Old marketing tricks do not work, loyal customers are now made via social networking sites

By Alexandra Kurapova,

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The world has changed for companies, digital marketing expert and author of popular books on marketing Mark Schaefer says. Before companies had to sign a contract with a celebrity so that he or she would mention the company’s product from time to time and say how nice it is. Now with high-speed internet and free access to such publishing tools like blogging, Twitter, Facebook, companies do not have to do that. Once mentioned in a Twitter post, a thing can go viral. We are in the middle of a social media marketing revolution, Schaefer claims.

“There is no silver bullet and no rule book on social media,” Callum McGeoch, creative director at a British marketing agency agrees with Schaefer. Methods used before will not be working. In order to tell about its product, to create a good opinion about it so that many people would be willing to buy it, a company will have to think up not only a story about the product, but a new way to tell about the story. So that the story can eventually compete with a YouTube video about “sneezing panda”.

The internet surrounds us like the air we breathe, continues Schaefer. It gives us opportunity to share thoughts, plans and – what is important for marketing people – opinions. Everybody has an opinion and has a tool to give it its own life – by posting it on his or her Facebook page, for example.

Brands “have to give their audience something unique that they can’t get elsewhere and give them a reason to shout about it. If you get those things right, you can achieve massive return on investment,” which is the core of social media marketing as explained by McGeoch.

Social media marketing is all about unexpected steps. An add popping up on the screen of a mobile phone or a note book every time a consumer types the key word when posting is not a good idea. People want their privacy to be respected. Such adds are annoying and can easily create a non-desirable association with the advertized item. Marketing experts are sure: it is possible to get people involved in a marketing campaign, only more sophisticated methods are needed. And what one should not forget about is that such ‘social-media’ campaigns are not always about big budgets.

Experts say the “Boob Hijack” campaign created for British breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! in 2010 sets a good example of a well elaborated social media marketing campaign with a low budget. The aim of the campaign was to approach as many young people as possible with the message that “cancer isn’t fussy about age”. Young women should not wait until a certain age, the charity say, to start doing self-diagnosis. Over 720,000 “Boob Hijack” stickers were placed on ‘hijacked’ boobs in the UK. But that was not the most valuable outcome of the campaign. People from CoppaFeel! have managed to reach young men too and inform them about the signs of breast cancer. How did they do that? By simply “hijacking a live televised sex line and then posting the footage on the internet for all to see”. The video accumulated over 250,000 hits in its first week and was picked up on hundreds of blogs across the world.

Another good example is the marketing campaign of a North American company producing seasoned tortilla chips. Every year for the past seven years Doritos ask people to create a 30 second commercial about its chips. A commercial was then posted on Facebook so that people could vote for it. Those two commercials which get the two largest numbers of votes got air during the Super Bowl. Besides, there were cash prizes for the top five winners. With the help of this campaign the company has managed to enlarge its audience. Now not only fans are looking forward to a new commercial to watch and vote and, possibly, share, but filmmakers too. One of this year’s winners is funny enough.

Here is still another example of a creative and low-budget marketing campaign that helped to tell as many people as possible about Ikea’s new store in Swedish Malmo. An ad agency suggested an idea that was immediately embraced by targeted customers. They created a Facebook account for the store manager Gordon Gustavsson and uploaded 12 pictures of the store’s showrooms over a two week period. Facebook users could win any item on the pictures by just being the first person to tag their name on it. Thousands of people were engaged, the idea worked.

A nice metaphor to describe new challenges that social media marketing brings with it was given by the British Guardian newspaper. It compares a social network user with the driver, who screens out anything that fails to interest him. But a smart campaign speaking about the driver’s interests “can create deep engagement with audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.