Advertising is everywhere. On the TV, Radio, in Newspapers and on billboards all up and down the country. Bigger than all of these however, is the presence of advertising online. The influx of users to Facebook and Twitter, at last count 1.06 Billion and 72 Million active users respectively, has forced companies to rethink their strategies in regards to their preferred channels of communication. Quantity does not always ensure quality however, so the question has to be asked, as Social Media advertising begins to eclipse traditional media, is it worth it?
Social media advertising comes in many forms, whether that be the traditional and often ignored sidebar ad, or the more subtle and arguably more effective Viral process. Both have their positive and negative points however, whether that be the investment required to buying highly valued advertising space, or the time and effort it requires, and luck, to make an campaign or video go viral. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best, and worst, Social advertising examples below:
Kony 2012 and The Running Man
In March of last year, Invisible Children released a short film entitled Kony 2012. Publicised through Facebook and Twitter, the film was part of a campaign raising awareness for the plight of children in Uganda, South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo, and specifically targeting Joseph Kony, a rebel military leader and wanted war criminal.
Directed, narrated and starring Jason Russell, Invisible Children’s co-founder, the film achieved over 94 million views on YouTube, 19.9 million views on Vimeo, and has been declared the most viral video of all time by Time magazine. This stratospheric rise however, came with a down side. Whilst the video brought awareness of the situations in Africa to an estimated 50% of young Americans within a day of release, the media claimed Invisible children were “slacktivists”, that is to say, they rallied to bring the problem to a larger audience, but intended to do nothing about it.
Further criticism came from those that worried that with all the publicity the video had raised, it had created a false idol of sorts in Kony, elevating him the level of terrorist or cult leader, when in fact he should be consider merely a criminal, or failed politician. The pressure from the media did not sit well with Jason Russell, who suffered a psychotic break and was recorded running down the streets of San Diego, in a state of undress.
Instantly, the media turned its attentions to him, rather than his work and the Kony 2012 viral, for all its success, fell out of conversation.
Susan Boyle's Album Party
Another celebrity celebrating high viral success; Susan Boyle had the fastest growing viral video since YouTube’s inception, until Kony 2012 came along. Buoyed by her success on the talent show “Britain’s Got Talent”, the previously reclusive Boyle, forged a solid presence on the social networks, a co-curated a Twitter account with her press team.
When it came to the release of her second album however, a rather badly thought out hash tag nearly became her undoing. The hashtag in question was created to promote the launch party for her newest album Standing Ovation, and read as follows: #susanalbumparty. Now to the more innocent minded amongst you, this may not seem problematic, but as everyone else may well of noticed, the hashtag doesn’t read in a particularly mature manner.
Immediately the Twittersphere erupted as the giggling masses retweeted the offending tag, and soon news agencies and blog were reporting about the apparent blunder. One swift change to #SusanBoyleAlbumParty and the slightly rude controversy had been brought to an end.
No doubt Susan Boyle will have embraced the old adage: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Katie Price Is Not Feeling Herself
For those of your not au fait with the British Model Katie Price aka. Jordan, all you need to know is that whilst she may be a successful business woman in her own right, her mental acuity is not held in the highest regard.
So, when she posted the following on Twitter “Large scale quantitative easing in 2012 could distort liquidity of Govt. bond market. #justsaying.”, questions were raised. Those questions were just as swiftly answered however when Price followed up with this – “You’re not you when you’re hungry @SnickersUK #hungry #spon” and a link to the Price holding a Snickers bar, revealing the whole endeavour as merely a marketing ploy.
Opinions were divided over the stunt, with people opining that whilst the advertising was unannounced and rather misleading, it was soon clarified afterwards. However, the grander implications of the stunt may have be overlooked by the overzealous staff at Snickers, as they both implied that eating a Snickers will make you less intelligent and further insulted Katie Price by essentially declaring her normal personality rather mundane.
Several other celebrities on Twitter followed suit with further, but more clearly labelled stunts.
I Go to Waitrose Because.....
The final example is a lesson in how Twitter can be a force for excellent publicity, if handled correctly. In 2012, Waitrose offer a challenge to their followers, asking them to finish the sentence – I shop at Waitrose because....
Their intention was for their loyal customers to spout praise and positive messages about the store, and generate some free advertising for the brand. What started as a fairly calm Twitter campaign, soon got out of hand, as people from around the world started creating humorous and surreal sentences and posting them to Waitrose, mainly deriding the cost of its food, and the upper class image the store bestowed upon itself. One tweet in particular - "I also shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway Road branch and heard a dad say 'Put the papaya down, Orlando!' particularly caught the public’s attention being re-tweeted many times.
Waitrose, to their credit, remained calm throughout the episode, tweeting “"Thanks for all the genuine and funny #WaitroseReasons tweets. We always like to hear what you think and enjoyed reading most of them."
Many claim this rescued the campaign, and showed that Waitrose still valued their brand above the cried of the doubting masses.
Because They're Worth It?
So what can we learn from all of this? For one thing, that if a Facebook post or Twitter hashtag can be hijacked, it will. Secondly that the traditional role of advertising in the social media world has vastly changed since its introduction. Companies cannot expect that the marketing that would of worked for print or television will translate sufficiently to make returns on the Web. Thinking forward is as vitally important as ever, and most importantly, if and when everything goes wrong, have a backup plan.
For the examples above, whether their own success that sunk them, in the case of Kony 2012, or whether they rode out their problems to create a stronger campaign, such as Waitrose, viral campaigns, when handled well, have massive returns for their investors. However, if things are allowed to run out of control, no amount of time or energy is worth it to bring the project back on line.
(All images attributed under the Creative Commons licence, all copyright belongs to their respective owners).
Duncan Johnston is a Freelance Blogger and Social Content Manager for Yes Gifts.co.uk.