Case Study: Using social media to build pre-campaign momentum

Problem
I am Unique (IAU) is website created by FOXTEL to promote the features of the FOXTEL iQ2 set-top unit, which allows subscribers to create a personalised TV viewing experience. To celebrate this theme of “uniqueness”, the site allowed visitors to create unique intricate 3D portraits of themselves made up of videos, photos, stories, and words. They could then share their portrait with friends and family through the web, and via Facebook Connect. With limited resources and a practically non-existent media budget, one of the objectives of the site was to launch with a bang by tapping into social media to build interest in the subject of “uniqueness”. The goal was to then position the iQ2 box as a device that gives you TV perfectly tailored to the “uniQue you” with the iQ being at the center of uniQue.

Strategy
Given the “techy” skew of the iQ2 being an advanced HDTV device that would appeal to “early-adopter” types, we decided to leverage the equally “early-adopter” tech-loving Twitter community to build momentum.

Our strategy was to spark an interest in “uniqueness” in all its forms and gain a loyal base of followers who could then be introduced to I am Unique once it launched. At that point we could then encourage the followers to go beyond the twitter platform to share their “uniqueness” by creating a portrait on the IAU site.

This was followed up with a blogger outreach program and online PR seeding strategy to get as much word-of-mouth promotion online as possible, and therefore help with search engine listings.

Implementation
We created the @iamunique_tweet twitter account and started tweeting in order to gain followers. This initially started with tweets about unique people/places/things found on the web. This provided a form of entertainment for followers and it seemed to work.

We then started challenging people to tweet “what made them unique” and asking them to include the #iau hash-tag so we could track responses. Fun responses from followers were re-tweeted for all followers to see.

RT @laurengreta I am Unique because I think i have the biggest hair ever #iau

RT @theoutcast i am an into personality with a gold aura and into the paranormal #iau

RT @xChrissyBabexI hav a lovable personality get along with pretty much anyone love to party/fun also bend my thumb back #iau

RT @sourina: I am unique because I can fit my fist in my mouth #iau

RT @andyeakin: I am unique because I completed my first Ironman in 12h24m (swim 3.8km, bike 180km, run 42.2km) 15 months after heart surgery. #iau

Throughout this initial campaign we made an effort to engage with followers through discussion, re-tweeting interesting tweets and generally becoming part of the ‘community’. This continued for a month.

@iamunique_tweet twitter profile

There was a deliberate strategy to attract certain people to follow us. These included as a primary target, influential australian-based bloggers, and marketers. As a secondary target we wanted Australian twitter users. Overseas followers, although nice to have, were not potential FOXTEL customers, so effort to engage with them was not a priority. The exception to this were overseas bloggers and marketers who had the potential to spread the word once the site launched.

Getting these preferred targets to become followers was a somewhat difficult exercise as @iamunique_tweet did not have an identity or a blog to establish its own credibility. The solution was to start following these people and conversing with them. Again, it seemed to work.

Rightly or wrongly, for the first month whilst all this “engagement” was going on (and prior to the launch of the IAU website), the FOXTEL brand was never mentioned as being behind the Twitter account. It is worth also noting that at this time we did not mention or promote FOXTEL, the iQ2 box  or the IAU website through our tweets. We stuck to the strategy of engaging with an audience and growing followers who were interested in the “unique” theme that was the subject of the tweets, and the interesting content that we were generating.

Once the IAU website went live, the strategy for the @iamunique_tweet account changed. Firstly, the twitter profile was updated to reference FOXTEL and the IAU website URL so that it was very transparent that the twitter profile was a part of a wider campaign by FOXTEL. In terms of content, the tweets maintained a similar theme of promoting unique people/places/things found on the web, however we also started tweeting about unique portraits that had been created on the IAU website, and encouraging our followers to visit the site and express their “uniqueness” by creating a portrait. Although this did not generate enormous traffic to the site, it was enough to spark off conversation as our followers were the audience we wanted to target.

Results

During the first 8 weeks we gained over 600 followers to @iamunique_tweet. There was no specific target we were aiming for. So can’t really say if this is a good result. However, this was more than double the followers of @foxtel.  This base of followers did prove to be valuable in soft-launching the website. We managed to get a good chunk to visit the site, and many tweeted about it too.

