Daniel Stein is a digital marketing and consumer engagement expert who founded Evolution Bureau in 2000. Daniel has been behind some of the most viral campaigns in Internet history including “ElfYourself” for OfficeMax, “Ms. Dewey” for Microsoft and “Mind Freak” for A&E. Join Daniel on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
Ever since Facebook moved beyond the college campus and Twitter joined the social media matrix, brands have been trying to figure out what to do with them.
Generally speaking, brands are using social networks in a relatively systematic way:
1) Create an account; 2) Run ads; 3) Collect fans; 4) Provide news, offers and promotions; 5) Repeat.
But the lines of the digital world and real world are blurring, and businesses should start thinking about how they can take their social media initiatives to the next level. This means looking at new ways to mobilize your social media audiences to take action in the real world. Here are six great examples of early adopter companies doing just this.
1. Twitter Scavenger Hunt Engages Fans Globally
On Easter Sunday 2010, Tony Hawk hosted his second annual Tony Hawk Treasure Hunt on Twitter, where he gave away skateboards, backpacks, guitars and other merchandise to fans. The scavenger hunt was announced on his website and Twitter feed using the hashtag #THTH. He sent items for hiding to friends in 60 cities in the U.S. and across the world and then spent hours on Twitter on Sunday revealing their locations and learning which ones were found.
Hawk was able to successfully leverage Twitter to instantaneously build his fan base, which is upwards of two million followers, and connect directly with fans in real-time.
2. Students Create Virtual Graffiti on College Campuses
The free social-networking and mapping game for smartphones, Foursquare, is making its way into the world of higher education. While universities are still figuring out how to address Facebook, Twitter and other web 2.0 platforms, students are starting to use Foursquare to label, praise, and sometimes mock college campuses.
Through Foursquare, students can add places, leave public tips, or add to existing ones while gaining “badges” for checking into places. If they frequent one location enough, they may even be awarded the coveted “mayor” badge. Harvard University has even embraced Foursquare by using it to create an official school program that helps students explore the campus.
3. Users Participate in Tour de France via Web, Twitter & SMS
Nike’s Livestrong campaign for the Tour de France is a nice example of a brand blending the digital and physical worlds and enabling its audiences to take part in a real-time event.
Nike created a robot called “Chalkbot” that could write chalk messages on road surfaces. In support of a Tour de France tradition where fans write inspirational messages on the road, Nike gave people around the world the chance to get their inspirational sayings chalked on the Tour via
WearYellow.com, Tweet or SMS. Users then received a link to see where their message was chalked.
The shoe and apparel company was able to cleverly connect user to a real world event using social media as the conduit.
4. Crowdsourced T-Shirts Meet Twitter
The online apparel store Threadless has built a loyal open-source community that actively submits new t-shirt designs for the chance to win cash prizes, votes on favorite designs, and purchases limited edition shirts. More recently, Threadless and Twitter teamed up to launch Twitter Tees by Threadless, where its 1.5 million followers submit or nominate tweets to be featured on Threadless t-shirts. The community votes, and the winning tweets are added to shirts by Threadless designers, which are then sold through the Threadless store.
This is a great example of how social communities can be built and integrated into a company’s business model to powerfully drive awareness, encourage company evolution and impact a company’s bottom line.
5. Starbucks Offers Rewards via Social Media
Starbucks has created a loyal audience of coffee fanatics and continues to cultivate this group through a series of social media initiatives. These campaigns are driving fans from the web to the stores while empowering them to shape and improve the brand.
On Facebook and Twitter, Starbucks has built a fan base of 7+ million and motivated this audience to visit its stores and make purchases by offering downloadable vouchers for items like free food or music with purchase.
Another way the brand is leveraging social media is through its forum, MyStarbucksIdea.com, where customers make suggestions, ask questions, vote, and get behind-the-scenes scoops on the brand. Thus far, the company has implemented 70 user-provided ideas.
For mobile audiences, Starbucks operates two iPhone apps and is currently examining ways to enable customers to interact and pay through their iPhones.
6. Social Media for Social Good
What started as a brainstorm by social media communications company Everywhere while traveling to BlogWorld, ended up raising thousands of dollars for cancer non-profits and setting a new Guinness World Record.
The concept was simple –- get people to use the hashtag, #BeatCancer when sending tweets, updating Facebook, or writing blog posts during a 24-hour period last October. The social media experiment was supported by eBay/PayPal and Miller Brewing Company, which donated one penny every time the #BeatCancer hashtag was used. BlogWorld got involved to help spread the word, and participants at the conference and across the globe helped raise money.
The hashtag was posted over 681,000 times, and together, social media audiences set the Guinness World Record for sending the largest mass message through social media. This is a great example of digital audiences working together to create social good, and there will no doubt be many more social giving initiatives like this to follow in the future.
Consumers are seeking ways to transfer their digital interactions into something tangible. Businesses, big and small, will find ways to not only cultivate social media audiences but weave their brands into the daily lives of consumers. Your business should aim to empower them, excite them, inspire them, and enable them to engage with your brand in a relevant, new and useful way that adds to their real-world experience.