The next round of “likes” is on us…
We already shared the worst of social media in 2013, so here’s to the best…or at least our own approximation of it.
OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER IS OBVIOUS: Yes, this list is highly subjective and you’re going to see some repetition/glaring omissions. But such is the nature of year-end clickbait, no?
Here, then, are the stories that demonstrated what social media meant to us and our industry in 2013.
We start with our most irreverent/irrelevant example not because we can really learn anything from it but simply due to the fact that social media runs on schadenfreude. Twitter has enabled us to give anyone and everyone the middle finger if we so desire, and if we happen to run a popular web property then there’s even a chance that thousands of people will notice us when we do it.
Bart Simpson never had it so good.
Facebook may alternately bore and annoy the cool kids, but it’s also a critical crisis communications tool. For proof, look at Chobani’s response to a fairly standard product quality problem. Once the company realized that the “contaminated yogurt” story would hit the press, Chobani knew that its team had only one option: explain themselves to as many people as possible in a transparent way. Sure, they could have issued a press release and a public statement, but few would have read or watched it; the CEO’s quotes would have landed near the bottom of every related story.
Instead, the brand reached out to the people who most deserved an apology—its existing fans—with a heartfelt message and a candid shot of the public face’s face. Can’t get much more personal than that.
It’s tough to decide how and when to make the most of a competitor’s stumbles. But this one fell into Bertolli‘s lap, giving the brand’s social team a quick, cheeky project that earned only positive press coverage.
At the same time, the fact that Bertolli didn’t make an even bigger deal about this promo tells us that change is a very gradual thing. What were they scared of, exactly?
Switzerland is a long way from Italy and Italy is a long way from DiGiorno. But the frozen pizza people knew that millions would be watching NBC’s The Sound of Music and that at least half of them would use it as a platform for half-formed jokes on Twitter.
It’s kind of like the Super Bowl: Netflix and DVR have ensured that very few events will attract millions of eyes at once, but when they do the opportunity for attention-grabbing parody is ripe. Also: no one’s going to get angry at a brand for hijacking a lame corporate hashtag.
7. Oreo Shows Us All How to Vine
When Vine first appeared in January we thought “that’s kind of cool” but quickly realized that the most effective loops take time and planning. The “world’s first Vine press release” was an experiment we haven’t seen repeated, but a few brands demonstrated the potential of the medium and it’s no surprise that Oreo was one of them.
Yes, the Super Bowl blackout brought us the Tweet Heard ‘Round the World that will appear on pretty much every social media listicle roundup this year. But when it comes to creativity we were more impressed by this series paying homage to classic horror films.
Simplicity, ladies and gentlemen: it’s two lines on a red background. Not only was this image incredibly sticky; it was easily customizable. It marked both a turning point in the fight for equality and the willingness of brands to adopt memes that have absolutely nothing to do with their products. Right, Bud Light?
As one of the world’s biggest producers of consumer goods, Unilever has never been anywhere near the top of the average environmental advocate’s “good guys” list. The fact that the company announced mass layoffs right before Christmas won’t land it on many “nice” roundups either.
But Project Sunlight remains a good case study in corporate CSR campaigns amplified by social media. Unilever realized that it wouldn’t be enough to make its products and packaging more environmentally friendly—it had to at least make an attempt to change consumer behavior, too.
The Errol Morris video above is a little over the top, but it’s almost as poignant as the Google ad with the dying dog. The point is that children are the future, and they’re also the biggest motivator for changing one’s behavior.
Unilever’s chief told The Telegraph that “…philanthropy too can deliver extra sales. It’s not PR…it’s a new business model”. Right, except that it is definitely PR.
Will it really change people’s consumption habits? Maybe not. But 70 million is a whole lot of people, and Unilever can’t be there to make sure they follow through on their promises. The campaign will continue into 2014, proving that Unilever learned the first lesson in CSR: one-off stunts won’t cut it.
This wasn’t a strictly social campaign, but its eminent shareability and its clickbait status had quite a bit to do with its success.
Revolution Messaging didn’t just see the stunt as a way to win attention from the public (and potential clients), though it certainly was that. They truly wanted to let the people responsible know how angry most Americans were about the shutdown. Developers claim that the site facilitated more than 100,000 phone calls to congress folk, and it did more to relieve the frustrations of an inoperative government than Starbucks‘ can’t-we-all-get-along “end the shutdown” petition.
Wouldn’t you love it if your agency had planned a stunt as successful as this one?
The truly successful social campaign will be a multi-headed hydra, and Charity:Water’s World Water Day campaign was no exception. It’s rare to see an event completely dominate social on a given day, but this one did just that.
The most important lesson to learn here is that media saturation isn’t such a bad thing as long as you’re strategic about it. Pretty much everyone saw the campaign in some form: there was a creative Instagram campaign, a series of viral “pledge your birthday” videos, a string of Facebook posts, a bunch of celebrity endorsements and a live “Waterwalking” event in Times Square.
It was a well-planned and executed event that didn’t read like a cheap stunt. And anything good enough to bring Elmo and Marco Rubio together is case study-worthy.
2. Beyonce Wins All Media (Again)
You’ve already heard more than enough about this one, so we won’t go into too much detail about Beyonce’s “surprise” album release stunt.
Why was it important? Because it displayed both the power of social and the fact that a simple “followers=eyes” equation inherently limits that power. It also reinforced the point that viral content is never a sure thing—especially if you don’t have eight digits worth of followers.
Can a client bypass traditional channels and still inspire a writeup from every single media outlet? Yes, she can…if she happens to be one of the world’s most popular female entertainers with 54 million Facebook fans, 8.2 million Instagrammers and 14 million Twitter followers.
The rest of us can dream on.
You may have seen the chart showing you that Upworthy‘s super-positive content gets more shares than BuzzFeed’s GIFsticles or Gawker’s snark, but no event better demonstrated that principle in action than Batkid.
Some waxed cynical about the “stunt” by mentioning the fact that the city of San Francisco spent more than $100,000 on planning and execution, but that critique misses the point. The most important lesson to take from the Batkid saga is that it was so successful because it consisted of an elaborate team effort based around an emotionally compelling story. The parties involved were:
- A nonprofit organization
- The government of a major city
- Thousands of enthusiastic volunteers
- And yes, a social media agency to help ensure that everyone noticed
Without all these co-dependent players working toward a common goal, the whole undertaking would have collapsed. In fact, Batkid provides us with a pretty good answer to the “what do you do in PR?” question. This is what we do—and we did it quite well in 2013, thanks.
That’s the list. Now tell us what we missed.