Social Media: Building on Tradition

There’s never been a time when marketers had more tactical options to choose from in communicating messages and driving demand. Yet, while prospects and audiences grow increasingly adept at avoiding irrelevant and unwanted intrusions, there has never been more pressure to deliver efficient ROI with measurable results. 

As a marketing manager of Verizon’s FiOS — a sophisticated, benefit-rich product that is rolled out neighborhood by neighborhood — I am continually faced with a complex challenge.

Traditional go-to channels do not produce sufficient engagement and expose too much risk and waste. Broad awareness tactics drive demand, but are not highly targeted and offer little tangible measurement. Direct response delivers targeted reach, but cannot convey the transformational and aspirational qualities of our product experience.

Something has been missing from our traditional advertising – some quality that not engages people and also serves as a platform to unify disparate tactics, inspiring word of mouth and igniting a multiplier effect. 

So, working with our marketing partner, Campfire, we created My Home 2.0 — a multi-tiered, multiplatform entertainment experience.

Although that might sound like marketing buzzword soup, the concept is actually pretty simple: Create an entertainment experience to deliver your marketing message that’s exciting and relevant to your target. Give them a way to engage and evangelize. And finally, get out of their way.

Today, with budgets under tight control, how do you move into the new arena without piling on all sorts of new incremental costs? I’d recommend looking at your current tactics as a base from which to launch new-media efforts. Ask yourself: What are you already doing that you can help build a customer-engaging, brand-building experience?

In the case of FiOS, we built on existing local events and targeted marketing to support a new initiative. My Home2.0 is a makeover/reality show that documents tech-challenged families learning to use the screens, gadgets, and tools that FiOS enables. The show provides a platform to unite previously disparate efforts, and to provide a communications stream reflecting the family’s stories — online, on TV and in person — with FiOS as a subtle superhero.

But what’s particularly compelling is how we are able to use many of the tactics I already had at my disposal, ranging from local parties to door hangers and gas giveaways, in new and more effective ways.

With the promise of being part of a TV show, door hangers have become invitations, not junk mail. Gas buy-downs are transformed into show-themed promotions. Local events become casting calls. The TV show drives new and different conversations between Verizon and customers or prospects — both in person and online.

In fact, our metric results indicate that the lift given to my traditional tactics justified much of the expense of the branded entertainment program. In other words, by revitalizing your traditional tactics you pay for your new efforts.

And this approach is not unique. For example, Liberty Mutual with its “Responsibility” campaign is charting a similar and impressive course, using short films, a new Web presence and NPR sponsorships to spur engagement, while redirecting print, search, and older social-media tactics to point people toward “Responsibility.” Liberty Mutual has bundled a number of older tactics to create a more “modern’ and focused campaign.

We’re all seeking a safe and easy-to-follow route to new-media marketing solutions — but that may be ironic. Safety and innovation don’t necessarily coexist. On the other hand, measured and calculated risk management may be the path to exponential improvement.

The lesson in all of this: Do not be deceived and think that social media is all about widgets — and do not think it is about putting TV commercials online or running banners on networking sites. 

In the end, social media shouldn’t rely on “hand me downs.” You can’t create mass media or direct- response executions and shoehorn them into social-media spaces and expect success. Start with your vision, your target audience, your product and your partners — determine what people are saying vs. what you want them to say. And then build an experience across all tactics, leveraging your existing tactics, and deliver to the sweet spot.

Beth Mulhern is Verizon’s director of Go to Market for the Mid-Atlantic region.