The PR industry is rapidly changing. To stay competitive, PR agencies are learning how to develop digital skills or are maximizing marketing partner resources in order to satisfy the new media landscape. In a media world where anyone can be a journalist, news breaks on Twitter and memes are popping up and disappearing every week, PR professionals have their work cut out for them.
To address this, I recently planned a PRSA Austin Chapter event titled “There’s a Meme for That,” where our panelists discussed how to incorporate new digital media ideas into company strategies to boost chances of getting noticed, and increase social shares and engagement. Our panelists included digital marketing executives from Bazaarvoice, Edelman, Facebook and W2O—and they collectively had an extensive portfolio of examples of brands successfully using digital marketing strategies to reach consumers.
We started with the golden question: What makes things popular online? Why do some memes take off while others fall flat? What makes people share content and why do images and videos go viral? There are several inherent traits that exist in successful digital marketing strategies.
A human element
People need to be able to identify with the things they interact with every day. Dove, for example, has created a successful way to engage with its audience using “real” people in their ads and other communications. Recall the “Dove: Real Beauty” sketch campaign executed back in April. Dove expanded upon its “real beauty, real people” theme with this internet campaign that went viral, featuring sketches of women describing themselves to a sketch artist opposed to sketches of these women as described by someone else. The results were surprising. The message was positive, relatable and had that core human element that made the video such a success.
If a campaign isn’t easy to share on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other blogs, it won’t do well, obviously. What makes something socially shareable? Images! Today, images go much further than words have ever taken us. Most social sharing sites are geared towards image-based storytelling, and visuals trump the written word in today’s fast-paced media environment. Before a message can ever go viral, it must be depicted in a visual, succinct medium. Such media include short videos (take a look at these cool Vine videos from brands), meme-like photos like these, infographics or just plain photos.
Popular online content is usually centered around a timely topic or event. Do “The Royal Baby” or “You can still dunk in the dark” sound familiar to you? Both social media-born topics—one from pop culture and the other from a food brand, Oreo—gained popularity during high profile events. Even though campaigns such as these are short lived, the boost in visibility for the brand has a much longer lasting impact. Companies should be careful how they jump on the trend bandwagon, however, as people can tire quickly of memes. Check out these examples of brands attempting to capitalize on the Royal Baby trend, and then the people’s reaction to it.
People love to share their experiences (good or bad) on social media. People share information online because they hope or expect to get something back in return. This is part of the reason why product reviews are so popular. People are open to sharing commentary, because in return, they’ll get feedback from likeminded people or recognition from the brand. This psychology is similar across the social media landscape—and everyone is a movie, food, music, or [insert any category here] critic. The key is to share good, positive messages and never capitalize on negative trends or tragedies (like an Epicurious intern did).
Companies absolutely must pay attention to their audiences. What do they want to see? What performs best with them? Once this is understood, companies can shape their media and PR around those understandings. The Facebook panelist let attendees know that there are Page management tools that allow brands and companies to see which posts garner the most engagement. This is a good example of measuring the effectiveness and sociability of campaigns. There are many PR reporting tools and platforms that track and measure social campaigns, as well, such as Hootsuite, Radian6 and Meltwater News.