Steve Jobs liked to quote Picasso and say, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Marketers like to think of themselves as artists, and they should. Like artists, marketers create work that makes people rethink their opinions about what they thought they knew.
If you’re entering the world of social media campaigns, you know how much competition is out there. From the big campaigns launched by ad agencies, to the millions of small sweepstakes you can find across Facebook and Twitter, you might worry that there aren’t any original ideas left for you to launch.
There are always new ideas, but if you can’t think of an original idea and have a marketing deadline to hit, don’t fret. There are plenty of places for you to find ‘inspiration’ for your social media campaigns. To save you time and keep the color in your hair, here are a few ways to follow the late, very great, Steve Jobs’ example.
Think Before Stealing
As the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says, “Don’t panic.” Your lack of ideas might just be because you haven’t been tackling this from the right angle. What do you know? Do you know when you want to launch a social media campaign, or what kind of campaign you want to launch? Knowing both of these things can help create your campaign for you, and knowing the answer to one of the two questions can be enough to fire up the imagination.
If you want to launch a social media campaign, you probably have some idea what you want your campaign to achieve. Campaigns are generally launched to accomplish one of three goals: lead generation, user-generated content (UGC) aggregation, or building engagement with your fans. Which of these three goals is most important to you right now?
If lead generation is your top priority, you might want to run a sweepstakes campaign. If you want to grow your UGC portfolio, a contest or social gallery might be a better idea. And if you just want to have some fun with your fans, consider running a poll, a quiz or a voting gallery as your social media campaign.
Sweepstakes and UGC contests can be defined once you know when you’re going to run it, or what prize you’ll offer the winner. If you know either of these facts, you can start narrowing down the list of potential campaign names and themes.
What does your marketing calendar currently look like? Where are the empty spaces? Do you know if there are any social media campaigns you absolutely must run this year? If you have major offline initiatives already in the books, what can you do to support them without undermining their pull? Once your campaign is launched, your fans will have no way of knowing that the campaign was borne of an attempt to fill dead air. Once you know when to run a social media campaign, you can start brainstorming for appropriate ideas. Is there nothing going in your marketing calendar in September and October? How does your product connect with the fall? Are you a consumer packaged good product that could be packed in school lunches? Can you connect your product to the Halloween experience? Would kids want to show off using your products on the playground? How can you connect your brand to your opportunity? If you’re a one-man team, get some friends together. If you don’t have friends who work in marketing, don’t worry about it. You’re trying to inspire your target demographic, not win a blue ribbon at the fair. Accolades come when you’ve earned them.
Approaching this dilemma from the other side, what can you offer your fans? If you want to make your product or service the prize so you can gauge desire, what will make your prize something that your fans should want now? If immediacy can’t incentivize them, sheer size might do the trick. One of our consumer-packaged goods clients once ran a user-generated content campaign (a photo contest, in their case) for a year’s worth of their products. If you can offer a prize that grand, the when of your campaign is kind of irrelevant, as any surrounding gimmick would be. Fans probably don’t remember a year later that this campaign provided them with thousands of fan-created recipes for them to try; they do remember that this company offered them the chance to win a whole year’s worth of product. Let smaller prizes be carried by charming ideas—a big honking giveaway is a big honking giveaway!
Compete with the Best
Let’s face it—a company does have to be pretty impressive to compete with you. And your competition knows it needs to keep its game sharp to stay in your league. Launching identical sweepstakes in quick succession is amateur. Instead, review their brand’s history as a whole, and see how you can make your voice distinctive.
How do they differentiate themselves? How do they speak to their fans? How does that compare to how you speak to yours? Do they offer huge prizes for their sweepstakes, or find unique opportunities for fans to create UGC? Do they have a sense of humor?
If you’re keeping an eye on your competition, you know when they’re launching social media campaigns. Have they been campaigning long enough to have created traditions of holiday sweepstakes or summer photo contests? If not, there’s nothing wrong with stepping up to them and proving that you can do it better. If they have been campaigning consistently on the same occasions for two to three years, it’s better to claim the gaps in their calendar for your own. When their fans are wondering what they can do on social media, they see your bustling campaign activity, and are (at least) intrigued.
The tone of a social media campaign is as important as the content. What kind of culture are your rivals trying to create? Some businesses aim for something communal; others, like most high-fashion brands, establish a top-down culture focused on the brand’s preternatural expertise.
As long as your campaign isn’t malicious or spiteful, you’re allowed to acknowledge the competitive landscape in your own campaigns. To borrow an example of two very famous rivals, Marvel has been acknowledging the behavior of its Distinguished Competition (D.C.) for decades. They don’t pretend there’s not a competition, and how they each treat that competition informs their social marketing choices.
It’s as important to know when your competitors’ campaigns have ended as when they began. Make sure you check in on their websites and the websites of the campaign platforms that they used to see if they post a case study.
When you’re looking at your competition for ideas for your social media campaigns, ask yourself these three questions.
What do my competitors do well when they’re campaigning?
When do they do it?
Can you do what they’re doing better?
If you can answer these questions, you can ride that train of thought straight to your next campaign idea.
Your Fans, Your Friends
Your fans might not know exactly what they want out of your social media campaigns, but you might be able to infer from their words and behaviors online.
If you pay attention to what your fans are saying about you, you might encounter common pain points, or at least determine the ebbs and flows of popular demand for your products. Which posts and links do your fans enjoy the most? What else do they talk about when they talk about your brand—or when they don’t? What do you want them to talk about?
Facebook’s Audience Insights tab can tell you who the fans of your page are by age, gender, location and Facebook usage. On Twitter, you can search by keywords in their bios and location. Twitter might not have the raw data that Facebook does, but if someone has a keyword that’s relevant to your business in their bio, it’s an indication of interest that’s much bigger than just a Like. Your fans already have one thing in common: you. They probably have other things in common too. You might be able to tailor a social media campaign around a common interest.
If you don’t find an idea in the horse’s mouth, seek out what content your fans enjoy from other organizations. Facebook gives you the ability to search for other Pages that are liked by fans of a brand; odds are your fans have Liked a brand that’s similar to your own, even if it’s in a different vertical. Their best-received campaigns could be just the thing to guide yours to victory.
Between your history, the history of your competitors, and the conduct of your fans, something will connect to the way your brand behaves on social media. Keep the coffee brewing, and let the ideas come to you.
Got any questions about ‘borrowing’ social media campaign ideas? Ask them in the comments below, or reach out for your free Hootsuite Campaigns demo today.