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Measuring the efficacy of social media marketing still isn't an exact science, regardless of what the gurus and ninjas tell you.
So how can we whittle all the thousands of social campaigns we've seen this year down to a definitive list of the '10 best of 2012'?
Do we gauge it on the number of new fans acquired, retweets, ROI, YouTube views, the number of people it reached, sentiment analysis, the amount of traffic it drove or maybe the number of new brand advocates it created?
The answer is any of the above and any number of other social metrics, so for this list I've instead gone for the campaigns that I found to be most memorable, innovative, or downright funny.
I don't expect anyone to totally agree with my list, and I'd love to hear your nominations in the comments section...
Nike at the Olympics
Nike is known for using guerrilla marketing tactics to try and steal the limelight from its competitors, and during the London Olympics it managed to outshine official sponsor Adidas with a massive billboard and social campaign around the capital.
Nike eschewed the usual celebrity endorsements in a campaign that celebrated everyday athletes. It bought up hundreds of billboards around the city featuring the hashtag ‘#findgreatness’.
Adidas, which spent tens of millions of pounds to be an official sponsor, ran a campaign featuring Team GB athletes and the hashtag ‘#takethestage’.
According to Socialbakers’ CheerMeter there were more than 16,000 tweets associating Nike with the word Olympic between 27 July and 2 August compared to 9,295 for Adidas.
Furthermore. Nike attracted 166,718 new Facebook fans during the Games versus 80,761 for Adidas.
Data from Experian Hitwise shows that Nike achieved a 6% growth in its number of Facebook fans and a 77% boost in engagement on its Facebook page compared to 2% and 59% respectively for Adidas.
Dumb Ways To Die
I became aware of this campaign thanks to Vivienne Egan’s excellent blog post about why it’s achieved such huge viral success.
The video is a catchy tune created by a public transport authority in Melbourne, Australia, aimed at raising awareness about railway safety.
I don’t know whether it will actually prevent any train accidents, but you’d hope that the video had an impact on at least one of the 30m people who have watched it since it went live two weeks ago.
Dollar Shave Club
Male grooming can be an expensive business, particularly when buying branded razors on a regular basis.
Spotting a gap in the market, Michael Dubin set up Dollar Shave Club to provide men with new razors for just $1 a month.
In this brilliantly quirky video Dubin describes his business' service in the company warehouse amid increasingly bizarre scenes.
It’s not only extremely funny, but also does a great job of convincing the viewer to sign up to Dollar Shave Club.
One of its most interesting social campaigns was to celebrate the brand reaching 1m Facebook fans.
Cadbury realised that despite having so many fans, only 16% of them ever saw content that the brand posted on Facebook.
The challenge was to increase the engagement among its fans, as well as reaching friends of fans and the wider Facebook community.
To test what content users would engage with, Cadbury decided to build a giant Facebook ‘like’ thumb out of pieces of Dairy Milk.
It used teaser ads in the build up to the event, then live streamed in a studio decorated with user-generated content and photos. The team also responded to user requests and comments in the video.
As a result, Cadbury gained 40,000 Facebook fans and more than 350,000 people were actively involved in the campaign. Some fans even left the live feed running for hours on end.
Back in May 20th Century Fox tried to tap into the viral power of Twitter to promote the release of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movie Prometheus.
A new three-minute trailer for the film was screened simultaneously online, on Channel 4 and on social TV app Zeebox.
Viewers were then encouraged to tweet about the film using the hashtag #areyouseeingthis.
During the next ad break, Channel 4 screened a 40-second spot which included viewer’s tweets.
Analysis from 1000heads shows that there was a spike in activity, peaking at around 4,000 tweets, with the campaign potentially reaching around 15m users.
At the time the campaign aired I suggested that the reliance on traditional media meant that it wasn’t particularly innovative, but I still think it’s a noteworthy example of a studio using social to promote a new movie.
Old Spice is responsible for some of the most memorable viral campaigns ever created (“I’m on a horse”), and this year it ditched its Old Spice Guy character for an interactive video involving ex-NFL player Terry Crews.
After watching a short video of Crews playing musical instruments by flexing his muscles, viewers could then use their keyboard to play their own tune.
It has little to do with the product and everything to do with the brand, and has now clocked up 8m views on Vimeo.
Heinz is another FMCG brand that frequently uses social to build excitement around its product launches.
As part of the marketing activities around a new Five Beanz variety, Heinz created a Facebook quiz app that told people what kind of bean they had grown up to become in response to a series of questions about their personality traits.
To encourage people to take part and share the app, five winners were picked every hour and sent a personalised bean and every user that invited 10 people to take the quiz was given a goodie bag. Heinz also offered Facebook fans a coupon so they could try the product.
The campaign ran for two weeks and achieved impressive results:
- 22,143 took the quiz to apply for a personalised bean.
- More than 10,000 users shared the app.
- The campaign reached 10.8m people on Facebook.
- It reached 3m people reached outside of Facebook through Twitter, blogs and news sites.
- The Heinz Facebook community grew by 30,000 extra fans.
Never one to endorse brands shamelessly chasing Facebook ‘likes’, I was in two minds whether to include this campaign on the list.
However Heineken went beyond the usual “like us and we’ll give you a discount” tactic employed by many brands and instead offered to blow up one green balloon in its office for every new 'like' it got on its Brazilian fan page.
Heineken even personalised the campaign by reading out the names of some of the users on YouTube.
This is another great example of a fun, interactive campaign that is more about the brand than the product itself.
It earned Heineken thousands of new fans and helped to improve brand awareness in an emerging market.
A Belgian TV station setup a dramatic set piece in a town square to advertise a new TV station, involving a shoot out, fights and American football players.
To kick off the over-the-top action sequence, members of the public had to press a red button in the square with a sign saying ‘Push to add drama'.
As is often the case with viral videos, you’re never quite sure whether the members of the public are indeed genuinely unaware of what’s going on, but you can’t really argue with 39m YouTube views.
This video technically went live on YouTube at the end of December 2011, but I thought it was good enough to sneak onto the list anyway.
A social media marketing campaign with a healthy budget – Mini asked people to describe the best test drive ever in six words.
Matthew Foster came up with the winning entry and became the star of an ad to promote the launch of the new Mini Cooper.
It’s had less than 700,000 views on YouTube, but contains stewardesses, salt flats, paratroopers, sushi and a random rock band name Falconer. What’s not to love?