How To Royally Lose $120,000 In Social Media

May 4, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

If you spent $120,000 on a marketing campaign in the offline world only to fall asleep at the wheel, you’d be booted out of your office building faster than you could grab a box to throw your stuff in, no? So why do we treat online marketing differently? Let’s time warp back to the morning of April 29, 2011!

Last Friday, I was up at the crack of dawn to watch the Royal Wedding with a billion or so other people. Set up on the couch with my pillow, a blanket and a shiny magenta laptop, I opened up Twitter to be part of the royal conversation and see what other people were saying. I wasn’t surprised when I noticed the phrase #royalwedding trending; I wasn’t even surprised to see it was a Promoted Tweet. What did surprise me was who had sponsored it.

It wasn’t a wedding dress designer, England’s tourism board or any of the news outlets dedicated to providing non-stop coverage of the event. Instead, it was Slim Fast.

I’ll help you find the connection.

Wedding -> Bride -> Wedding Dress -> Bride Feels Fat -> Brides Wants to Lose Weight -> SLIM FAST!

Here’s the problem, that’s not a connection people were in the mindset to make when they tuned in to watch a fairytale unveiled before their very eyes. And that’s just the beginning of where Slim Fast began to drop the ball with this royal online marketing effort.

In the spirit of learning through example, below are some of the missteps Slim Fast made handling its big day and how you should avoid making the same ones. Because you probably don’t have $120,000 to throw into the wind. If you do, give me a call. You can buy me some stuff. Like half a condo.

Problem 1: Lack of Relevance

It’s possible I’m in the minority, but trying to tie something as common and middle class as Slim Fast to the royal wedding seemed like a tough association to make. Last month I asked whether or not real-time marketing could exist without elephant-sized backlash. As part of that post, I wrote:

The quickest way to become labeled an ambulance chaser is attempt to tie your brand into something it has no relationship with.

IMO, that’s what happened here. When viewers were tuning into to watch William and Catherine exchange their vows, they were doing so to be part of history, the magic, and the pomp and circumstance. Catherine was about to become a princess before our eyes; Slim Fast could have had the decency to wait til after the balcony kiss to call me a whale. At least let the credits roll before you drag me back to the reality of my weight issues.

Even if you you can pull a connection between yourself and something larger than you, doesn’t mean everyone else is ready to go on that same trip with you. And it’s not about you. It’s about them. If you’re not sharing the same mindset, you’re not going to capture their attention.

Problem 2: Weak Social Media Integration

Slim Fast was using its Promoted Tweet to direct people to the Wedding Ready tab on its Facebook Page. The tab is designed to offer brides tips on how to prepare for their big day by starting their Slim Fast diet 8 weeks before the big day. Now, I’ll skip any commentary about how insulting this is to women, and just tell you that for $120,000 you better be working some rock hard social media abs. They really weren’t.

If you checked out Slim Fast’s wall, there was no evidence of the brand actually engaging with people or starting conversations. If you thought the conversation was happening back on Twitter, nope, crickets. Slim Fast sent out all of 11 tweets during the hours the Royal Wedding took place…none of which were anything more than Slim Fast talking to itself. No replies. No engagement. No nothing.

If you’re going to attempt to tie yourself to an event, especially one where the connection is weak to begin with, you damn well better put on your best dress and WORK IT. Slim Fast never quite showed up for the ball and it was a little disappointing. If that was my company’s money, I would have hosted the world’s biggest Twitter chat. I would have had multiple people manning replies, I would have been hopping into conversations across the board, I would have become a networking crazy person. There was nothing.

Problem 3: They thought the billboard was enough

The beauty of social media is the ability for a brand to tighten its message and really target it to the RIGHT segment of their audience. Instead, Slim Fast created a quasi-relevant billboard and threw it in the middle of Time’s Square hoping someone would notice. They noticed. They just weren’t that compelled to act because it wasn’t relevant to them. The result was that for $120,000, Slim Fast bought itself 300 or so new followers. That’s what — $400 bucks or so a follower? Nice ROI.

Where Slim Fast’s marketing attempt failed was that they didn’t actually use the digital medium they were purchasing, either because they didn’t know how or they simply thought the billboard would be enough. You can’t approach online the same way you would off. Instead, you should be taking advantage of your ability to segment your audience, to talk to people in real-time, to have a conversation with them about the Royal Wedding as its still happening. That’s how you form that connection with people and relate over a common experience. But there was no human element to the campaign at all. It was just a billboard.

If you saw Slim Fast’s luke warm attempt at using Twitter and social media marketing as a sign that there’s no ROI here or it’s not something you should be experimenting with, realize they’re only a good example of what not to do. If you’re going to get involved in any type of Twitter or real-time marketing, you need to find an event you’re actually relevant for, be topical, be human, and, above all, get out there and make your presence known. Otherwise, what a royal waste of time (and money).

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