March 14th, 2012

Social Media: Which Comes First, Creativity or Metrics? #SXSWi

No one has quite figured out the perfect way to report on the success (or failure) of social media campaigns. That much is clear from my five days at SXSW this year. Followers, likes and clicks are not going away. Facebook has a new way of measuring “engagement” which is basically “shares” of the content, and this is helpful. But how do we know that we are connecting with the right audience?

We will know by the way the audience engages with the campaign and the overall word-of-mouth generated to help it spread online. You can measure all the clicks and likes and followers that you receive, but if the message you are communicating is off-brand, all wrong for your audience and similar to others in the marketplace, can the campaign really be considered a success because of clicks, likes and followers?  Too many brands are jumping into social media campaigns to do something “cool” and “fun” and “different.” But they are forgetting to define the basics for any communications campaign:

  1. Brand message/overall communications goal
  2. Target audience
  3. Competitive landscape

I sat in on a great session at SXSW entitled Epic Battle: Creativity vs. Discipline in Social where the panelists shared examples of “epic wins” and “epic fails” in social media campaigns. The theme among the wins was:

The brands knew the campaign basics (outlined above) and measured each and every creative idea against those objectives to ensure the output was on-brand.

It is a simple as that. And it makes so much sense.

Examples of “epic wins” shared by the panel:

  • Barbie introduced a new career for the doll: computer engineer. Fans on the internet started Photoshopping Barbie into photos iconic technology events and posting them online. Mattel let it happen and started providing all the images for people to use. Once they embraced what the audience was doing and gave them the tools to help do it did they saw the creativity go to a whole new level and engagement spread like wildfire on the web.
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Ape”s movie was about to launch and they wanted to engage with 18-34 year old guys who weren’t familiar with the original. They produced a video with a trained ape shooting an AK-47 and put it on YouTube, with the theme being “apes are getting smarter.” The video got over 20 million view on YouTube. The comments on YouTube indicated they had definitely hit their target audience.
  • Chevy during the Super Bowl knew that Twitter was where the talk would be occurring about the commercials. So they bought out Twitter advertising stock and owned that space.

Examples of “epic fails” shared by the panel:

  • Crocs was targeting moms who were buying shoes for their kids. The brand produced a video to the song Yellow Submarine and placed it on YouTube. The video got one million views, but was totally not the right target given the content of the video and did not see sales results. They weren’t disciplined in the message to the target audience and they could tell this by the comments on the video.
  • A large (unnamed) consumer electronics brand that had five objectives with one creative message. They needed different messages and creative, each aligned with an objective in order for it to be successful. It was a massive fail.

Knowing the target audience and where they spend time online and understanding what might engage them takes research on the front end. Just because social media is nimble, does not mean that it should be executed with reckless abandon. Research thoroughly upfront, agree on how the campaign will be measured, check every creative execution against the campaign objectives and audience, and don’t be stupid.

For your entertainment, here is the “Planet of the Apes” video:

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