February 17, 2011
How To

Social Marketing: Increasing interaction with Cheezburger's huge audience

SUMMARY: Social media marketing can be time consuming -- but it's an investment. The more you can interact with your audience and tailor your messages, the more benefit you will see. You just need to find the time…or a more efficient way to interact.

See how the Cheezburger Network improved its social media marketing and saved time by better organizing and targeting interaction with millions of fans. Also check out the most-common challenges to effective social marketing.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

The hilarious Cheezburger Network is deeply ingrained in Internet culture. Its many social profiles build audiences around the laughs and are managed by Lisa Kacerosky, Social Media Marketer. Kacerosky has a long list of accounts and feeds to manage, and once handled everything manually.

This was no small task. With more than 50 content-rich sites such as I Can Has Cheezburger? and FAIL Blog, the Cheezburger Network receives more than 16 million visitors each month.

Many of the sites have dedicated Twitter and Facebook profiles, giving her more than 150 accounts and feeds to manage. Some have huge followings. I Can Has Cheezburger?, a blog featuring comical pictures of cats with funny captions, has more than 111,000 Facebook fans and nearly 1.6 million Twitter followers.

Last year, Kacerosky barely had enough time to double check the links and messages sent to fans each day.

"I had a spreadsheet of which sites I was going to check that day," Kacerosky says. "It was just very, very hectic for me."

But all that changed when Cheezburger bought a tool to manage and monitor its social marketing. Tasks that took hours were cut to minutes and Kacerosky was able to spend more time improving the team's strategy.

Below are five tactics Kacerosky and the Cheezburger team have used to improve their social marketing since adopting the tool. Look for ways to improve your social strategy -- whether your audience is large or small -- and determine how organizing your tactics could help.

Tactic #1. Invest in priorities first

Social media is a major channel for Cheezburger. The network's more than 50 sites publish loads of content. Links to content are automatically sent to various accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other channels, so fans can discuss and share them.

"It seems to be one of the easiest ways to get people to spread the content," Kacerosky says. "It's really simple. It's really easy. It's really non-committal for someone to Tweet something or to share something on Facebook or to send a link to people."

"That's what we do. We're a humor network. We share things that make people laugh. [Social media] is a more natural channel for us."

- Weigh the opportunity costs

With such a large following and with so much emphasis on social media, it made sense for Cheezburger to invest in a paid tool to organize and improve its strategy.

If your team is considering a similar purchase, first consider whether investing elsewhere (such as in content or email) would bring a greater return. Social media marketing can be managed through free tools if you have more immediate concerns.

Tactic #2. Tailor the message to the audience

Each segment of Cheezburger's social audience is interested in a certain style of content. They can also receive and share content through several different channels. These factors translate into different preferences for tone and style. But Kacerosky previously did not have time to tweak messages.

"Mainly, I was pushing the same information. In [Twitter], a 140-character-or-less link, and just a link to Facebook," she says.

After adopting the tool, Kacerosky could consider audiences individually and craft relevant updates for each. For example, messages to FAIL Blog's Facebook followers could be more descriptive and sarcastic while messages to I Can Has Cheezburger's Twitter followers could be shorter and cuter.

"We're able to make that distinction, whereas before ... mainly I was pushing the same information," she says

- Biggest benefit is a tailored approach

"The biggest benefit for us is now having the time to interact specifically with each audience and not Twitter as a whole," says Jen Nausin, Director, Marketing, Cheezburger Network. "It's important to communicate our message in the way that the audience is going to be the most responsive."

Tactic #3. Organize and monitor all social activity

The most-cited challenge to effective social marketing is getting the audience to engage and participate, as reported by 67% of social marketers in the MarketingSherpa Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook. The second most-cited challenge (56%) is finding the time for social programs.

Cheezburger was confronting both of these challenges. Kacerosky needed more time to effectively engage the network's large audience.

The team pulled a hodgepodge of accounts and platforms under a single tool. Now Kacerosky works from a single dashboard on which see can see:
o RSS feeds sending content from Cheezburger sites
o Current updates on Cheezburger's social profiles
o Automated and scheduled updates
o Messages from fans
o Twitter activity around designated keywords

Centralizing this information gave Kacerosky more breathing room and solved many problems, she says.

For example, the team uses RSS feeds to automatically post blog links to social profiles. Previously, Kacerosky had to log into each RSS account and social profile to check for mistakes. Now, she can see the current RSS feeds and social updates on a single dashboard.

"It made it very easy for me to stay on top of things without feeling totally disorganized," she says.

- Timing and monitoring updates

Through scheduled updates, Kacerosky is better able to plan messages. She can send them during the best times of the day, rather than as soon as possible, and she can coordinate them with Cheezburger's marketing calendar.

Through tracking, she can see which links and messages are shared and clicked most often, which helps refine the team's strategy. She's also able to monitor mentions of keywords related to Cheezburger and respond if necessary.

Tactic #4. Provide richer and more frequent interaction

Interaction can be time consuming, but it is a vital part of a successful social media strategy. Any extra time you can find to connect with followers should improve your results.

Kacerosky's extra time has enabled her to more frequently respond and reach out to fans. She also has more time to consider the audience's preferences and craft more relevant messages.

"It has totally increased what I was able to do and how much interaction I was able to give and to be really quick with responses."

- More time for new ideas

User-generated content is central to Cheezburger Network. Most of its content comes from readers, and much of the network's growth has come from word-of-mouth and social activity, Nausin says.

With more time to think and act strategically, Kacerosky has been better able to interact with the Cheezburger audience in ways that align with these core attributes.

For example, she noticed a post from Failbook, a Cheezburger blog that specializes in Facebook humor, that was gaining traction. The post was about video game titles that had been made into puns. Kacerosky challenged the Failbook audience on Facebook to create and share images of spoof video game covers. Submissions poured in.

"Now on our Facebook fan page for Failbook we have an album of just video [game] pun covers that people sent to us."

Tactic #5. Coordinate social media more closely with marketing strategy

Kacerosky is now better able to consider how Cheezburger's posts fit with its marketing strategy.

For example, Cheezburger holds regional fan appreciation events and book signings. Fans can come, meet the team, hang out and eat free cheeseburgers. Kacerosky and Nausin now plan the best timing and messages to invite Cheezburger's various sub-audiences across social networks.

"We're always talking about it beforehand to figure out what is going to work the best, and what do our users want and how do they want it," Kacerosky says. "Without [the new tool] I wouldn't even have the time to meet with [our marketing director]."

Useful links related to this article

Subscribe to the complimentary MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter

Social Marketing: Will you monetize social media and measure ROI in 2011?

MarketingSherpa Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook

Members Library -- MarketingSherpa Chart: The Use of Social Marketing Tactics

Members Library -- Social Marketing: Finding and winning hyper-social consumers

Social Marketing Architecture: Building a case for landing page optimization in social media

I Can Has Cheezburger?

FAIL Blog (Warning: Some may not be safe to view at work)

Facebook: I Can Has Cheezburger?

Twitter: I Can Has Cheezburger?

HootSuite -- Social media tool the team used

Cheezburger Network: Sites (Warning: Some may not be safe to view at work)

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