What types of social media marketing work

By Shiv Singh, Stephanie Diamond

Before you launch your own initiative, you need to understand the different types of social media marketing campaigns. In the realm of social media marketing, how you implement a campaign is nearly as important as what you implement.

Before you launch your SMM campaign, make sure that you’ve done an inventory of all the other major SMM campaigns going on at the same time that target your customers or are within your industry. The last thing you want is to launch a campaign in which you’re asking your customers to do basically the same thing that they may have just done for a competitor.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) imposes guidelines on how pharmaceutical companies can market using the social web. Those regulations cover the promotion of FDA-regulated products. More information can be found on the FDA website.

Blogger outreach

Probably the most common form of an SMM campaign is the blogger outreach program. This campaign typically takes the form of identifying influencer bloggers who reach your customers. They’re the expert influencers who cover a topic and have a following. Many accept advertising but typically have day jobs that they’re balancing as well.

Blogger outreach programs incentivize these bloggers to write about your brand or product. You can give them incentives by inviting them to the R&D labs of your company and treating them with the same deference that the mainstream press gets, to sending them sample products and providing them with prizes with which to run contests on their blogs.

It’s important to note that the debate continues to rage in the blogosphere about blogger compensation. Some bloggers absolutely refuse to accept compensation, whereas others are comfortable with it. You must know where your targeted blogger stands on this debate before reaching out to him.

Knowing how to reach these bloggers without coming across as heavy-handed, commercial, and ignorant is critical. Before you reach out to them, be sure to read their blogs so that you know how they cover your brand or category.

UGC contests

Contests structured around user-generated content (UGC) are all the rage. And with good reason: They are invariably extremely popular, engaging, and fun. You structure a contest built on participants who contribute something in return for rewards.

This can be something as simple as crowdsourcing a TV advertisement, as General Motors did in the early days of social media with its Tahoe campaign in 2006, to asking users to contribute video clips of their funniest moment with a product. The best clip gets a prize, with all the other participants getting some sort of recognition.

As Wired magazine reported, in the case of the Tahoe campaign, the microsite attracted 629,000 visitors, with each user spending more than nine minutes on the site and a third of them going on to visit the main Chevy.com website. Sales took off from that point, even though environmentalists tried to sabotage the UGC campaign by creating video clips that highlighted their views about the environmental toll the vehicle takes on the environment.

Brand utilities

The basic idea behind brand utilities is that instead of providing the consumer with some advertising, you build their trust by giving them a utility application that provides actual value. If the utility serves a purpose, users adopt the application and think more favorably of your brand.

For example, Estee Lauder launched a Facebook brand utility called “Shine a Light on Breast Cancer.” It lets breast cancer survivors and their families post “messages of hope.” It also lets you know where breast cancer events are being held around the world. This connects people from all corners of the world to support one another in the fight against breast cancer.

An application doesn’t always have to take the form of an application or a widget on a social network. The famous Nike+ solution, which is considered the world’s largest running club, is a virtual community that helps users track the distances they’ve run and compare themselves to their peers.

What’s gaining favor now are apps that use crowdsourcing. For example, Lays potato chips used this type of application to solicit ideas from consumers for different chips flavors. Called “Do us a flavor,” Lays designed the promotion so that an expert jury narrowed down the choices to four, which were put on the market. The winner was then chosen based on fan votes and made a permanent fixture on store shelves.


A podcast is a digital audio file that is made available via web syndication technologies such as RSS. Although it’s not, strictly speaking, social media, it’s often classified as such because it allows anybody to easily syndicate her own audio content. You can use podcasts as a way to share information with your audiences.

Often, podcasts take the shape of celebrity interviews or discussions about your product or brand. A successful example of a podcast is the Butterball Turkey Talk podcast. It’s a seasonal podcast including stories from Turkey Talk hotline workers. You can subscribe to it via iTunes and other online podcast directories.

Podcasts typically don’t form a whole SMM campaign in and of themselves but work well with other parts of a campaign.

Sponsored conversations

Sometimes the most effective SMM campaigns are the simplest ones. These campaigns engage with consumers in a straightforward, authentic fashion on a social platform while also aggregating other conversations, pointing to new ones, and stoking the community. An early pioneering example was when Disney partnered with Savvy Auntie, an online community focused on aunts without kids, for one such effort.

Melanie Notkin, who runs SavvyAuntie.com, tweeted about Disney’s Pinocchio movie in March 2008 to coincide with its Disney anniversary release. She tweeted about themes in the movie, often in question form, encouraging others to respond. Her 8,000 followers on Twitter at the time knew that she was doing this for Disney, but because the tweets were appropriate for the audience, entertaining, and authentic, the campaign was a success.