when you thought it was going to be promoted. When that happened, and it happens a lot when you’re promoting content on a commercial website, it s probably the single most demoralising thing about being a social marketer.
COUP: What comes to my mind is an accidental coup that my friend, the owner of a conservative political blog and myself, the webmaster discovered back in 2008 that helped me truly grasp the nature and power of social media. Someone had discovered an interesting blog post that my friend had made (more about this later) and submitted it to StumbleUpon. Of course, I wouldn’t have noticed it but for the sudden influx of visitors the site began receiving in the tens of thousands that continued for about 2 months. Here are some specifics:
- StumbleUpon sent around 42,000 visits and listing 46 user reviews.
- For the year, StumbleUpon ended up sending three times the traffic that Google sent (the site ranked for the head term, “liberals”).
- My friend received offers to appear on a Sirius XM Radio show and a Pajamas Media TV show.
From that day forward, I took StumbleUpon seriously to say the least. But, the funny part is that this social media marketing victory pretty much violated every SEO rule in the book.
- The post was not submitted or promoted by anyone affiliated with the site. It spread naturally.
- There was no onsite or offsite SEO strategy or measures taken other than the default SEO-friendliness of WordPress.
- The post title contained a blatant misspelled word.
- The post was only 180 words in length.
- The post constituted duplicate content. It turned out to be a meme appearing on many other sites.
BOMB: Let me make it clear that I did not actually do this, but seriously thought about dressing up as Matt Cutts for Halloween.
COUP: My best Social Media coup started with organizing blog contests, entries in the contests usually receive high tweet rates as participants compete with each others to collect more points during the promotion period to win the blog contest, which means a huge exposure for my blog.
BOMB: My big fail and the most silly idea I ever had was when I decided to start an underground twitter exchange network, it’s the worst idea ever.
COUP: My biggest social media coup was working my way up to top domain on Tip’d. I had been blogging for about a year before I really got into using Tip’d. So I had quite a few old posts that I would submit on the weekend and hustle on twitter to get votes, often just needing 4-5 votes to get published to the front page. Being the top domain might be more than just bragging rights, since many users now give me votes without as much begging involved.
BOMB: My biggest social media fail was trying to use Reddit for the first time and getting labeled as a spammer almost immediately. I thought I was submitting my posts, but I’d click on “text” thinking I was leaving a description, but apparently this took out my links and made it look like some very random statements being made by a bot.
BOMB: We had a custom infographic made for Moolanomy. It hit the front page on Digg, back when Digg was cool, and it exploded elsewhere. It ended up with tons of comments, and thousands of views. It was back when infographics were just becoming the big thing, and it really emphasized the importance of being a little ahead of the curve. Plus, it was a somewhat controversial topic (buying vs. renting), and the infographic left out a few things. Actually, it might have been the fact that the graphic left out some things that generated so much buzz and conversation. It was valuable insight that sometimes you can get a lot of a traffic when people see something “wrong.”
COUP: Papa John’s conducted Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge the summer of 2010 and the findings were very interesting. Consumers were asked to create and submit recipes for interesting new pizzas.
A panel of qualified judges selected ten semi-finalists based on overall appeal, taste, creativity of the name, and interest of the story. The judges then selected three finalists from the semi-finalists. The top three pizzas were put on the regular menu and finalists had one month to hustle up sales of their pizza creations, each was given $1000 to promote their pizza. The top selling pizza won a cut of the sales up to a maximum of $10,000 plus $480 of Papa John’s pizza each year for 50 years.
Interestingly, the pizza that got the most Facebook “likes” did not win. “Papa John’s Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu for Gulf Coast Animals” by Barbara Hyman, started out ahead of the other two pizza contestants and never relinquished that position during the entire month, selling about 108,000 pizzas, or 45% of the contestant pizzas sold.
Papa John’s VP of digital marketing said Hyman’s pizza had two powerful hooks: the Cordon Bleu name was familiar and easy to remember, and her cause was framed as a way to help animals harmed by the BP oil spill, a timely and emotional pull.
Hyman made alliances with other businesses who helped her promote the pizza and pledged to match her charity donation if she won. She said, “People didn’t seem to care about the money I could win, but their interest peaked when I talked about helping wild life covered with oil.”
Six lessons from Papa John’s about crowdsourcing product creation:
- Challenge customers to win a product creation contest by providing motivating incentives
- Utilize objective criteria and judges to select the finalists
- Give finalists marketing tools and resources to promote their product creation
- Gauge success by product sales and not by any other kind of criteria, like voting
- Promotions that involve donations to charity or a good cause can easily win out over promotions that focus on the contest itself
- Contests promoted with social media creates audience engagement for the business
Read more: Crowdsourcing + R&D = Winning Product Design
BOMB: A couple years ago I decided to utilize mommy bloggers to promote a line of rocking horses. I interviewed several and decided on one because she had a big promotion coming up for Mother’s Day weekend and my rocking horse would be the grand prize of all the giveaways going on. Basically contestants could get more entries by tweeting, liking, linking to the website and sharing the contest with friends. At the end the winner of the rocking horse would be chosen by random number.
I sent one rocking horse to the mommy blogger so she could review it; another rocking horse would be sent to the winner of the contest.
Hundreds of people entered the contest and it was interesting to watch the tweets and likes fly, but at the end of the day the site didn’t get many links or as much publicity as I had hoped.
- Although I did get some nice things out of the promotion, I also learned some lessons:
- Mommy blogger contestants are in it for the free prizes and that’s about it.
- Be careful if your product is a much higher value than most of the items that are being promoted on the mommy blogger’s site.
- Contests won by random do not tend to engage contestants with the brand during or after the contest is over.
- The mommy blogger did link to the site but it was a bit excessive, meaning it was sorta obvious I had asked for links (Google probably ignored most of them).
I know you are curious to know what my biggest coups and bombs were. The reality is that my coups have mostly been in the realm of sustained success, one small step at a time, getting my content and client content to “pop” on social bookmarking websites week after week after week after week. Likewise, my bombs have been incremental, getting banned at Reddit (presumably for submitting some posts that were self-promotional), at the former Propeller (for who knows why?), at the former Shoutwire (for who knows why?), at the Newsvine (possibly for trying to join too many groups at once?) and at Digg (for who knows why?).
But if I was to name one coup and one bomb, it would be the same: creating Zoomit Canada. It was a coup because running one’s own social bookmarking website brings so many social media advantages, making you a bit of a leader and opening plenty of networking doors. It was a bomb because I never did manage to attract anywhere near the kind of attention to make it what it was meant to be (but there is still time for that, hopefully).
I hope you have learned some valuable tips from the coups and bombs we have shared here today. Please feel free to share your own in the comments section below.Written by David Leonhardt
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