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July 5, 2007

Why Social Media Belongs In Your Internet Marketing Campaign

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I got one of those annoyingly oversized promotional postcards in the mail this week. Usually, I don’t pay much attention to these sorts of things, as I am part of that younger generation that disregards anything that is not immediately pertinent to my life, but this one got my attention.

It was from one of the major cable service providers congratulating me on my recent move and giving me all sorts of discounts and incentives to switch over to their cable company. I appreciated their congratulation (who doesn’t like a nice pat on the back?), but their efforts were somewhat fruitless:

  1. I moved in January. That was 7 months ago. I’ve moved on and so should they.
  2. I’m already a customer of this cable provider. Clearly we’re not as BFF as I thought we were.
  3. Even if I had just moved, they’re already late. Who moves without already making plans to have the cable set up? It’s one of those utilities I like to have as soon as I move in. If it came down to having water or TV/Internet, I’m going with the TV/Internet.

This is often the problem with traditional advertising: You tend to arrive a day late (or seven months late, in fact), uninvited and at a time when I am more interested in deciding what I want for dinner than setting up my cable. Another problem with traditional advertising staples like the so-big-they-don’t-fit-in-my-apt-mailbox postcards, flyers and brochures is that they’re boring. The only time promotional catalogues are fun is when they cause Jack Jack to violently slide from one side of the coffee table to the other and smack into the sliding glass door on the other end.

If you’re reading this blog, it means you’re probably already experimenting with forms of Internet marketing and search engine optimization, which is good, we like that around here, but are you looking socially as well? Your competition has already begun testing social media optimization, have you? Have you thought about how you’re going to compete in the era of blended search results?

Michael Gray blogged about a YouTube video contest being hosted by Careerbuilder.com and Disney as part of Disney’s Dream Job Contest and reminded me a few of my own favorites I’ve been seeing lately. Here are three user user-generated video campaigns that have caught my eye as of late:

  • Heinz’s "Top This": I hate ketchup but I love Heinz’s "Top This" ad campaign, mostly because it’s just so ridiculous. (And because lots of the commercials feature French fries and I really, really love French fries.) Heinz is doing everything right here. Timing is everything so they’ve launched their light-hearted ad campaign during prime BBQ season, there’s a brand-induced monetary prize ($57,000 for Heinz 57 varieties), and they’re taunting brand evangelists "hungry for fame" with ability to have their ad run not only on YouTube, but on the Heinz site and on national television. The only thing I don’t really like here is the separate contest domain, but that’s a personal choice.

    Why did this one grab my attention? If they can make ketchup interesting, you should be able to make whatever your company specializes in interesting. Hell, I think ketchup is completely disgusting and even I’m thinking about how I can top Heinz.

  • CNN/YouTube Debates: CNN is getting people excited, and more importantly involved, with the upcoming elections by asking them to submit a question to be asked during the July 23 Democratic Debate. According to the contest rules, the CNN political team will choose the most creative and compelling videos and fly the winner to South Carolina to watch the debate live. Once there, the winner will also be able to voice their opinion on the debate (and I suppose comment on the answer given to their question) via YouTube’s political video blog, Citizentube.

    Why did this one grab my attention? Because it’s getting the YouTube generation involved in the election, while bringing older generations into the YouTube mix. It also doesn’t hurt that when users search for [cnn political debate], which will be a very popular search term when trying to get the latest info on the debate, the video contest ranks fourth. All hail the power of high-ranking YouTube.

  • Denver Public Library: This is my absolute favorite because it’s proof that you don’t need a million dollar ad budget to take advantage of social media. The Denver Public Library asked library visitors to submit videos to YouTube telling others how they have fun at the library. I’m sorry, but tell me this isn’t the cutest ad campaign you’ve ever seen. And because participants had to include the phrase "Denver Public Library" in their YouTube description all those videos are now ranking quite nicely.

    A quick search for [Denver public library] shows that they’re doing a lot of other things right – they’re already showing up in Google’s local business results, they’re using Flickr well, and both their MySpace page for the video contest and their podcast page is ranking on the first page. Who says libraries aren’t hip? Admit it, you’re kind of impressed.

    Why did this one grab my attention? Because it’s the perfect example of the little guy using social media to engage and attract its audience. The Denver Public library is on YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Google Maps, Wikipedia, CafePress, and who knows where else. Because they’re not a giant corporation they’ve been able to embrace social media from all angles. I want to bear hug whoever is in charge of their Internet marketing campaign.

I won’t argue that social media is a perfect fit for each and every type of business; it’s not. However, I think the Heinz and Denver Public Library examples show it is pretty flexible. You just have to use a bit of creativity. In the days of blended search, social media should be part of any well-balanced Internet marketing and search engine optimization campaign. It’s not just about those links anymore, it’s about associating your brand with all different types of content and creating an engaged audience. Those little promotional postcards aren’t going to cut it anymore.

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One response to “Why Social Media Belongs In Your Internet Marketing Campaign”

  1. Todd Mintz writes:

    If your cable provider is Comcast, you can frequently get that deal anyway (or an even better deal) just by contacting them about the offer and acting upset if they don’t give it to you right away.



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