Marketers give social thumbs up

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Marketers give social thumbs up
Marketers give social thumbs up
Facebook, which rolls out features and services on what seems like a weekly basis, has made itself central to how the world communicates online, and an increasingly vital component of any online marketing effort. While the social media marketplace has become more fractured and competitive, with Twitter, Foursquare, Ning and countless other players competing for attention and ad dollars, 
Facebook continues to dominate them all in audience and influence.

The social media behemoth has also begun a concerted effort to keep ad agencies and marketers in the loop, informing them of best practices and helping them with the creative portion of their campaigns, and many are reaping the benefits of Facebook's fast-evolving offerings.

Bacardi began its latest social marketing effort with Facebook's famous "like" button, but sought to make it a more interactive and exciting device. The result was the brand's "Like it Live, Like it Together" program, which invited fans to enter on its Facebook page for a chance to win tickets to one of two special concerts Bacardi hosted in New York and Las Vegas. 

After signing up, entrants could vote on which features they would "like" to see at the event — a dunk contest or a dunk tank, pizza or tacos, and more. The event is part of a broader "Together" campaign by the spirit brand, which includes a TV spot, print ads, as well as in-store promotions with the tagline "mixes well with others."

"That idea of 'mixes well with others' really fits the brand and our message," says Billy Melnyk, senior brand manager at Bacardi Rums. "The product mixes well as a cocktail — Bacardi and cola, or Bacardi mojito — but you also have the social aspect that people have a good time when drinking Bacardi, and that integrates well with Facebook's social platform."

Melnyk sees the "Like it Together" promotion as a way to connect the online and real-world social network. Bacardi's marketing team worked with Facebook's developers as it put together the promotion, traveling to their offices in Palo Alto, Calif. as they developed the campaign. 

Q&A: Sarah Personette, director of global agency relations, Facebook

Sarah Personette, director of global agency relations at Facebook, discusses her new unit.

Click to see full Q&A

"They were really helpful as we developed our ideas — not just on a technical level but really helping us think through how we could do this," says Melnyk.

More than any other platform, Facebook is where consumers are today. Reaching more than 600 million people globally, the site overtook Google last year as the most visited site in the US according to Experian Hitwise. In 2010, the site grew its unique US visitors by 34% to 154 million. 

But perhaps even more significant for Facebook's long-term marketing potential is that the time users spent on the site on average grew 6% while average visits per user grew 29% during 2010, indicating that users are becoming increasingly more engaged in the social media platform. With Facebook such a significant part of consumers' lives, some marketers are getting users' attention by making the site not just the medium for their brand, but part of the message as well. 

In March, Altoids launched "The Curiously Strong Awards," which allowed users to post Facebook-related awards on their friends' walls, such as "The Food-Ographer" for the friend who posts lots of pictures of their meals, or "The Friend Tycoon" who adds as many friends as they can, whether they know the people or not. Accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek music video, the campaign drew in 9,400 fans for Altoids in the first two weeks it ran, with 1,200 "Golden Tins" posted to individuals' news feeds. 

"The way people behave in this environment is relevant to our fans," says Jennifer Jackson Luth, senior manager of marketing communications at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. "We think everyone can relate to at least one of the Curiously Strong Awards, which makes this concept really culturally powerful."

Through its size and speed to move on opportunities, Facebook has worked to keep competitors at bay, often by challenging them at their own game. For the first quarter of 2011, the company commanded 31.2% of all display ads in the US, almost double its share for the same period the previous year, and three times the amount held by second-place Yahoo. 

Facebook Places, rolled out in August of last year, has begun to move in on Foursquare's location-based services and the local marketing opportunities they present. This program is also poised to help Facebook expand its role in mobile, where it already reaches 90% of US social media users and has grown more than 120% in the past year, according to comScore. 

The pilot program of Facebook Deals, a response to Groupon and similar social discount services, has had a strong showing in the five US cities where it has launched, with Tim Beyers of The Motley Fool 
describing it as, "about to become a huge problem 
for Groupon."

"Some of these programs are in their early stages. It's hard to say exactly how big their impact will be," says Andrew Lipsman, senior director of industry analysis at comScore. "But marketers are seeing opportunities, especially when Facebook offers such a large audience who are spending so much time on the site."

Lipsman points to the promotion that Gap Inc. ran last November, giving away a pair of jeans to each of the first 10,000 people to check in to a Gap store using Facebook Places. 

As many giveaways on the site do, it went viral and got Facebook users not only liking Gap in huge numbers, with the giveaway that posted on their newsfeed, but had them talking about the brand just as the holiday shopping season kicked in. 

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