Social Media


A Bizability Group Case Study

Does Social Media Marketing Work for Businesses?




The earliest marketing efforts of U.S. companies during the 1800s were primarily a one-way street; many of the first Industrial Revolution businesses had an almost primitive “Here’s something to make your life better—come and get it” attitude. But buyers and sellers soon became more sophisticated, and marketing efforts evolved faster than a page in a history book could be turned. Almost overnight, advertising became a refined art and those businesses that wanted to survive and thrive soon found themselves enmeshed in the advertising industry. Today, business marketing continues to change at a rapid pace, and just like the businesses from the Industrial Revolution, 21st century businesses need to adapt if they want to survive and thrive.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, bloggers—today’s digital world offers companies an opportunity to connect with potential and existing customers… and their buying power. Businesses, large and small, can profit dramatically from successful social media campaigns. A business’s marketing plan that fails to take into consideration what social media is all about could end up alienating customers instead of securing their loyalty and winning new ones.

This case study examines three social media campaigns and how they impacted the bottom lines of the companies they were intended to support.

Social Media Marketing: It’s a Conversation

Connecting with customers requires more than simply setting up a Facebook page or Twitter feed. Not only do companies need to make new posts to keep followers informed, they also need to pay attention to what people are saying about them. That’s a lesson that Johnson & Johnson—the makers of Motrin—learned the hard way.

It all started when a new Motrin ad was released online, glibly describing babies as “fashionable” for moms to wear. Hoping to pique the interest of the “Mommy blogger” community, the company was giving these savvy internet users a pre-television-release look at their new campaign.

And they certainly accomplished their goal of capturing mothers’ attention. Before long, the Motrin ad was trending on Twitter—but not in a good way. Viewers felt as though the ad was talking down to them—and were outraged that a company would even consider describing an infant in terms of a fashion accessory. Angry customers even created a YouTube video that interspersed their angry Tweets with clips from the ad.

But Johnson & Johnson—and the ad agency that had created the commercial—was wholly unaware that there was even a conversation happening on the social network, or that a Facebook page had gone up, calling for a Motrin boycott.

The controversy was one of Advertising Age’s “follies of the year”—and it could have been avoided altogether. If Motrin had already been interacting with its customer base on social networks, the company could have gathered feedback from simply posting the idea for the ad—which would likely have resulted in the campaign being scrapped before it even launched. Failing that, the company could have spotted its customers’ anger on Twitter and responded to it before it turned into a call for a boycott.

Social Media Marketing: It’s Focused

Like any successful campaign, a social media marketing campaign has a target audience, defined objectives and a plan to reach them, and a system to measure achievement. The “Fiestagram” campaign designed to showcase the innovative technological features of the Ford Fiesta is an example of a company that knows its audience—and understands the social medium that can best reach them.

Using image-sharing network Instagram, Ford launched a six-week pan-European contest that offered prizes to participants who submitted photos in categories connected with aspects of the Fiesta—like #music or #entry—and tagged their posts with the hashtag #Fiestagram.

Why Instagram? Instagram is popular among Ford’s target demographic—people interested in style and technology. Since the contest was launched across an entire continent, the photo-sharing network was the perfect platform to cross contestants’ language boundaries. Ford also reached out to the founder of Instagramers—an international group of Instagram “super users”—and engaged his participation in raising awareness of the contest.

The results were impressive. Fiestagram entries were regularly featured on Instagram’s “popular” page, continuing to raise awareness of the contest—and the brand. Other media—including hard-copy publications likely to be read by Ford’s target audience—ran stories about the contest. And over the course of the campaign, Ford gained more than 120,000 new Facebook fans.

 Social Media Marketing: It’s Creative

In 140 characters—or less—savvy companies can craft a social media campaign that really gets people talking. (Er—tweeting.) Radio Shack has mastered the art of Twitter to run multiple successful campaigns.

In 2010, Radio Shack ran a sponsored tweet asking people to take a photo of themselves with one of their hands outstretched, then upload the photo to Twitter with the hashtag #ifihadsuperpowers—noting, of course, what they would do if they did indeed have superpowers. For a chance to win one of several prizes, participants also had to follow @radioshack.

People entering the contest got a surprise even before the prizes were distributed. Each uploaded photo was transformed by the Radio Shack team so that the photo subject appeared to be wearing a mask and a cape. Each modified photo was then tweeted back to the subject. Within 24 hours, the sponsored tweet received 65 million impressions.

The following year, Radio Shack once again turned to Twitter. The goal was to promote the Verizon Wireless products now available in Radio Shack stores. Verizon phones were set on vibrate, placed on a gently inclined board, and connected to the @radioshack Twitter feed. Every time someone tweeted @radioshack using the hashtag #kindofabigdeal, the phones vibrated, moving gradually down the board. When a final tweet at last made a phone tumble off the board, the person who’d sent that tweet received a prize. This campaign resulted in more than 80,000 mentions of @radioshack.


Does social media marketing work for businesses? The overwhelming response is YES. Social media marketing plays an important role in the overall marketing plans of today’s companies. It can help gain new fans and followers, increase awareness of brands and services, and increase goodwill among current and future clients. Simply put, social media equates to revenue, both present and future.

However, just like the primitive marketing approaches of the Industrial Revolution, social media has advanced into an art form. Successful campaigns rely on professionals knowing their target audience, knowing the medium, and knowing how to be consistently engaged while also recognizing the medium’s limitations. The biggest return on a social media investment comes from using professionals who skillfully craft and disseminate messages that are part of a carefully developed marking plan.

©Bizability Group, LLC


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