In a world with continual platform updates and algorithm adjustments, changes in social platforms and search engines can leave a digital marketer’s world tumultuous at the very least. Continuing to adapt and learn has always been key to dominating the ever-changing digital landscape. To keep up, you must be willing to drop the ego and consistently learn new techniques, even if the ongoing changes make you want to pull your hair out.
Rather than riding the wave of change, your best strategy for staying on top of volatile social media standards is to simplify. When creating a new social campaign, think about your content in three categories: generate, collaborate, and validate.
Let’s start with the most obvious step: generating new content. Essentially, this step is when a business creates unique content to promote its products, services, or brand name on different social channels. Think of “generate” as broadcasting your message through a megaphone – creating exciting content that boldly gets consumers’ attention. With the right content, your message might even go viral.
While effective in some cases, pushing out tons of content can’t be your only avenue to communicate about your brand. Going viral might be a win, but waiting around for something to go viral is not a strategy. You need to understand and recognize the process. The strategy really lies in the next phases.
In 2019, success no longer stops at “going viral.” Rather than just aiming to get consumers to share your brand’s content, the real goal is now a step beyond: getting consumers to create their own unique content involving your brand’s products and services. The most powerful content requires action from the consumer or fosters a creative response beyond a like or share. Can you think of any recent content that may not have seemed ideal for sharing at first, until people started collaborating and producing their own version of it?
Two words: Cheese Challenge. If you haven’t seen it (pause right now and go enjoy some laughs), it’s the genius idea of a bored dad who thought it’d be a good idea to slap a single slice of cheese onto his baby’s face. While hilarious (and somewhat morally questionable), the Cheese Challenge never promoted a specific kind of cheese to use. Naturally, Kraft singles are the prominent brand.
What if I told you that the mastermind behind the silly video was a Kraft employee? Is it possible that a company known for producing cheese in thin squares is responsible for encouraging parents to throw said squares on their babies’ faces?
Ok, so maybe I can’t actually find evidence to back up my theory that Kraft generated the original cheese video as a marketing ploy, but it’s plausible. What we do know is that in the last few years, Kraft singles sales have been dropping, and some blame millennials – the same millennials with babies about the same age as the first one who got cheese tossed on his face.
Earlier this year, about the same time as the Cheese Challenge, Kraft singles sales appeared to be up. So did the Cheese Challenge increase the sale of Kraft Singles? We don’t have any hard evidence that it did, but it did get the world talking about cheese singles. Was it pure luck for Kraft, or was it a strategic approach of a brand using generated content to inspire internet users to collaborate and produce their own version? After all, the entire internet was tossing single sliced cheese at unsuspecting youngsters and recording it for weeks.
While we may never know the truth behind the Cheese Challenge, we can glean an important lesson from the results: generated content is effective, but content that can be collaborative is exponentially more powerful. Rather than passively consuming information about your brand, consumers are now actively – and willingly – taking action to engage with and promote your brand, even if it’s unknowingly.
Remember the 2013 “Do-us-a-flavor” campaign from Lay’s Potato Chips? While my submission for S’mores flavored chips didn’t take first prize, I got to be part of the collaboration. I submitted my idea and shared it on my social platforms for my followers to see. Now, did some of those people happen to choose Lay’s Potato Chips next time they hit the supermarket? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s likely that Lay’s was more readily on their mind than it would have been without seeing my post.
Next time you’re creating a social media post, consider: does this post ignite action from the user? How can you build the ad to foster participation and a unique, creative response from users? It’s time to start thinking beyond just likes, comments, and shares.
This step is arguably the equivalent to “leveling up” that some marketers are capitalizing on. If Lay’s had thought my idea for S’mores flavored potato chips was an incredible idea (in practice or in humor), they could have capitalized on my engagement and established long-lasting loyalty from someone who was merely a fan. What’s the trick? Validating my collaborative content by sharing or reposting what I created to their own page.
The simple act of reposting select user-generated content validates the consumer’s ideas, reinforces future engagement, and promotes positive brand image – the exact recipe for creating loyal brand advocates. Had Lay’s shared my S’mores idea, perhaps their validation would have caused me to feel such a connection with the brand that I would have forever chosen their products. Even more, I might have gone on to share about the brand’s support of my creative ideas with my own network, enthusiastically and willingly spreading a positive image for the brand. What more could a brand want?
Has this ever happened to you? Has a popular brand validated you or one of your thoughts? This simple act breeds engagement, and in the coming years, will be crucial for brands’ survival. It shows that you are paying attention to customers. Validating customer’s thoughts and creativity is a great way brands can really prove that they’re listening.
Now the challenging part: searching for collaborated content and validating it. The best way to find the right content is to partner with a marketing team that embraces your brand, because a solid Brand Strategy is the filter for evaluating which collaborated content to validate. Once you find the right content that supports your brand, share it and validate the consumers in your sales funnel. It shows them you’re listening.
The steps of generating, collaborating, and validating work independently but together. Rather than approaching them one step at a time, all three phases can be in effect simultaneously. In fact, an effective social strategy will regularly include posts that generate new content, collaborate with consumers, and validate others’ creative efforts.
A campaign that includes all three phases hits the jackpot, but success can be found in each step regardless of its relation to the next. Like Kraft, maybe you focus only on collaborating with users and validating their content, leaving the generating to others.
Ultimately, the goal is to generate your own unique content that inspires collaboration with your fans and produces new creative content you can validate. The end result is content that delights your fans for a positive brand image, and fans that blossom into brand advocates as you gain their support.
Remember Generate – Collaborate – Validate