The best thing about this century, aside from Downton Abbey, is the readily available well of user generated content just ready to be scooped up. With millions of photographs and videos taken everyday, not to mention the tweets, Facebook posts, pins and tumbls there's no end to opinion across the internet. The brilliant thing about this is what it means to companies - you don't have to have the marketing force of Coca Cola behind you to run a marketing campaign to remember.
All you need is a little creativity and a really top notch idea.
Step 1) Make it Relevant to Something.
The key to running a solid campaign on a shoestring budget is relevance. I'm not saying you should be trying to hop on someone else's bandwagon, but take a look at what's happening in the media and keep up to date with the news - eventually something golden will come along.
Water is Life Twitter hijacked #firstworldproblems to comment on the real issues affecting the world. The powerful video sends a very strong message and resulted in a huge number of donations:
Step 2) Speaking of Charities
Charities often have tiny marketing budgets and they need to make them go a long way. To do this they generally use off-beat campaigns to shock their audience into taking action.
What you're aiming for is something which captures people's imaginations and increases the chances that they will share it. People like clever things and they like funny things, so try to organise your campaign around that theme.
Step 3) Hijack Popular Trends
You do need to be very careful with this one because it has backfired spectacularly in the past. The fastest moving social network is Twitter - for breaking news it's quicker than the BBC, than Fox, than basically every major news broadcaster in the world. It's the perfect platform for grabbing onto trends and using them to propel your brand forward. All you need to do is keep a close eye on the trends in your Twitter feed - make sure it's set to an appropriate location for you and that you watch it for breaking stories, as soon as something comes along you think is relevant to your brand - jump on it.
Be careful though, make sure you fully understand the concept of the hashtag before you start jumping in, if it's something delicate I'd suggest you just leave it alone - you don't want it to turn out like it did for these poor people:
DiGiorno's Pizza unfortunately did not research the hashtag they hijacked thoroughly enough. Someone on their team apparently saw the #WhyIStayed hashtag trending and decided to be funny:
They were quick to realise their mistake when the backlash began, the hashtag they just made light of was about domestic violence.
Their social media team were quick to apologise, but that didn't erase all the ill-feeling they caused with one unresearched message.
Here's how to do it right:
On another occasion DiGiorno Pizza offered a well thought out hashtag hijack campaigns. When NBC aired "The Sound of Music Live", they live-tweeted the broadcast to increase brand visibility:
Step 4) Don't worry if you're not a huge company
I know the examples we've used so far are all huge companies, but there's no reason why you can't emulate them without their level of fire power. The key to making a cheap campaign work is time, effort and creativity. Think carefully about the kind of customer base you have, what their sense of humour is and most of all what they need.
When you marry all those attributes together what you will get is a direct and relevant campaign which will bring in a great response!
For more great social marketing advice, check out BeeLiked!