Social networks offer great branding opportunities for marketers. Online communities are a breeding ground for viral marketing. They help you motivate your brand advocates to spread your message to their friends.
Heidi Browning, Senior VP Client Solutions, Fox Interactive Media, and her colleagues at MySpace refer to viral consumer-to-consumer (C-to-C) branding as a campaign’s “momentum effect.” Display ads can have a B-to-C branding effect, but a campaign can gain momentum and have a stronger impact with C-to-C sharing.
“It’s that old notion of a referral from a friend is stronger than a referral from a standard ad,” Browning says. When trying to get a viral push, “your media drives the momentum. Your momentum drives, basically, all your value added impressions on your brand, and those value added impressions also have an impact on people’s interest and intent to purchase your product,” says Browning.
Consumers interact with brands on MySpace in six usual ways:
- Visit a branded MySpace page
- Download branded content
- Share content with friends
- Post content on their profiles
- View content on friends’ profiles
- Receive content from a friend
Here are four tactics for getting consumers to follow a similar strategy:
-> Tactic #1. Set up a MySpace profile
First, set up a MySpace profile. A profile can help with branding. Marketers can create profiles, upload valuable content, maybe hold a contest, share content with their “friend list” and hope that their message will spread virally.
-> Tactic #2. Know your audience
MySpace members share loads of private information about themselves. It’s on their profiles for the world to see. This makes your audience easy to find and understand.
You want to learn “what are their passions, what are they interested in and how as a brand you can align yourself with those passions.”
You can gather the information yourself by:
- Watching who’s interacting with you
- Seeing what their interests are
- Seeing what their friends’ interests are
- Searching for similarly interested people on the network
MySpace also offers an ad delivery system called “HyperTargeting.” It’s based on “user-expressed information,” says Browning. “We have over four billion data points on our members. They tell us every day what they like, what music they listen to, what movies they watch, what TV shows they like, are they getting married, are they having kids. We are able to harness these interests and group people into high-level enthusiast segments. We’ve got about 700 segments that we can drill down into and deliver ads to."
Because the service is frequently customized, Browning could not point to an exact price for buying hyper-targeted MySpace ads, but she called it a “premium service” and its price is “one of the top.”
-> Tactic #3. Empower your audience
People go on MySpace to interact with friends. If you give them content that’s fun or interesting, they will usually share it. Below are two examples of campaigns that encouraged users to interact with a brand in all six of the ways listed above.
#1. Branded contest
Electronic Arts held a Burnout Band Slam contest to promote its racing video game, Burnout, in early 2007. The contest invited bands without a recording contract to submit songs to be voted on by the MySpace community at the Burnout Band Slam MySpace page. The winning bands received a Virgin Records demo contract and a chance to have their song used in the video game.
Band members spread the word to friends to vote for their songs. Other ways the campaign encouraged the momentum effect:
o Downloadable video
o Downloadable images
o Downloadable desktops
o Downloadable MySpace profile skins
o Branded message board
#2. Branded community experience
Adidas ran a campaign from its MySpace page for two types of athletic cleats: the Predator and the F50 TUNIT. Visitors to the page were encouraged to take a personality test to determine if they were a “Predator-type” or an “F50-type.” After a visitor’s type was determined, the page changed to a predator- or F50-themed creative and offered corresponding content.
“That really got people engaged in that sort of competitive spirit. We arranged for people to have a smackdown with comments and blogs,” Browning says. “For me, I was a Predator, so all of my assets that I could take to my page were Predator-related. I could only comment about the Predator against the F50 … the whole smackdown thing. But that drove a ton of momentum because people would be like, ‘Go check it out. What are you?’ ”
- Be authentic
It’s not easy to fool the MySpace crowd. They don’t like underhanded marketing tactics and can immediately smell when something is fishy. Browning declined to name brands, but she has seen deceptive MySpace strategies fail.
One company basically created this character for its brand. “The person was just supposed to be a MySpace user and a blogger and supposed to be kind of a techie, funny person. He wasn’t,” Browning says. “The conversations were forced, and the products were woven [into the conversations] in an obvious way. It was not really well done and it showed. They didn’t have a lot of friends. They didn’t have a lot of people visiting. They didn’t have a lot of people talking about their brand. They actually had some comments asking them, ‘Are you for real?’ You can’t do that. People are smarter than that.”
-> Tactic #4. Aim for the long term
One-off campaigns can work in MySpace, but Browning suggests a long-term strategy to learn more about your audience and to keep your brand advocates engaged. Three ways to keep a MySpace page going are:
- Refresh content
Members will be more likely to visit your page if they expect something new. Content can include videos, coupons, digital banners, interviews, ringtones, podcasts, etc. The content needs to be valuable. Otherwise, no one will care or share.
- Make a plan
Have a publication strategy for your MySpace profile. Don’t neglect it because it’s not your homepage. Your profile is the face of your brand to the MySpace community. Follow a plan to ensure the content will be consistently valuable and prepared in advance.
- Watch your communication strategy
“Once people say, ‘I want to be a friend of you, as a brand’ opting into that dialogue with you, that means that the brand has permission to send you bulletins, information and notices,” says Browning.
However, companies have to respect that privileged relationship to avoid damaging their brands. “We’ve seen bad situations where clients have messaged people on a weekly basis, and that’s too much. It borders on too many conversations.”
An example of a marketer who does it well: Adidas. “They only do it when they want to draw people back in to the community,” Browning says. “They might only do a quarterly refresh of content message out, ‘Hey, we’ve got some great information, or great new videos,’ a reason to come back with the community and reengage with the members there.”Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from viral campaigns on MySpace:
Past Sherpa articles –
How to Build Viral Buzz with a ‘Revolutionary’ Web 2.0 Community”:
How to Build an Online Street Team to Create Viral Buzz: