It’s About The Ripple, Not The Splash

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The Super Bowl, the highest-profile TV event in the U.S. and one where the ads are as much a spectacle as the game itself, creates an immediate splash, letting loose an enormous amount of chatter online and off. But now that a little time has gone by, let’s look at how social media can be used to extend the life of, or create a ripple effect around, a Super Bowl ad — or any advertising campaign, actually.

There are many approaches to marketing in the digital-media space, but I subscribe to the belief that consumers live at the intersection between owned media, such as your brand’s web properties; bought media, such as display and pay-per-click campaigns; and earned media, which includes all the user-generated content in the social-media space, from blog posts to comments on YouTube. Although I don’t believe all three approaches must be represented in every campaign, I do believe that in today’s world you do always need to include the earned-media perspective, because consumers will start the dialogue and build value or destroy value for your brand, whether you want it or not. Ultimately it comes down to how you want to engage in these conversations as you evaluate how they add value.

Arguably a single Super Bowl ad is the ultimate “splash” in terms of bought media, but once it has created that initial wave of awareness and conversation, how do you channel and harness that energy to sustain and expand your marketing campaign? It’s what I like to call the ripple. Traditionally, we have driven consumers to websites, micro-sites, mobile sites or even SMS interactions to engage on a deeper level. Now the most effective approach is to monitor and analyze the conversations that are happening online, in as near real-time a fashion as possible. You can then set up and maintain digital-engagement teams to participate in the conversations as they take place.

We conducted an experiment on behalf of one of our clients before, during and after the event using social-media analysis tools. We used Visible Technologies for this experiment, but if you’re interested in learning more about social-media analysis tools in general, check out this post.

Although I can’t get into any details, I can tell you that the conversation spike around the Super Bowl, not surprisingly, was impressive. However, the real value came from being able to quickly differentiate the types of conversations and identify the people who were actually discussing the virtues of the product (and their general sentiment) as opposed to the quality of the advert.

Each blog post, tweet, message board post, editorial article or comment on a media-sharing site allows us to identify individuals and communities that are interested enough to discuss a product or service, which makes them one step closer to being advocates. By participating with these people you not only extend the life of the conversation, but you breathe new life into it, or even possibly change its direction in a positive manner.

Here are five tips to help extend the life of your campaigns:

  1. Proactively reach out to bloggers who have even briefly acknowledged your product or service and offer them an in-depth interview with one of your senior people to encourage further coverage in the social media space.
  2. Use social-media analytics as a method of managing audience fragmentation. Work toward individualized treatment and micro-segmentation in your messaging as quickly as possible. This process will drive more focused conversations and enhance demand and engagement.
  3. Keep a portion of your media budget in reserve and set up some quick, small media buys on sites where you have identified sufficient interest and conversation around your brand. This intelligent and targeted buying method will bring you maximum ROI in an economy where every penny counts.
  4. Openly and honestly leave messages and comments in open forums identifying yourself as a representative of the brand. Thank them for their interest, their point of view and their insights (and actually mean it) and invite them to reach out to you via e-mail or to visit a website. Doing so allows you actually channel the energy of these conversations productively to your branded properties.
  5. Don’t be short-sighted. Like any good relationship, you wouldn’t throw away a person’s e-mail address or phone number after you’ve built a relationship with them. Start documenting and storing all your online relationships in one place and categorize them by their interests. You’ll be surprised how many people you can build long-term relationships with, albeit digitally.

As the title implies, great campaigns in today’s digital space (and even more so in today’s economy) must look beyond the big splash and understand how to ride, extend and hopefully even grow the interest in brands using social media.

As featured in AdAge’s DigitalNext Blog.

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Freddie Laker

A veteran digital marketer with experience working with some of the world's biggest global brands. He now focuses on providing interim leadership to PE-backed firms.

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