There was no negative feedback around @iamunique_tweet suddenly revealing itself as having a brand behind it. Although we were very careful to ensure that we were not misleading people, or promoting the brand at all prior to the site launch when the brand was revealed. I would stress caution when trying to do something similar. It s a fine line to tread.

The biggest success was that it was this intial twitter chatter about the site resulted it it being blogged about quite a bit. This was quite valuable from a search engine perspective. Being a new site, and a flash-based one at that, a presence in search engines was non-existent at launch. Blog posts and tweets that mentioned the site were the first things to be indexed, and therefore the main source of traffic. At the time of writing this post there are now 17800 google references for iamunique.com.au

A big achievement was getting a meniton on Mashable.com which resulted in a big spike in traffic, and spawned a number of other blog posts. Smashing magazine also gave it a mention, along with numerous design blogs such as Koflash, Best Web Gallery, and Design Charts where the site peaked at #2 in the top 40 websites for a week in May 2009.

In terms of  building momentum and meeting pre-launch objectives for the site, and I think the activity was a success. To be honest, this ultimately did not translate into instant success for the wider campaign and website itself. However other factors come into play at that point such as the site functionality, and further promtion through paid advertising.

Unfortunately a couple of weeks after the launch of the site, the resource and budget to continue engaging with the audience dried up, and tweets were kept to a minimum for the remainder of the campaign. We were therefore restricted in our ability to see how we could further drive site traffic via social media.

Lessons
This was  an interesting learning experience to see how a pre-launch twitter campaign would work. At the time there were few examples of this. So it was all a bit of trial and error. Key lessons learnt during the project:

  • Add value and make it interesting
    With a twitter profile make sure the content you generate provides value or is entertaining in some way – otherwise it is just spam.
  • It is hard work and DOES cost money
    Despite it being “free” to create a presence on Twitter or Facebook, there is a lot of energy and time required to engage with followers and fans. It is a big drain on time and energy.  Despite doing a reasonable job at this, it was still hard to continue to get people to interact. Once they had tweeted “what made them unique” there was not much more we could really ask them to do. As the number of followers grow it also becomes harder to engage with all of them one-on-one.
  • Target those that can help you
    Targeting influential bloggers, designers, and marketers worked for us. When we went live they were the ones who saw the site first and started to spread the word. This helped immensely with referrals for site traffic, and that all important search engine listing.
  • Define the role for social media upfront
    From the start we had a goal to leverage social media and specifically Twitter as a way to launch the site with some momentum, and to generate some online buzz that would lead to blog posts, and search engine friendly links through to the site. All our energy was used to achieve this. Budgets didn’t allow for us to extend this beyond launch therefore longer-term engagement was not the strategy. Perhaps this was an opportunity lost that could have made a greater contribution to the overall campaign, however as this was not the objective at the start I would have been a distraction if we changed tac half-way through. A Facebook page was set-up when the site went live, however this did not have a clear strategy tied to its existence. As a result it only achieved around 60 fans.

I hope this case study gives you some insight and lessons to apply to your next social media campaign. If you have any further insights from campaigns you have run I am keen to hear about them so post a comment.

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2 responses to “Case Study: Using social media to build pre-campaign momentum

  1. Great use of Twitter, Carl. And a wonderful Brand strategy. Congratulations.

    Curious about the number of Twitter Followers though. 600 in 8 weeks is really not that much. I think you would have received much better results with a larger Follower base and specifically targeting the most likely people to want the product.

    You already nailed the Brand, so it should have been relatively easy to get a Follower base up in the thousands in 8 weeks.

    Contests can be a great draw. And anything that gets re-Tweeted a lot. I’m surprised at the low Follower count.

    But it’s good to see Twitter being used as part of a product launch and overall Brand strategy. I think it’s great for that. Provide the content. Provide the entertainment. Make it useful. Make it valuable. And make it fun.

    Good to see smart people working it.

    Kudos!

    • Thanks for your comments Peter. I agree we would have had more success if we could have grown the followers more. At the time we found this to be a challenge without budget for additional promotion. This was at the start of the year before Oprah and Ashton Kucher did their thing to crack the million followers. The Australian twitter audience at that time was still pretty small, so we were really marketing to a niche. But yes, with hindsight you can always do better.

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