#SB50 Postmortem – What We Can Learn from Super Bowl Social Marketing

If you’re anything like the 111.9 million others who made time last Sunday for Super Bowl 50, you’ll probably have kept a phone close and an eye trained on Twitter for much of the broadcast – shouting out the brands that won you over with their Super Bowl spots, dragging the ones that came up short, testing your luck with the various offers made. It’s become something of a standard for television advertising for commercials to have a social tie-in and second-screen component; the discussions that inevitably unfold online around ads often can prove as climactic as the ads themselves. It’s also an approach that saw enormous returns this year: Esurance’s Twitter-only sweepstakes, for instance, generated 2.92 million tweets in the hours after it was announced on television, for more than 1.5 billion media impressions overall.

There’s of course an argument to be made as to this strategy’s ultimate effectiveness; a number of critics have already discounted Esurance’s recent success, as impressions don’t immediately translate to customer wins. But the company’s traction nevertheless offers us an important place to start in reflecting on the strides brands made during this year’s Super Bowl in their social media promotions (and the lessons that lie therein for us marketers).

1. Integrate Your Promotions Across Multiple Social Channels

Among the spots that aired during Sunday’s game was one commemorating Pokemon’s 20th anniversary as a franchise – an ad tailored toward an older millennial set, well acquainted with the game but not yet beyond its reaches. It was a fine line to straddle; Pokemon managed by teasing the ad days ahead of time on Instagram, where it asked followers to spot the various game tie-ins during the television promo and report back. This way, the franchise could ensure it reached segments of fans with a presence on one targeted social channel, and not another – older fans on Twitter, newer fans on Instagram.

Consider giving just this kind of approach a try in the offers you make. If you’ve a survey to promote, make reference to it on your Instagram posts. If you’ve new content to showcase (a white paper or webinar), offer up a corresponding graphic on Facebook, that offers the smallest of variations on the theme you’ve made available on Twitter. Hedge your bets, essentially, so that followers with a presence on multiple channels can plainly see a common thread and be inspired enough to pursue it to its finish. Your communications will be more consistent for the effort.

2. Engage Followers in Real-Time

One of the more notorious spots to come from this year’s Super Bowl (and another one teased well in advance) was Mountain Dew’s commercial for its new line of caffeinated beverages, titled (in a move as egregious as the ad itself) #PuppyMonkeyBaby. The premise (no doubt familiar to you by now): three friends with time to kill ponder their options for the night ahead, and are met midway through their deliberations by a creature with the head of a pug puppy, the torso of a monkey, and the legs of a baby. This creature then jumps onto the laps of all three gentlemen, licks them each once, and rhythmically chants its name. As I said. Egregious.

More crucially, it was a misfire that engendered a significant pushback online, with viewers pillorying the brand for its Frankenstein creation and lampooning the spot for its over-the-top provocation. It was exactly the sort of firestorm a more agile or prescient business might look to manage by keeping a watch of social posts in real time, and offering answers or clarifications.

This is the kind of mistake you can watch unfold, so you don’t have to make it. If you’re a B2B vendor new to social – listen closely to the criticism others get; it may prove constructive in the long run. Look to your followers for guidance in what you post. If they’ve a demonstrated interest in dynamic content, offer them interactive polls and surveys; if images are more their thing, give them infographics they can share or repurpose on their own channels. Use your social followers as a barometer of what’s working and what isn’t. Trust your buyers more than you do your ad agency; only one group is irreplaceable.

3. Look for Ways to Repurpose Older Content

Another noteworthy ad from Sunday’s game came from Doritos – tamer than others they’ve offered in Super Bowls previous, but no less shareable: a couple attending an ultrasound notice that their unborn child has a reaction to the Doritos the husband happens to be eating, which eventually culminates in the child’s birth when the husband takes his teasing too far and moves the bag away suddenly. A strange ad, admittedly, but again, a relatively tame one by the chip manufacturer’s standards.

What set this ad apart, however, was how quickly it lent itself to memes and graphics. Within mere minutes, Doritos had uploaded its own .gif of the surprise birth, and encouraged others to offer captions and interpretations of their own. Doritos had managed to give the television spot second life in a way that belied the spot’s mediocrity; a middling success had been made a modest triumph.

It’s an approach you would do well to consider in promoted ads on social. Tie in an older asset on, say, email marketing “musts” to an ongoing event – the current presidential primaries, say, or an upcoming holiday. Turn an eBook into a quick-and-dirty fact-sheet – a one-pager with high-level takeaways you encourage your followers to disseminate. Distill a webinar’s findings into an infographic.

Fourth and goal:

As Sunday’s spectacle reinforces, social media will continue to play a pivotal part in building brands and generating awareness – as instrumental to the traction and tenor of a product as any traditional advertisement (if not more essential). This isn’t to say, of course, that businesses should rush to make their social pages their primary drivers of demand; rather, they should look to their social presence as an ancillary demand generation function. A savvy Tweet, a well-timed .gif on Facebook, a pithy blog in LinkedIn Pulse – these all can go a long ways to supplementing and strengthening a B2B vendor’s ongoing campaigns …  and turning a business into a brand.

The only way to fully harness the power of social media marketing is to put it on the table with every other marketing channel and integrate it into a larger cross-channel marketing plan. This free eBook, 5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Across Marketing Channels, will give you five things you can do right now to integrate social media marketing into your current marketing strategy.

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